After a long day at work my favorite form of therapy is making delicious things to share with others. Fortunately for me, cooking involves lots of chopping. The Husband purchased a beautiful knife (nicknamed Butch) for me a few years ago that I will most likely take with me to my grave. I love Butch so much that I wrapped him in a kitchen towel when we moved from North Carolina and stuck him in the car with me seat belt and all, unable to part with him. I can often be found whispering sweet nothings to him while I chop.
Stir-Fry night at The Cat’s house is a normal occurrence, but a big deal. The Husband and I eat as many fresh ingredients as we can so I usually have everything on hand. I love to make Stir-Fry so much that it’s almost impossible to be a guest in our home for more than a few days before I put everyone to work making their own dinner. You see, I do Make Your Own Stir Fry. I marinate and cook the meat, chop all of the vegetables, divide them into separate bowls, make the rice and heat the wok. The rest is up to the guests. And, uh… there are certain rules of engagement.
I find crisp, barely tender and still juicy vegetables to be the best. Other people, I am aware, like theirs cooked a little longer, dead as a doorknob or something. To ensure that everyone gets what they want in their stir fry and their own vegetables are cooked to perfection, I make them do it. But there’s always a catch in The Cat’s kitchen.
First, the cook must tangle with Gomer Pyle who wraps himself around the ankles of the cook, hoping for a dropped veggie. Gomer Pyle loves vegetables. Not as much as he likes shrimp or chicken… but he really works his way around the feet to ensure that someone will trip and drop a plate veggie. Next, the cook must wear an apron. I’m not about to get slapped with a lawsuit for oil splatter on the $5.00 Old Navy blue light special. It is of utmost importance to wear an apron. Well, not an apron… but the apron. I keep it for occasions such as Stir-Fry night. If you don’t wear it… well, you don’t eat.
This is my stir-fry method… I hope you try this with your family, even kids really love it. Everything is always chopped and ready and I don’t leave the side of the stove. A wooden spoon in hand is a lifesaver. Kids throw whatever they want into the wok and since it’s all healthy, it doesn’t really matter what they put in there. The smiles from kids when they cook their own food is pretty cool too.
Make Your Own Dang Stir Fry
A Cat’s Pajamas Method
Chicken, steak or shrimp (last night we had chicken and shrimp)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/2 c soy sauce
1 zucchini, cut in matchsticks
1 summer squash, cut in matchsticks
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
3 colorful bell peppers
Handful fresh green beans, trimmed
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cans baby corn (in the Asian aisle)
Water chestnuts (also in the Asian aisle)Light coloroed oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced (to top with after everything is cooked… I leave this on the table)
Brown Rice, cooked and ready to serve
For the Marinade
Clean and trim the meat (if doing more than one meat, use separate bowls or plastic storage bags for each meat). Slice chicken or steak in 1/4″ slices. You want a small bite of meat. Place meat in a small bowl or plastic food storage bag, add garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Mush it around with your paws and throw it in the refrigerator while you go do something productive… like work or school. You can marinate this overnight, but it’s just as good if you marinate for 6-8 hours.
Chop, slice, whatever you’re going to do with your vegetables and spread them out close to the stove in separate bowls.
About 10 minutes before you assault ask the guests to start cooking, heat the wok to medium high. Add about 3-4 T light colored (vegetable, canola, etc.) to the wok. When the oil starts to smoke, quickly add the meat (again, one at a time if doing more than one meat) and stir fry until just cooked through. You don’t want to kill the meat, it’s going to be back in the wok soon. Promise. Remove the meat from the wok and store in a covered dish to keep warm.
Call the first victim cook into the kitchen. Instruct them to wash their paws very carefully because they will touch every food on the counter. Wrap your apron around the cook and they can start constructing their own stir fry. I always stand next to the stove ready with a bottle of canola oil and wooden spoon to assist anyone who is weary. With the wok still on medium-high, add about 3 T oil and let it smoke. The cook will grab a handful from each bowl of whatever vegetables and meat they want, throw the desired amount into the wok while I shake it and get it started. Once the cook has decided they are finished constructing their masterpiece, I hand over the wooden spoon (unless it’s a kid) and they finish cooking it how they want it done.
Serve over cooked brown rice with chopped scallions and soy sauce.
This is seriously the one meal I make with guests that has rave reviews from everyone. Check out the smiles! You can tell they had tons of fun!
And my absolute favorite…
Just so there isn’t any confusion… the famous apron only gets brought out at adult-only Make Your Own Dang Stir Fry nights.