8 Easy Hacks That Will Change The Way You Make Dinner

Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
You get home and you open your fridge. Your crisper holds some browning broccoli, limp carrots, and a very questionable lime. You have half of a rotisserie chicken and a half-finished bottle of white wine. Odds are, you're going to make stir-fry: the weeknight staple of budget cooks everywhere — the great user-upper of leftovers. Stir-fry isn't a sexy new dish you read about on a blog or saw in an Ottolenghi cookbook. Stir-fry is reliable, but it's also ho-hum. It's what you end up making when you don't know how else to combine the weird elements of your fridge.

But what if we took stir-fry and put it on one of those makeover shows where they give advice on buying the right cut of pants and how to use lipstick? Here are eight tips for jazzing up stir-fry and making sure it doesn't always end up tasting like soy sauce-y randomness. Let's give stir-fry some dignity.
Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
Nuts & Seeds
Peanuts might already be regular stir-fry toppers, but it's time to expand your nutty horizons. Add in almonds, cashews, or sesame seeds for crunch and richness. If you add the nuts into your wok with all of the other ingredients, they'll soften as they absorb the sauce. I prefer to toast the nuts or seeds separately and then sprinkle them over my finished plate — like Parmesan cheese — for optimal crunch.

Fresh Ginger
Ginger will add some serious zing to your stir-fry. Keep a root in your fridge, where it will stay good for a long while. Peel it with a spoon and then grate some into your pan at the same time you add the garlic. (Pro tip: You can grate your garlic, too, for an ultra-quick cook.)

Related: How To Make Fried Rice Without A Recipe
Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
Put An Egg On It
This column has already sung the praises of adding a fried egg to your dish. Now is not the time to take a different stance: A fried egg really will elevate your stir-fry. The creamy yolk adds richness to the whole dish, rounding out any over-salting or under-seasoning. Plus, you can fry the egg (or two) in the same pan you used to cook the stir-fry, which means no extra dishes.

Marinate Your Protein

If you mix up a marinade the night before and allow your meat or sliced/cubed tofu to soak overnight, your protein will be ready to go by dinnertime. To avoid soggy tofu, pre-bake the pieces in a hot oven (I use 375° F) until they're golden-brown before adding them into the stir-fry.
Skip The Rice
Instead of plating your stir-fry over a bed of fluffy rice, try spooning it over a scoop of lentils, quinoa, or noodles.

Related: 11 Of Our Favorite Fried Egg Recipes
Photo: Courtesy of Food52.
A common plight of the stir-fry is over-saltiness, which is often a result of a heavy reliance on soy sauce. While I love that salty umami kick as much as the next person, it can get very one-note very quickly. A splash of rice vinegar (try dark rice vinegar if you get the chance) adds a welcome punch of acid to the mix without making you feel the need to chug a glass of water.

Seaweed is crunchy, it's funky, and it's earthy. Give your stir-fry some welcome texture and some can't-quite-place-your-finger-on-it flavor by crumbling strips of dried seaweed over the top as a garnish. For a chewier texture, channel this salad and soak your seaweed for a few minutes in warm water before using it.

Fresh Herbs
Basil is already a stir-fry stalwart, but there's no reason to stop there. Try adding in some parsley or cilantro — or be a genius and make a paste ahead of time, store it in your freezer, and pop a cube into your pan at a moment's notice.

Next: 9 Meals To Stir-Fry In A Wok

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