Weeknight CookingWhat to CookDinner, Faster

A 15-Minute, Chef-Approved Meal You'll Never Be Too Tired to Make

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This stir-fried rice isn't based on authentic Asian recipes—although those that I have followed in the past all share the same spirit of improvisation. Rather, this is what I have come to rely on in my own home kitchen when I want a delicious dinner with very little effort.

Stir-Fried Rice with Leftovers
Stir-Fried Rice with Leftovers

At least once—and sometimes twice—a week, it's my tried-and-true, easy-peasy, deeply satisfying, super quick dinner. If you have leftover rice (brown or white) in the fridge, along with some roast chicken or a few slices of last night’s steak or fish dinner, this dish can be made swiftly and easily. Get everything prepped and laid out on the counter next to the stove and it’ll come together in as quickly as 15 minutes.

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But even if you do have to cook the rice first (this is why I love my rice cooker) and/or sauté a raw protein, the meal is still a relatively painless.

Here's my basic template:

(There are loads of other things that can be added to gussy it up and build it out.)

  • I start by browning shallots and garlic. I often like to add a little cured dried pork to the pan when sautéing the garlic and shallot; my favorite is Chinese dry sausage, but I have been known to use ham or even large lardons of very dry, aged prosciutto di Parma.
  • Then, I add the rice to get as much of the seared flavor and texture as I can. Next, I cook minced ginger and chile with greens—I like to use napa cabbage, bok choy, gai lan (a.k.a. Chinese broccoli), or plain spinach—and some protein. I most often use leftover fish or meat, but there is no reason not to make the meal completely vegetarian by using a slab of firm tofu, browned in the pan and then cut into cubes. You could have a very tasty vegan dish that no non-vegetarian would complain about.
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  • Once the greens and protein are cooked, I add the rice back to the pan and mix everything together. Sometimes a beaten egg is a good thing to add at this point: Let it barely set, then stir into the rice so that it coats the grains.
  • I'll then season with soy or fish sauce, lime juice, and vinegar (black Chinese, sherry, or red wine).
  • Lastly, I garnish it all with bright green cilantro and one of my favorite pantry basics, toasted sesame seeds, along with roasted peanuts for a satisfying crunch.
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Stir-Fried Rice with Leftovers

71ac0add b9dd 45dd 87f6 3be6244a2f8b  unnamed Sara Jenkins
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Serves 4
  • 1/4 cup oil such as sesame or peanut, divided
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups leftover rice, ideally jasmine
  • 3/4 pound (more or less) leftover protein (like a seared or broiled piece of fish, about 3 to 4 ounces per person)
  • 1 small fresh chile (optional), minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (add more to taste)
  • 2 cups greens, such as slivered napa cabbage, halved baby bok choy, or roughly cut spinach
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or fish sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (or Chinese black vinegar)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, picked into leaves
  • 1 scallion, sliced on the bias (optional)
  • 1/4 cup toasted peanuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

What dishes, if any, do you make more than once a week? Tell us in the comments below.