Happiness is a sharp knife
|Bone handled pocket knife|
My Dad was meticulous about keeping his knives sharp using a dark flat whetstone, coarse and gritty on one side and grey slick on the other. I can hear the sound of the blade swirling on the smooth surface with a bit of liquid as he finished the last swipes, methodically and patiently. “A dull blade is just more dangerous” he’d tell me as he wiped his knife clean and slipped it back into his jeans.
He was just as picky about his mismatched collection in the knife block, a carbon steel chef’s knife, slender boning knife and various serrated blades, each one with a specific purpose. Man, oh man would we get the lecture if we mishandled or misused any of them. He was a stickler about taking care of your tools, a lesson reinforced often.
He gave me my first pocket knife when I was about nine and that was mostly to prevent me constantly bugging to borrow his as we fished together on the middle fork of the Stanislaus River. In cut-off jeans and tennis shoes, we waded in the cold water, casting out the our red ball bait and caught our limits nearly every time. Clean your catch right away he taught me, using a sharp knife and rinsing in the fast moving water.
In the kitchen, he showed me how to curl my fingers just so, to prevent (or hopefully so) a cut as I was slicing and dicing. Oh, there were plenty of accidents, and together our hands bear the scars, nicks and cuts earned along the way. But the lesson was well taught, and learned.
For whatever reason, perhaps all the above makes me enjoy hand slicing and dicing my ingredients. There is a focus, a moment of desired perfection as I slide the blade or rough chop my herbs. That could be why stir-fry or fried rice have become such comfort foods. That and the fact he taught me the recipes. For most, I am sure it is a pain to prep all those different ingredients, but to me the results, displayed on a plate are like jewels, bright and colorful.
|Two woks, no waiting|
|Add a bit of scrambled egg, just before serving.|
|Smoked Pork and Shiitake Fried Rice|
Smoked Pork and Shiitake Fried Rice
Prep time: 60 minutes (for rice)
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
Oil for stir frying (peanut, grapeseed or canola)
½ pound smoked pork chops (about 2 large)
1 celery stalk
1 medium zucchini
½ yellow onion
½ pound shiitake mushrooms
½ pound snow peas
2 eggs, scrambled
3 green onions
3 cups cooked Lundberg Wild Blend (mix of wild and whole grain brown rice that is gluten free)
Low Salt Soy Sauce or Yamasa Tamari (wheat free and organic soy sauce)
Course ground black pepper
- Cook rice blend according to package instructions, substitute olive oil for butter and making sure that all liquids are absorbed. You can do this ahead of time as it takes about an hour to cook thoroughly.
- Cut pork off bone and into ¼”- ½” cubes
- Dice up carrots, celery, onion and zucchini. I usually set aside my ingredients on a platter or large plate so they are easy to quickly add to my wok.
- Finely slice the shiitake mushrooms.
- Take out string from snow peas.
- Scramble 2 eggs (I do this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, works great and then use a fork to shred for distribution into rice.)
- Finely slice green onions, including green part. Set aside for garnish.
Key to any stir-fry is a) Uniform dicing of meat and vegetables ensure that all ingredients cook quickly and at the same rate, b) hot wok, c)frying in batches. So have your ingredients all ready and plates set aside for the in/out process of the batch frying.
- Heat wok over high, add 1 tablespoon oil and bring up to temperature. Add pork, sprinkle with about a tsp of sake and soy sauce, tossing constantly to coat and caramelize the outside of the pork. Cook for about 3 minutes, then remove to plate for later.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil, bring back up to temperature and put in the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, stirring constantly to not burn but heat through until slightly softened. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Sake and Soy Sauce. Toss to coat, cook until mushrooms are soft, but veggies are still firmish – 2 minutes. Remove to plate.
- Add ½ teaspoon of oil, heat up and toss in the snow peas. Cook, stirring for about 2-3 minutes until lightly cooked. You will want these to still be crispy. Remove to plate.
- Add 2 teaspoons of oil to wok. Add in cooked rice, stirring and pulling up from bottom to top so the rice doesn’t stick to much to the bottom of the pan. Add a good bit of Sake and Soy Sauce to flavor (about a tablespoon of Sake and 1 teaspoon of Sake is what I used.)
- As the rice gets toasted, add back in the pork, vegetables and stir to combine thoroughly, cook together about 5 minutes so flavors meld. You can lower heat and hold the rice at this point if you need to prep other dinner sides.
- Add in scrambled eggs, sprinkle in course ground black pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve. I like having some fruit and another vegetable to my plate, tonight was sesame/honey stir-fried broccoli.
My Dad always placed a penny on a knife gift, so we could return the coin and never let the sharp edges cut our friendship. May your knives stay sharp and your friendships strong.