The Chef: Michael Gallina
His Restaurant: Vicia, in St. Louis
What He’s Known For: Showcasing Midwestern produce with a minimalist, modern approach. Making clever use of every last vegetable scrap.
BEFORE YOU TOSS out that leftover rice in the fridge, consider this recipe from chef Michael Gallina. It’s a tribute to the revivifying powers of bacon fat. That, plus a little of the bacon itself, some asparagus, peas, mushrooms and spring onions, will transform the dregs of last night’s takeout into a newly minted meal of fried rice.
At his farm-to-table restaurant, Vicia, in St. Louis, Mr. Gallina makes sure nothing goes to waste. Every carrot top and unfortunate-looking tomato and even unserved rice is pressed into service.
In the case of this dish, the older the rice, the better. “When rice loses its moisture, it crisps better,” said Mr. Gallina. The other key to good, crispy fried rice is a ripping hot pan. Transfer cold rice straight from the refrigerator to the pan’s sizzling surface, and you’ll get nice browning on the exterior of the grains without completely desiccating them.
If you’re making rice expressly for this recipe, Mr. Gallina recommends brown basmati. “It has a little more structure and it’s toothsome,” he said. “It also holds up to the heat.” Just be sure to give the rice the requisite chilling time so it can drink up plenty of that delicious bacon flavor when it hits the hot pan.
Once you’ve made this fried rice you’ll return to it frequently. “Swap in different vegetables throughout the year,” said Mr. Gallina. “Asparagus season is drawing to a close, so we’re looking to eggplant, shishito peppers, corn and tomatoes.” It’s the recipe that never ends, and thank goodness for that.
TOTAL TIME 30 minutes SERVES 4-6
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup diced bacon or pancetta
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 3 cups cooked rice, preferably 1-2 days old, cold from refrigerator
- 2 cups sugar snap peas or snow peas, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 2 cups sliced asparagus, cut into ¼-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt
1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté until crisp, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Stir in spring onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a plate, leaving fat behind in pan. Increase heat to high.
2. Add remaining oil to pan. Once very hot and just beginning to smoke, add rice. Sauté until edges of grains are light brown, 3-4 minutes. Fold in peas, asparagus and reserved vegetable-bacon mixture. Sauté until peas and asparagus are al dente, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and season with rice vinegar and salt to taste. Serve warm.