Although I have always loved cooking and am the sole meal-preparer in my home, there was one thing I never quite got. It amazed me when people would say they cleaned out their fridge and made a soup with “whatever was in there,” or that they would cook once and use the leftovers for five other new and different meals. Being able to do that eluded me.
I’m very good at choosing recipes (an important skill, and one that makes everyone think I’m a fantastic cook!), and reasonably good at following them. I love to make my meal plans in advance. But as I get further along this journey into healthy, traditional eating, this becomes more difficult, mostly because of food sourcing. We get our meat from one farm, which delivers locally every 5 weeks (and of course requires orders well in advance). We get our dairy from another farm, delivered locally once a week and ordered at least a week in advance. And then we get our veggies and fruit from our CSA, which delivers locally once every two weeks (on a different day from the dairy, of course, otherwise this would all be slightly convenient), and those we don’t get to choose. The farmer (and the weather) choose those for us. So, putting together meals and plans has seemed… impossible. But last night I made some headway… and it was DELICIOUS!
I was rearranging our over-stuffed fridge, trying to make room for a marinating sauerbraten for Oktoberfest. In the process I realized some thawing ground beef was dripping all over, and that someone had knocked over something sticky in the back of the fridge and let it solidify. Deep sigh. So the project became cleaning out the fridge, which led to my discovery of the remaining CSA veggies I’d shoved in a crisper drawer when I didn’t have time to go through them after last pickup… Double sigh. But an idea began to form.
I had baby pac choi, sweet peppers and shiitake mushrooms from the CSA.
Also from the CSA I had sweet potatoes, which the night before I had cut to make french fries, but didn’t fry them all. They were fry size and sitting in cold water in the fridge.
I had a gorgeous reddish green bell pepper from my neighbor.
I had onions on hand, along with a few small florets of broccoli, and leftover shredded chicken from our chicken tacos (another post on this to follow!).
I could whip up a stir-fry, couldn’t I?
So, I chopped the pac choi into 1-1/2″ pieces, and thinly sliced the peppers, mushrooms and onions. I thoroughly dried the sweet potatoes and sliced each “fry” into thinner pieces.
In my large skillet, I heated about a tablespoon or so of peanut oil. I began with the more dense veggies (the stalk bottoms of the pac choi, the broccoli and the sweet potatoes) and sautéed a couple of minutes, until softer but still crisp. After removing them, I added more peanut oil and the remaining pac choi, sliced onion, mushrooms and peppers. Those cooked for a few minutes and were removed, and I added the shredded chicken (which was previously seasoned for the tacos) and a smidgen more oil. I removed the chicken when heated through. I then shook rice vinegar all over it. (I saw the vinegar in the pantry and it just seemed right.)
Then onto the stir-fry sauce! Into the skillet I added few good shakes of fish sauce, almost double that of unpasteurized soy sauce, some splashes of organic chicken broth and a pressed garlic clove. In a small glass I combined some warm filtered water with a bit of arrowroot powder, mixed that and added it to the sauce to thicken. After cooking a minute or two, I added back in the veggies and chicken, tossed together and, with a sprinkle of cilantro (which I happened to have for salsa-making)… voila! It was gorgeous!
I can honestly say this was the best stir-fry I have made at home. It wasn’t over-sauced, the veggie flavors were fresh and delicious, and the shredded chicken was amazing (as opposed to how I usually do it, which is strips). When I try to recreate, I will remember to watch the salt; between the soy sauce, fish sauce, broth and seasoned chicken, it could easily become too much. But beyond that, it was a meal to remember, and it made me think I may get this thing after all.
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