What’s for dinner: Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir-Fry

Click on the photo (source: Everyday Food) to be taken to the recipe, which appeared in the January 2009 issue.

After two consecutive relative disasters, I am happy to report that tonight’s dinner was a return to deliciousness, even though I managed to burn rice for the first time in my life.

Our gas stove, although beautiful and expansive, can be crotchety. I don’t use one of the burners because it makes a strange hum/buzz noise that makes me fear that any sort of extended cookery will result in an explosion. The “low” setting on one keeps things at a boil instead of a simmer. And the “extralow” setting of another apparently is achieved by automatically igniting, then extinguishing the burner on and off, to the tune of a TICK-TICK-TICK-WHOOSH that’s also a little unnerving to the uninitiated.

So I should have listened to Mr. Brooks when he offered to pull out the rice cooker. Instead, I thought it would be one more thing to clean up, and said it wouldn’t be necessary … and then used the “low” setting that, as it turns out, pretty much caramelized the rice at the bottom of the pan. I thought since I would be slathering sweet and sour pork over it, it might be salvageable, but that turned out to be folly.

Cost of ingredients: $18.99. (Remembering this exchange, I picked up new vegetable oil.) I already had soy sauce, salt and pepper and rice.

Substitutions: A ready-sized and trimmed pork tenderloin costs about $11, which seemed like a lot considering I was about to cleaver it to stir-fry bits. So I walked up to the butcher with a tenderloin in one hand and a pork top loin cut in the other and said, “This is basically the same thing, just packaged differently, right?” When she agreed, I was happy to opt for the top loin, which was half the price. It involved trimming off a bit more silverskin, but was worth it.

And one inadvertent substitution: I just grabbed frozen broccoli instead of making sure they were just the florets. When I opened the bag, the contents were more like broccoli hash than mini-tree florets, which made the suggested “patting dry” downright silly. I understand the goal is to minimize hot spatter when you drop the vegetable into the pan, but patting dry broccoli florets seems like something for people with a lot of time on their hands, and no lives.

As easy as they said? Except for the suggested patting dry of produce, yes.

How’d THAT go over? Especially after the previous nights, this was a welcome return to food worthy of plate-cleaning. Not even the burned rice deterred me.

Would I make it again? It’s comparatively expensive — then again, it required buying everything from rice vinegar to new cornstarch, so maybe now that they’re in my cupboard it’d drop the price a bit. I would probably swap in a chicken breast instead, too.

WHAT SAM WORE: 02-28-10
The sweatshirt: Oversize poly/rayon V-neck sweatshirt by Polo Sport,
a hand-me-down from my ex. (Geez, it’s at least 10 years old now.)
The shirt: “Property of Chaparral High Swimming and Diving” T-shirt,
from Buffalo Exchange.
The pants: Fleece workout pants by Puma, from Last Chance.
The shoes: Nike Shox trainers, from Last Chance.

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