A tasty condiment like shallot oil can sure be a lifeline if meal planning is not your forte. It sure makes this bok choy with shallot oil & crispy shallots taste better than if I had just used regular oil.
My husband Erik often wants to know, as he runs out yet again at the last minute to fetch a missing ingredient or two for dinner, why I just don’t plan ahead for meals. We might even eat before 8:30 if you do, he offers hopefully. Silly man. How do I know what I’ll want to eat three hours from now let alone three days, I answer, never to his satisfaction.
On those drives to the supermarket I bet he fantasizes about being married to someone richer in organizational prowess. Someone who vigorously laces up her army boots to start each day and adheres to Winston Churchill’s famous phrase: ‘he who fails to plan is planning to fail.’ I have a dear friend who lives by that, though without the army boots. Let’s call her Danie…, I mean, Danielle.
Danielle has dinner on the table at exactly 5:30 every night. She is able to have said dinner ready and piping hot at 5:30 because, clearly, she plans her meal a few days ahead and has all the ingredients on hand. You’ll never see her car chase-speeding to the nearest supermarket at the last minute. Wish I could say the same. Danielle also walks her two children to bed at 8:30 on the nose, looks on lovingly as they brush their teeth and say their prayers, pecks both on the cheek and expects lights out promptly at 9. Through it all, she manages to be fun and relaxed. Good Lord how I hate her.
But Erik is not married to Danielle. He is stuck with me and my modus operandi, which is more akin to Norwegian explorer Roald Amundse’s belief that ‘adventure is just bad planning.’ Yes, there’s nothing like the excitement of opening up the pantry and fridge at 5:45 and seeing what untold delights they have to offer. It’s like participating daily in an episode of Chopped, but without the forced use of incongruous ingredients like fish sauce, marshmallows, and a goat’s spleen.
I’ve recently read, and I find this immensely reassuring, that what makes strategic planning hard for creative people is that, when done right, it comes with some sadness, frustration, and regret. I’ll say. If I plan to make a pasta dish on Wednesday and the time comes and I’m hankering for a soy and ginger-marinated flank steak, you better believe pans are going to fly. Sure, I’ll be sad and regretful at first, but that’s just the appetizer before a sizable entrée of frustration. That said, avoiding my own bewitching hour temper tantrums means being spontaneous about dinner making.
Erik nevertheless still has a point. Making dinner by the seat of my pants every night has its challenges. This is especially true when you live with little people who expect the ‘board’ aspect of their ‘free-room-and-board’ plan to occur sometime before they are asleep. Not to seem inflexible, I’ve recently added ‘start meal planning’ on my to-do list. It can be easily found at number 37, right above re-painting the sideboards.
In the meantime, I’ve taken to solving the meal planning dilemma by incorporating tasty condiments into my weeknight meals. Doing so allows me to boost the flavors of otherwise fairly basic ingredients to create tastier meals. All for the trouble of preparing the oil ahead of time, at our convenience and when we are in the mood.
Scallion oil, for instance, eliminates needing to wash scallions and then chop them up, and that’s a time saver when I’m rushing between my girls’ afterschool activities. I use it to sauté vegetables like summer squash, leafy greens and steamed cauliflower. I use it when I’m making scrambled eggs or eggs over easy. I also use it to cook zucchini, after which I add a little cream and parmesan to create a warming pasta side dish. The possibilities are endless really. And the crispy scallions you get from making the oil add a crunchy, festive topping to regular weeknight fare. Oooh la la. They’re that good.
Yes sir, shallot oil has been a real life-enhancer. Plus, it helps get my girls fed and to bed earlier. And that too is a lifeline, after a full-body day of being their mamma.
making bok choy with shallot oil & crispy shallots
Once prepared and on hand, this transformative oil turns ordinary greens, green beans, carrots, zucchini, and even eggs into irresistibly savory treats in minutes. It’s a perfect flavoring for weeknight meals, when time is of the essence. Best of all, you get crispy shallots out of the deal.
Wash 4 bok choy (about 1 1/2 lbs.) and slice each in half lengthwise.
TIP: Start to slice across the widest part of the stem. Doing so increases the cooking surface area of the bok choy, allowing it to cook faster and more effectively.
Place the washed bok choy, cut side down, on a kitchen towel to dry. Doing this will dry the surface area of the vegetable and allow better browning.
Warm a wide skillet on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add 2 TBSPs shallot oil (click here to learn how to make shallot oil & crispy shallots) and wait until it begins swirling in the pan but is not yet smoking. Salt the bok choy on their cut side right before placing them, cut side down, in the hot oil. You should hear a happy sizzle.
Allow to cook for 3 minutes WITHOUT moving them. Leaving them alone allows them to develop beautiful and tasty browning.
Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. If you notice the sides of the bok choy are not colored at this point, lean them against the side of the skillet, with the uncolored side touching the bottom of the pan. Cook for an additional minute…
until they look like this:
Transfer to a platter. Spritz sparingly with a little fresh lime juice and top with the crispy shallots and the optional 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Serve warm.