Ginger Fried Rice

It's a rare day that I get to make lunch for myself at home. When I do, I tend to steer clear of the fancy in favor of those simple things that simply don't work in my office toaster. Especially in winter, when I put a premium on warm, cozy meals and crusty, toasty bread, I feel especially lucky on those rare occasions that I can make a pot of something or other, pour it straight from the stove to my plate, and eat it piping hot.

Quite often, lunch at home amounts to a bowl of leftover soup, topped with some grated cheese and browned under the broiler, that I eat alternately with a big ole' spoon and thick slice of toasted bread for dunking. But it's not always soup that wins my vote when I'm home. Sometimes I prefer something I can really sink my teeth into, like a big bowl of long fusilli, my new favorite pasta. But other times, it's neither soup nor pasta that does it. It's something simpler, more elemental. It's rice.

I'm not one of those weird people who can actually cook rice properly on the stovetop. If you are, share your magic in the comments. For the rest of us mortals, the oven is just fine. Jasmine and basmati, your best bets for this dish, need twice their volume in water, and if they start out cold in a 400-degree oven, they'll take about an hour to cook and steam. Be sure to grab a spoonful when it's fresh; there are few better things than freshly cooked rice.

I'd been eyeing this recipe from via Mark Bittman for quite some time. It is the epitome of comfort food, the kind of thing you eat curled up on the couch beneath a heavy blanket. Also, true to Bittman's trademark, the recipe is relatively simple. The rice is leftover from the night before. The ginger and garlic are crisp and pleasantly bitter after just a short swim in oil. The leeks are softened, browned on the edges, and intensely flavorful. And if a deep bowl of steaming rice with leeks, garlic, and ginger isn't quite enough to have you climbing off the couch, there's a fried egg on top. Now go.

Ginger Fried Rice adapted from Mark Bittman serves 4

2 tablespoons minced garlic 2 tablespoons minced ginger Salt 2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried 4 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine or basmati, at room temperature 4 large eggs 2 teaspoons sesame oil 4 teaspoons soy sauce.

1. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add garlic and ginger. Shake pan to evenly distribute, then cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender and just slightly browned. Season lightly with salt.

3. Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Maybe leave it on a couple extra minutes without moving it around to crisp up some of those rice kernels. Season to taste with salt.

4. In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

5. Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.