Monday, September 14, 2009
Garlicky Breakfast Fried Rice
There are some leftovers that you choke down, out of a sense of responsibility and thrift. And then there are some leftovers that are better than the original. Garlicky fried rice, topped with a fried egg, is one of my favorite things to do with leftover rice the next morning. And although I used the word "fried" twice in the previous sentence, this isn't the traditional hangover greasebomb breakfast. Yeah, it's got some oil, but it's rich and savory from the garlic, tangy with hot sauce and cilantro, and sauced with a runny fried egg (if you'd like). On second thought, maybe it is good for a hangover.
I'm not entirely sure how and when I came up with the current version of this dish. I had the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook years ago, which has an ethnic/regional focus. In the Southeast Asian section, the author said that a breakfast of garlicky fried rice topped with a fried egg and vinegared chiles took him back to the Philippines like nothing else. I think I might have started there, but quickly moved into a more Mexican adaptation.
My current version uses an ingredient that might not be in your pantry: achiote. Also called annatto, they're the seeds of a tropical plant. You can find them in Latin American or Asian markets. Even if you've never cooked with them, you've probably eaten them many times: annatto is used to dye everything from orange cheddar to red-coated roast pork. In home cooking, the hard seeds are heated with oil at the start of a recipe, and then removed. The achiote-scented oil contributes a slightly peppery, nutmeggy fustiness to the finished dish. But you can certainly make this dish without it. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison, but I think it's subtle enough that you won't miss it, especially with everything else going on in this dish.
The recipe below is just a loose outline -- the actual dish tends to vary greatly depending on the contents of my refrigerator. I've made it with short-grain rice, long-grain rice, white and brown. All work well (I think I'm partial to fragrant basmati, but brown rice makes me feel a wee bit more virtuous). I toss cubed avocado on the top when I've got it, or stir in shredded cheese at the end when I want a particularly gooey variation. However you make it, just make it.
Garlicky Fried Breakfast Rice
Like most fried rice made by those who don't have industrial woks, this might stick somewhat to your pan. Just work over a hot flame, frying as quickly as you can. Cast iron seems to work best.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp achiote seeds
1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic
1 small tomato, chopped (optional)
2 cups leftover rice, somewhat dried out
2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt and pepper
lime wedges and hot sauce for serving
Place the achiote seeds and oil in a heavy skillet, and heat over a medium flame. As the oil warms, it will take on color from the seeds. When the oil is very hot (but not smoking) and reddish from the achiote, fish the seeds out and discard them.
Drop the chopped garlic in the hot red oil, and stir quickly as they sizzle. Turn the flame up if needed. When they're lightly browned, add the tomato and fry until the heat comes back up and the tomato softens but doesn't break down (barely a minute or so). Add the rice and cilantro. Stir frequently with a spatula or spoon, breaking up the rice clumps and coating each grain with the garlicky red oil (without mashing them too much). Season to taste with salt and pepper. When the rice is well-oiled and heated through, remove to two plates.
Quickly fry the eggs as you like them, and slide one on top of each plate of rice. Season with a few shakes of hot sauce, a squirt of lime, and additional salt and pepper.