How to make an easy weeknight stir fry: Stir Fry 101

October 9, 2013

OneHungryMama Chicken Basil Stir Fry

One of the most common questions about my client practice is how I’m able to work with clients from all around the country. Most people assume that any practice that helps parents fit healthy family eating into their busy lives must include in-person cooking instruction. But the truth is that I don’t need to give you cooking lessons to help you become a better home cook.

Yes, knife skills help. And, of course, knowing a few proper techniques can ease things along in the kitchen. More importantly, though, anyone at any level of cooking skill can be a confident, healthy home cook.

Developing cooking skills is a wonderful way to elevate your home cooking if you’re interested in learning technique. But if you’re not into cooking, it’s just not necessary. I know how busy you are and refuse to tell you that you need to spend your time doing something you don’t like in order to feed your family well. Instead, I share a few basic approaches to food. I encourage you to select and practice a few easy techniques. I help you figure out how to select recipes that match your skill and schedule. I guide you towards healthy, whole ingredients that fit your family’s taste. And then you get the job done. Because you can.

Stir fry is one of my favorite things to teach because it’s an easy technique that works for every family. It’s fast, simple, and adaptable to nearly any palate. It’s a universal family cook lifesaver. And, in true form, though it would be fun to visit your kitchen, I don’t need to stand over your shoulder to teach this one. All you have to do is follow my Stir-Fry 101 tutorial.

If you’re an advanced home cook, challenge yourself to layer flavors. Pick a cuisine—Thai, for example—and start looking into ingredients that you have never used before. I learned about fermented soy bean sauce, “white” soy sauce, and dark sweet soy sauce from She Simmers and have been experimenting ever since. (Mind you: not every experiment turns out, even for the most seasoned home cook.)

If you’re a beginner—or uninterested—home cook, then keep it simple! Find a few stir-fry recipes that have flavor combinations you like. I clearly love Thai flavors, so this Chicken Basil Stir Fry appeals. Once you hone in a few recipes that work well, stick with them! Then, when you get bored, start varying the ingredients just a little bit. For the Chicken Basil Stir Fry, you might swap coconut for vegetable oil, substitute a bit of the rice wine vinegar for coconut milk and, if you’re feeling adventurous, add a bit of lemongrass (fresh or jarred) to the garlic.

Or you can just find new recipes.

In addition to the Chicken Basil Stir Fry, my family loves the Beef and Snow Pea Stir Fry mentioned here. Chinese take-out fans should give this healthy Sweet and Sour Pork a try. This All-Purpose Peanut Sauce takes the guess work out of making a killer stir fry sauce.

Also, if you like my Stir-Fry 101 and want more easy stir-fry tips, check out this Stir Fry Made Simple tutorial from Parents magazine.

Stir Fry 101

For 4 servings use ¾ to 1 lb animal protein and 1½ lbs veggies
Instructions below are measured for 4 servings

  1. If time, marinate meat in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce combined with 1 tablespoon of dry sherry for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Heat pan/wok, add tablespoon of oil (grapeseed, vegetable, canola) and cook meat all the way through. Remove meat from pan and set aside.
  3. Add first batch of veggies (the long cook veggies, e.g., carrots, string beans, peppers) and cook for 1-2 min. Push veggies to the side and add 1 teaspoon of oil to the middle (if necessary). Once oil is hot, add second batch of veggies. This can be more look cook veggies or, if using, quick cook veggies like spinach or bok choy.
  4. Push veggies to the side and add 2-4 tablespoons aromatics such as scallion, shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass. A good basic combo is: 2 tablespoons chopped scallion, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoon ginger. Drizzle aromatics with ½ teaspoon of oil, mash into the pan with a spoon or spatula, and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Remove pan from heat and toss scallion mixture with veggies.
  5. Return pan to heat, add cooked meat and whatever stir-fry sauce you’re using (bought or prepped). Toss until everything is well coated and heated through.
  6. Remove from heat and finish by tossing in any fresh herbs, such as cilantro or basil, if using.

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