Friday, March 16, 2012

Stir Fry...I'm doing it wrong!

So...I attempted making stir fry. It did not turn out terribly but one would think that such a common dish would not be hard to perfect. Ughbughlandulphi...

Last night I came home and felt not-hungry enough to survive a quick grocery run. So I made it through the abbreviated trip and returned to the abode to start the stir fry. I already had made some brown rice the other day so all I had to worry about was the pork, vegetables and sauce.

Usually I make stir fry like so:
  • Brown my meat in the wok but don't cook all the way through.
  • Take meat out of pan, place on plate.
  • Add vegetables and sauce ingredients to pan. Cook until sauce is almost as thick as I want it.
  • Add meat back to pan to finish cooking (without overcooking-- I HATE overcooked meat) while sauce reduces.

PROBLEM! I'm a terrible judge of when I think something is almost done. I'm going for a nice thick sauce here so when I think I'm on my way, I add the meat back in but the sauce still takes another 10-30 minutes to reduce!! By that time my veggies are mushy and my pork is terribly dry. Or I just get frustrated and eat it before my sauce has properly thickened but my vegetables are the crip-tender texture I want! Somehow though...the meat is always over cooked.

SOLUTION...or so I thought. Last night I decided my sauce was going to thicken independently of my veggies and pork. I put my broth, vinegar, seasonings and corstarch in my highly conductive Royal Prestige butter warmer pan with a spout. Turned the heat to HIGH so I could get the little sucker boiling right away and started heating my paella pan (it's not really a wok but who cares) while my wonderful boyfriend sliced our pork chop.

"OH NO IT'S GOING TO BOIL OVER, TURN IT OFF TURN IT OFF!"  Did I mention my butter warmer is highly conductive? It's times like these I really miss cooking with a gas stove. The heat retention on these electric burners makes it so difficult for me to judge how much is too much or not enough to get these sauces to reduce. Therefore, I'm blaming the electric stove for my failure--at least partially.

Phew! I caught my sauce before it boiled over and didn't have to move it off the burner. I moved onto the rest of my preparation, vegetable julienning and such. Then I catch a glimpse of my sauce. It's not moving in any fashion. Oh joy. I did forget to turn the burner back up to medium once the threatening boil calmed. It's just sitting there. It is not simmering therefore it is not reducing. You can't just increase the heat to get a still liquid to simmer so I brough it back up to a boil.

Guess what? The process repeated itself.

I had it at a semi decent simmer (maybe) and added my veggies and pork back into the paella pan. I cooked them to a satisfactory texture and removed them from the heat of the burner.

My Sauce. Is not. Thick. Enough. Yet. Waiting. For This. Cornstarch. To do. Its JOB!

I give up. I'm hungry. Let's eat. What did we eat? Overcooked veggies and overcooked pork over brown rice covered in a sauce that was way too thin.

Any advice for me?

One idea I had was to pre-make a big batch of my own sauce, allowing it to reduce as long as it needs and then bottling it to save in the fridge and pour over my completed dish.

I don't just wanna buy bottled preservative and sugar/corn syrup-loaded stir fry sauce at the store. The goals here are:
  1. Healthy
  2. Frugal
  3. Delicious

But I guess if it really came down to it and I have to blow 5 hard earned dollars for a pint of organic sugarless delicious Wegmans Asian Classics...healthy and delicious would be the factors that would Tip the Scale.