Empty Fridge Magic

I don’ t know about y’all, but at least once I week I open my fridge to pull out my lunch and then realize – oops.  The leftovers I thought were there aren’t.  This week, that day was today and what greeted me upon opening the fridge was:

  • a package of moldy old grapes
  • two eggs
  • limp celery
  • stems from the broccoli I had last week but couldn’t bear to throw out
  • bag of cranberries remaining from Thanksgiving (but miraculously still good!)
  • crunchy rice left over from Tuesday’s dinner

It was bleak, but I persevered:  I mean, it was that or order Chinese food.  And I had no cash.

Luckily, I remembered the broccoli stems taste good. And that I’d read a recipe for fried rice a few weeks ago. And that I love poached eggs.  Thus I give you Broccoli Stem Stir Fry, for one (caveat: this is not quite a stir fry in the traditional sense. I just took some artistic license with the name).

Broccoli Stem Stir Fry


4 broccoli stems, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 egg
a cup or so of stale cooked rice (at least one day old)
scant 1/2 TBL white sugar
scant 1/2 TBL brown sugar
1 TBL sesame oil
1 TBL soy sauce
pinch curry powder
1/4 tsp or so Hoisin sauce
olive oil and salt


Preheat the oven to 425*F.  While oven is heating, peel the broccoli (I use a knife rather than a veggie peeler for this job), making sure to remove all the tough and woody bits.  Then throw the broccoli into a roasting pan with some olive oil and salt, and toss to make sure it’s covered. Roast for 15-20 min, or until tender enough to stab with a fork but not so soft it falls apart.

When you have about 5 minutes to go with the broccoli, you’re going to start prepping both the  poached egg and the rice.  First, put water and a splash of white vinegar in a small saucepan and set over high heat (it’s best if you use only a couple inches of water).  While the water heats, put about 1 TBL of sesame oil in a separate saute pan over medium heat.  Use your hands (or a fork, if you’re more dignified than I) to break up the clumps in your rice.  Then put it in the pan and stir for 2-3 minutes, until warmed through.  Remove the rice to whatever bowl you plan to eat out of.

Now check on the water for the egg – if air bubbles have started rising to the surface, you’re ready to poach.  What I do is use a slotted spoon to create a whirlpool in the pot and crack the egg right into the middle of the maelstrom.  Don’t stir – just gently prod the egg if it seems some of the white is sticking to the bottom of the pot.  If it’s not sticking, just let it be for 4 min.  If it is sticking, keep prodding it and stirring gently in a circular motion to keep the whirlpool effect going.  And whatever you do, don’t allow the water to boil or bubble!  When the 4 min is up, use the slotted spoon to gently scoop the egg from the water and lay it on a paper towel on your counter. Then just leave it there to drain while you finish the rest of the recipe.

By this point, your broccoli is probably done.  Take it out of the oven and let it sit for a minute while you combine the soy sauce, sesame oil two sugars, Hoisin sauce, and curry powder in a ramekin.  Then throw the broccoli in to the same saute pan you used to cook the rice, and put the soy mixture over top.  Mix about a tsp of corn starch with a bit of water to form a somewhat liquidy roux and pour that over the broccoli, also.  Stir continuously – the mixture will begin to thicken, creating a glossy, syrupy coating for the broccoli. This is what you want, so make sure that the broccoli stays in the sauce during the process.

When your sauce reaches the consistency you want, turn off the burner and pour the broccoli over your rice. Then place the poached egg on top and eat!

Now that I’ve typed it I realize this sounds like a complicated recipe, but that’s probably because of the way I structured it. I did all the pieces simultaneously when I made it: while the broccoli cooked, I did the rice and the egg and the sauce and all the components ended up being ready at about the same time. If you don’t feel so comfortable doing all those things at once, this is a perfectly fine recipe to break into chunks and tackle one piece at a time!

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1 Response to Empty Fridge Magic

  1. Kristin says:

    This is really similar to my stand-by lunch. Over the summer, when I was drowning in CSA vegetables, I took to making lunch by stir-frying whatever assortment of veggies was lying around and then scrambling an egg in the middle. Tasty AND healthy! I need to follow your lead, though, and start using my broccoli stems when I stir-fry!

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