So there I am working away industriously some weeks ago when a colleague calls her husband to ask him to pick up some eggs, ham, and scallions at the store. It was the middle of the morning, about the time I start to work up a pretty good appetite. Suddenly I’m ravenous and craving fried rice.

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The thing is, I’ve been cooking fried rice ever since I’ve been cooking. I’m pretty much made of fried rice. But only on this most recent kick have I realized what a great use it is for our local ham and eggs. I throw in whatever vegetables are lying around; favorites include broccoli for the color and rugged taste and shittake mushrooms for flavor. Sometimes I use silken tofu, because I love the crispy skin and hot liquid pop of the stuff when fried at high heat. And I like that fried rice is never the same dish twice; the point is to combine delicious ingredients with whatever also needs to be eaten.

Still, in my recent cooking frenzy, I’ve decided it’s probably worth hewing to a couple basic rules. First is to use rice that’s a day or more old; by then the grains have given up some moisture and don’t fall apart during cooking. Second is to include ham, eggs, and peas whenever possible; the trio of ingredients partner well together, although a vegetarian version is nearly as delicious. I use the cast iron pan because our wok is a piece of junk, and it all works out fine. Here’s the recipe:

Recipe: Fried Rice with Ham & Eggs

1 tsp garlic, minced / 1 tsp ginger, minced / 2 cups day-old rice, white or brown / 3 cups chopped broccoli and mushrooms or other vegetables / ¼ cup diced ham / 1 egg / ½ cup green peas / 1 scallion or 2 stems Thai basil, sliced thinly / 1 tbls oyster sauce / 1 tsp soy sauce / splash sesame oil / 1 tsp chile paste or to taste

Crack the egg into a bowl and beat until mixed. Separately combine oyster and soy sauces, sesame oil, and chile paste with about 3 tbls water.

Heat a heavy deep pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbls vegetable oil to the pan and swirl. When the oil shimmers, add ginger and garlic and stir. When the garlic begins releasing its’ fragrance, about 45 seconds, add the rice, broccoli, and mushrooms and stir a few more times. The broccoli will turn bright green in about 3 minutes; add ham and peas at this point. Turn heat up to high and cook 2 or 3 more minutes; the rice may begin to crisp slightly on the bottom. Add oyster sauce mixture and stir to coat rice thoroughly with sauce, then make a well in the center of the rice, pour in egg, and scramble gently. Once egg is cooked through, stir into rice. Turn off heat and fold in scallions and basil. Serve immediately. Feeds 2.

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