Stir Fry

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, as some of you may know, is of British extraction. His ancestry is mostly Scottish and English. There is a smattering of Welsh, Irish, Norse, and German (Bavarian, he’s told) thrown in to complete his Northern European genetics. And like any good person with both British ancestry and a love of British history, he is all up for some cultural appropriation. In this case, culinary appropriation in the form of stir fry.

Your Maximum Leader loves to stir fry. This is not to say that he is authentic in any way whatsoever. In fact, your Maximum Leader would dare to say that no self-respecting Asian person would recognise or condone some of the things that are prepared in your Maximum Leader’s wok. Speaking of the wok, that piece of cookware is likely the best $35.00 he ever spent. In 1991, your Maximum Leader bought a Wally Nash endorsed “Great Wok of China” from a department store in Richmond, VA. (NB: It might have been Miller and Rhodes, but he can’t recall.) He still uses this wok to this day. (He still has the spatula, ladle, and wire strainer that came with the set - though he had to buy new bamboo steaming baskets.) He has affectionately called this the Wally Wok ever since…

So, your Maximum Leader loves his wok and he loves stir frying in it. There is something that appeals to him about the style of cooking. Get all your ingredients together. Do all your prep work. Then the cooking is actually rather quick and you can get down to eating. Additionally, if you prep right, there isn’t a hell of a lot of clean up. Then there is the eating. The food can be eaten in one dish - again, keeping clean up to a minimum.

As your Maximum Leader said, he loves to stir fry though he freely admits that he rarely makes anything that an Asian person might recognise as a traditional dish. Your Maximum Leader’s approach to his style of appropriate stir frying goes something like what happened tonight. Allow him to weave the story now for you…

So, it has been rather busy in the ole Villainschloss over the past few days. This morning Mrs. Villain left early, and your Maximum Leader (and the Wee Villain - who is not so wee any more as he is 6 feet tall at 14 years old) was running late. The hounds haven’t been feeling well either (one of them has been vomiting - though not near meals which is confusing). Needless to say, this morning was a rush and nothing was taken out of the freezer to serve as a major protein for dinner this evening. So, upon arriving home tonight your Maximum Leader had to improvise. Tonight, he knew, was going to be a stir fry night because your Maximum Leader was cooking only for himself and the Wee Villain. Both of whom are fond of stir fry.

Recognising that it was going to be a stir fry night, your Maximum Leader started to think about what he was going to cook. He needed a protein from the freezer that could be mostly thawed quickly in a microwave without destroying the flavour or integrity of the protein by microwaving. He recalled that he had a pound of pork belly in the freezer that was cut into a nice slab that would get mostly thawed, but not cooked, in a few minutes. Your Maximum Leader retrieved the pork belly from the freezer, put it in the microwave, and started the defrost process.

While the pork was thawing, he had started the rice cooker and went to the fridge to get some veggies to add to the mix. He got himself a medium sized onion, 3 stalks of celery, a few green onions (these because they were looking sort of wan and he figured they needed to be eaten quickly), and a nice sized carrot. He also pulled a bag of frozen broccoli out of the freezer. He poured out a nice sized bowl full of broccoli and set about cutting up the fresh veggies. He rough cut the onion. The pieces were small enough so that they would cook quickly, but large enough to be easy to grasp with chop sticks. He did the same with the celery and green onions. He ran the carrot through a mandoline.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader has a cheap and sucky mandoline right now. It is similar to this one. In fact, your Maximum Leader’s isn’t as nice as the one pictured in the link. It is awful. Food gets jammed up in it. The grip piece slips too often. It is a mess. He would prefer a nicer one. Something like this one. Mrs. Villain does not endorse the idea of another mandoline for the simple reason that your Maximum Leader doesn’t use the one he has very often. And even though he explains that he would use one more if he had one that didn’t suck, that argument doesn’t seem to hold water.)

So now your Maximum Leader has veggies prepped and his rice going in the cooker. He took the pork belly out of the microwave and could tell that he had timed it right. The belly was still slightly hard through the middle and the ends had not turned colour (from cooking) yet. So he diced up the pork belly. With all of his mise en place complete he set about getting his spices out.

Your Maximum Leader and the Wee Villain tend to like stir fry with a little heat. When cooking for the whole family the spicy heat has to be kept to an absolute minimum as Mrs. Villain doesn’t care for anything spicy. So, with this in mind, your Maximum Leader retrieved from various places around the kitchen the following: peanut oil, soy sauce, cayenne pepper flakes, garlic/chili sauce (made by the same company that makes Sriracha), hoisin sauce, garlic powder (as he has no fresh garlic), salt, pepper, and some peanuts.

The actual cooking of the dish went thusly… The wok was heated up with some oil in it. Then your Maximum Leader added the cubed pork belly in small batches so that it would brown and crisp up a little. He liberally salted and peppered the meat as he cooked it. When all of the pork was in and had been browned (but not fully cooked) he added the onion, celery, and carrot. He added a little more oil and cooked these veggies until the onions started to become translucent. At this stage he added a few tablespoons of soy sauce to the bottom of the wok and threw in the still mostly frozen broccoli. Now your Maximum Leader knows that this introduction of cold veggies reduces the cooking temperature of the wok and somewhat defeats the purpose of using a wok. But, as your Maximum Leader was a little lazy it worked out okay. The combination of thawing broccoli, with soy, and the oil and juices from the meat allowed for a bit of steaming to take place. Your Maximum Leader let the lid sit on the wok while the temperature rose. As this was happening, he used his time to do a few dishes. When the steam started to escape the wok, he went back to stir fry. Removing the lid and letting the steam escape was the starting point to cooking down and thickening up the sauce in the wok. He mixed everything together and also added garlic powder and red pepper flakes very generously. When most of the liquid had cooked down, your Maximum Leader threw in the hoisin sauce and stirred it around. Then he generously threw in the garlic/chili sauce. He mixed this around and then reduced the heat and added in his peanuts. By this time the rice was done as was the rest of dinner.

All in all dinner was tasty. The meat was good (but it is hard to mess up pork belly - which is awesome in general). The veggies were crisp and colourful. The sauce binding everything together had a touch of sweetness (from the hoisin) at the beginning but ended with significant heat at the end. Your Maximum Leader doubts that any aspect of this stir fry melange was “authentic” in any Asian cuisine. But being the appropriator that he is, it used methods and spices and created something that worked.

Your Maximum Leader would, if left to his devices, probably eat stir fry (of one sort of another) 3 times a week. Indeed, when he was single (something that hasn’t been true for over 23 years now) he did eat stir fry 3 nights a week. Mrs. Villain demands more variety so there isn’t as much stir frying as your Maximum Leader would like.

Anyhoo… Stir Fry for dinner is pretty good…

Carry on.

(Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter! @maximumleader)

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