I did something really simple tonight. I haven’t done it in a long time. It felt good to do it.
I cooked dinner.
Oh, sure, lately I’ve been eating more meals at home. But throwing a frozen burrito in the microwave hardly counts as cooking.
See… I bought a wok last weekend. A 12″, carbon steel, flat-bottomed, single-handled, wok. It was cheap, I guess ($19.99), but after doing some reading on buying a wok, it turns out that carbon steel beats so many other materials for the perfect wok. Yes, my wok is similar to something used by billions of other people on this planet, but as the Marines say about their guns – this wok is mine. There are many others like her, but this one is mine.
Yes – her. I’ve named her. I call my wok “Fairuza”. Fairuza B. Wok.
This weekend I spent about an hour cleaning and seasoning her. I used canola oil because it’s light and low-calorie (comparatively), even though if I’d been a traditionalist, I would have used peanut oil or sesame oil.
Cleaning was fun. The manufacturers ship it coated in oil to prevent rust, but you don’t want to cook with that coating on it. I filled her about half full of water, brought it to a boil for about 10 minutes, and then scrubbed her down in hot soapy water.
After I wiped her dry, I started the seasoning. Again, heat applied while there was a small (about two tablespoons) of oil in it. I rotated and tilted the wok to make sure the sides were coated in the hot oil, and let it burn a bit, putting a nice dark black/brown coating on the bottom and up on the sides.
Woks are fun because to get the best performance out of them, they have to be used, and to look used, almost from the beginning.
Tonight, I started by putting 2 cups of brown rice and 3 1/3 cups of water into the rice cooker and let it do its job. The rice cooker cooked and then clicked into “Warm” mode while I prepared and cooked the main dish.
For the main dish, I had some sirloin, cut into strips; some mixed vegetables (frozen and bought in a package specifically for stir-frying; I wasn’t being too experimental), some hot and spicy sauce, and the oil, of course. I first heated up the wok, on high heat on my burner, without any oil added, for about 10 minutes. When it was good and hot (I dropped a little water in it, and it beaded up immediately) I added the oil. It sizzled and sputtered and smoked a little. Perfect. I dropped in the beef, and it sizzled and sputtered, too. Let it sit for a minute or two (to brown), then poked and stirred it around (it’s not stir-frying if you don’t stir) for about 3-4 minutes, and then flipped all the pieces over.
At this point I added the vegetables. I first pushed all the meat up towards the sides, clearing a space in the middle. Then I lowered the heat a little bit, and dropped in the veggies, still frozen. Poked them around a bit but mostly let it sit. I noticed the rice was done; great! It would be ready when I actually wanted to eat.
I wished I had some garlic; I love things spicy. No garlic, but I dug around in the cupboard and found some of those really hot, small, thin red peppers. I tossed in a couple on top of the veggies and then stirred them in.
When the vegetables were getting done, I mixed everything together, meat and vegetables, and the nice sauce that was forming from the water, oil and juices from the beef. Once again I cleared out a space in the middle and poured in some hot and spicy sauce, stirring it into the juices and then making sure the meat and vegetables got covered in it.
And that was it. Almost takes longer to write it all out than it did to do. Almost. I tossed about a cup of my cooked rice into a bowl, then dished out some of the stir-fry into it, and had a hot, quick, healthy meal. I figured it’s about 550 calories per serving.
And cleaning the wok is easy. I just run some hot water, and scour out the food and the top layer of grease, and then dry it off and put it away. I don’t want to use soap or detergent because it will get rid of the seasoning.
I have lots of leftovers. I’ll be eating steak and vegetables and rice for a while… but next time I’ll be able to reduce the ingredients to make just enough for one or two servings.
Because it was so fun, I want to wok again soon. Does that seem crazy?