I had a wok in college, one of those big ones that sat on a separate base and was impossibly round; it was like trying to stir-fry with a bowl. Okay, maybe I just didn’t get the technique down, but still. Not fun. So a few years ago Vicki Fan (of Beacon in Culver City) introduced me to her favorite stir-fry pan: not a traditional Chinese or Japanese wok, but a carbon steel pan with a flat bottom and a nice long heat-proof handle. Guess where it’s made? Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Chalk up another one for the upper Midwest!) You season it, just like a traditional wok, and then presto. I LOVE mine. Here it is, filled with fried garlic and about a basketful of fresh spinach. (Aleppo pepper is a mild-heat rust-colored Turkish pepper, and it’s awesome: you can find it at Penzey’s Spices and in big bags at Jons markets.)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
6 cloves of garlic, thickly sliced
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
3 pounds baby spinach
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. Heat the pan over high flame, add the peanut oil and, when it begins to shimmer, throw in the garlic. Stir fry until the garlic is golden brown, tossing the pan occasionally so the garlic browns evenly.
2. Add the pepper and immediately toss in about a pound of spinach. Using kitchen tongs, turn the spinach until it begins to wilt. Add another pound of spinach and continue stirring and turning the spinach, making sure that the raw layers on the top turn under reach the heat. Add the rest of the spinach and the salt and continue cooking until the spinach is wilted. Add a splash or two of water if you want to help the spinach cook down, but don’t overcook.
3. As soon as all the greens have just wilted, take the pan off the heat. Serve with bulgur or couscous or put into an omelette or do something else that sounds good.
Vollrath carbon steel stir-fry pan; I got mine for $45.50 at Surfas in Culver City about 2 years ago.
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