Cooking with Claire: How to cook without a recipe

“Cooking with Claire” is an introduction to dining beyond the dining hall using easy, fast and cheap recipes.

 

The final product: chicken fried rice with vegetables. (Claire Galvin/The Daily Campus)

 

Hopefully by this stage in your life you know how to cook a few things without a recipe. You might have a few recipes memorized (like Kraft Mac & Cheese) or maybe you can just figure out when something is done/ready to eat, like pasta or eggs. Sometimes though, you can make a great meal by “winging it” without a recipe.

One of my favorite types of meals are those that can be put together with whatever you have leftover in your fridge or pantry. Do you have ground beef, a half box of pasta and some tomato sauce?  You can whip up American Chop Suey. Do you have a few cans of tuna, but aren't in the mood for tuna salad? If you have a cup of bread crumbs (or old bread) you can make easy and tasty tuna burgers.

Over the weekend I set out to make a ton of fried rice without a recipe. Both my boyfriend and my roommate’s boyfriend were visiting this weekend, so I wanted to make enough to feed us all as well as provide leftovers I could eat through my hectic week.

Here’s a brief guide to make chicken fried rice on your stove top. All the ingredients are easily found in the grocery store, both in the fresh produce section and in the freezer section. You’ll need a large frying pan and a spatula.

Start with day-old white rice. I made mine in the morning, let it sit out uncovered, and then fried it that night. Prepare your veggies by chopping them finely. My roommate had a half onion and half bag of mixed veggies, so that’s what we went with. I used onion, broccoli, scallions, carrots, peas and sugar snap peas. You can also add water chestnuts, bell peppers, garlic, bean sprouts or any other vegetables you like.

Prepare your protein ahead of time as well. I used chicken breast (can you tell that’s my favorite yet?) You can also use shrimp, pork or tofu. I added some soy sauce to the chicken while cooking for extra flavor.

Start by frying the rice. Add vegetable, canola or olive oil to the hot pan. Add rice and stir occasionally. Like I said- I made a ton of rice, so I first fried my rice in one pan, then fried the veggies in a second pan a few minutes later. Once I was happy with the rice and veggies, I mixed them together evenly between two pans.

Spread out your rice/veggie mixture to make a large empty hole in the middle of the pan. Add two eggs. Scramble them until they are cooked, then mix them throughout the rice mixture.

Finally, add soy sauce and your shredded or diced chicken. Add the sauce to your preference. Keep in mind that soy sauce is packed with sodium. I used the “lite” version, so I didn’t feel too bad about pouring in on. Basically, if your rice is still white, you should add more.

If your rice/veggies/eggs seem to be sticking to the pan too much, add a bit more oil. After all, this is “fried” rice. Non-stick pans will save you a lot of aggravation.

The rice was a hit. The roommates and boyfriends thought it was a delicious and easy alternative to ordering take-out.

Learning how to cook without a recipe is a great skill to have. It’s a good way to clean out the fridge and avoid a trip to the grocery store.

Let me know how your rice turned out at @JClaireGalvin. Good luck!


Claire Galvin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at claire.galvin@uconn.edu. She tweets @JClaireGalvin.