Even though I own more cookbooks than I can count, I still cook from my refrigerator, which is to say that I open the door, look at what I have and decide what to cook. (This is the opposite of how my husband cooks -- if he cooks. He opens a cookbook, decides on what looks good and then makes his shopping list. Seasonality, difficulty level and what we actually have available in the pantry are secondary.)
What often happens is that I will make "refrigerator soup" or "refrigerator stir-fry." These are dishes determined purely by what I have on hand. Today, I had tofu, fresh yellowfoot chanterelles from the farmers market, cremini mushrooms and some leftover wonton filling (ground chicken, green onions, seasonings) from earlier in the week. So I made a stir-fry of these ingredients, which I paired with udon noodles that we buy by the five-pack in the freezer aisle at Waji.
A couple of notes on technique: While you don't need a wok in order to make this recipe, the benefit is that after you cook the ground chicken, you can just push the meat up the side of the wok (see photo) and let it rest as you cook the mushrooms. There's no need for the extra step of removing the chicken as you would if you were to use a normal skillet. Also, while I give specific amounts for the ingredients, they are based on what I had. You can take the principles of the recipe and apply it to what you have on hand. If, for example, I had only a half cup of ground chicken instead of a cup, then the dish would have been made with that half cup of chicken.
I also chose to make a dark sauce. The dish would have worked as well with a light sauce made from a combination of chicken broth and white wine or simply water and white wine. Since I was serving this to my 2-year-old daughter, I didn't season the dish too boldly. I might have added some chili paste or started by
searing some sliced fresh jalapenos. Of course, you can serve this with hot sauce on the side and maybe some chopped fresh cilantro. Another option would have been to add some dried cellophane noodles directly to the sauce at the end, let it simmer until soft and serve. I probably would have increased the liquid a tad to turn it into a soup.
CHICKEN & TOFU REFRIGERATOR STIR-FRY
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup ground chicken (or pork)
1/2 block Chinese-style firm tofu (about 7 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch (approx.) cubes
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sweet bean sauce
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
Drizzle of sesame oil
Chili sauce and chopped cilantro, optional
Cooked rice or noodles to serve
Method: Heat wok or pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once heated, add the ground chicken and cook, breaking up the meat as you go. Once the chicken is mostly cooked-through, about 3 minutes, push it up the side of the wok to rest or, if using a skillet, remove the meat from pan. Add the remaining tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry/saute the mushrooms until soft. Add the chicken back in. Then add the water, sweet bean sauce, soy sauce and combine. If you'd like to make this dish spicy, you can add the chili sauce at this point, too. Gently stir in the tofu and let everything simmer for 2-3 minutes, or just until the tofu has heated through. Drizzle with a touch of sesame oil. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with rice or noodles.