Grandma’s Thanksgiving fried rice stars, before and after the holiday meal
Every year, my grandmother’s fried rice is the star dish on the holiday table. The family marvels over the large CorningWare vessel (the same one every year) full of fried rice flecked with lap cheong sausage, shrimp and mushrooms.
After dinner, the leftovers are divided up among family members, and the fried rice is always the first to go.
As a Chinese American family, we take many liberties with tradition during the holidays. Turkey is served with fried rice and mapo tofu. There’s plenty of chili crisp alongside the cranberry sauce, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The morning after Thanksgiving, I make my own version of grandma’s rice. I’m not a turkey fan, but the rice is a great way to repurpose leftover meat, greens and any other vegetables. I’ve made versions of the dish — all delicious — with leftover roasted broccoli, kale and yams.
I always have some rice and lap cheong in the house (fried rice works well with day-old rice, but you can use fresh as well). The lap cheong sausage reminds me of the dried meat sticks you can find at Russian markets, only sweeter. It’s pink and white, marbled with bits of fat visible throughout. The pork adds a richness and fattiness to the rice and will boost the flavor of even the driest bits of turkey. It’s available at most Chinese markets, but if you can’t find lap cheong, use thick-cut bacon or kielbasa instead.
I also use dried shiitake mushrooms that I rehydrate and drain before adding to the rice. They have a more concentrated umami than fresh mushrooms. You can find them at most Chinese markets, but any mushrooms will do.
The greatest triumph of the season arrives on the day after Thanksgiving, when your protein-induced drowsiness has dissipated and the leftovers are yours to play with in the manner you desire.
To start, I cook about four sausages and a cup of diced mushrooms along with half an onion, chopped; about three stalks of green onion (just the white part, diced); about a tablespoon of minced garlic; and a teaspoon of minced ginger in a hot wok with some oil. After the sausage caramelizes and the onions soften, I add a cup or so of leftover turkey, diced into bite-size pieces.
To reduce the number of dishes I’ll have to clean later, I push all the contents of the wok onto one side and scramble a couple eggs on the other until they’re just set. Then I mix everything together and add any leftover greens.
To season the rice, I use a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, and a tablespoon each of sesame oil and black vinegar. If I’m out of black vinegar, I’ll use rice vinegar or whatever I have in the cupboard. I find that a tablespoon or so of any vinegar adds a much-needed bite of acid to the dish.
The rice is finished with a pat of butter — a trick my grandmother taught me before I was tall enough to reach the stove. And I garnish the rice with the tops of the green onions.
We don’t normally make green bean casserole with crispy onion topping, but I buy a can of the onions anyway, just to serve alongside the rice for some crunch. And I eat my rice with a little cranberry sauce on the side.
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