A couple weeks ago, I took a rather impromptu trip out to Yellowstone. Work had slowed and after a crazy December it was nice to head out and clear my mind. It’s an incredible landscape, and it’s made even more dramatic by a blindingly bright blanket of snow and clusters of bison dotting the vast Lamar valley.
Yellowstone is fascinating in the winter. It is desolate, nearly empty, so you have the bubbling, steaming thermal features and all kinds of wild animals almost to yourself. It is quiet. We spotted coyotes, a red fox, elk, eagles and wolves – but the wolves were only visible at a great, great distance through powerful spotting scopes. There’s a group of dedicated wolf-obsessed folks who’ll spend an entire day criss-crossing Lamar valley – a place the wolves frequent for an abundance of prey – in search of various packs. It’s almost as fascinating to watch them in their single-minded obsession, as they chat with each other on walkie talkies, referencing landmarks and packs in a coded language, as it is to watch the wolves.
It never gets so cold in our mild San Francisco. So it was nice to be reminded what real, bone-shattering temperatures feel like. The power of that cold to get into every last unprotected nook was pretty profound. And it made eating hot foods gratifying on a level that’s hard for me to understand when it’s 50 degrees out. I rode on a day-long snowcoach tour – there were only two of us aside from the driver – and we stopped for lunch in remote Cooke City, Mt, for some bowls of hot chili. The spiciness and heat were invigorating. Since then, besides fantasizing about a dual life in Montana, I’ve been obsessed with foods that are deeply, fundamentally warming. The best of those, by far, are stews. Let’s call this fried rice a close second.
Fried rice was a favorite of mine as a kid. I had forgotten about that until I tried it again (and fell in love with it again) at Mission Chinese Food. Their iteration, greasy and hot and salty and wonderful, is a little bolder than what many of us grew up eating, but totally and completely satisfying on that same, starchy level. And this version is tamer on both the greasy and bold fronts, but again, equally satisfying. What are your favorite cold-weather foods?
GINGER SCALLION FRIED RICE
Inspired by Saffron Lane
4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
6 green onions (scallions), whites and dark greens separated, sliced
1 medium carrot, julienned
1/2 cup shelled edamame
3 tablespoons minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 medium eggs, beaten
3 cups cold, cooked long-grain brown rice
5 tablespoons low-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken or tofu (dark meat is better if using chicken)
freshly cracked black pepper
Heat a large skillet or wok over a medium flame. When hot, add two teaspoons of the sesame oil. Add the white and pale green parts of the green onions and stir. After about a minute, add the carrots, edamame, ginger and garlic and stir to combine. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add another teaspoon of oil to the same skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute until soft, stirring occasionally, about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Now increase the heat to medium high. Add another tablespoon of oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add the whisked eggs and let them fan out into a thin layer. Stir eggs as you would to make a scramble. When just cooked, remove and set aside.
Add the remaining two tablespoons of sesame oil and the three cups of rice. Spread the rice in a thin layer in the pan and let cook, stirring a little. Grind some black pepper over the rice now.
After about five minutes, add the tamari or soy sauce. Stir thoroughly to combine. Add the carrot, green onion and edamame mixture, the mushrooms, the scrambled eggs and the chicken and continue to saute and stir until hot, about five minutes.
Turn off heat. Add half of the diced dark green ends of the scallions and stir.
Scoop into bowls and garnish with the remaining diced green onions. Season with sea salt if desired.