Sunday, February 28, 2010

Home Style Tofu

Home Style Tofu

This is one of my favorite Chinese takeaway dishes, but I haven't found any decent versions of it here in New York, where they don't believe in frying things properly. Every place I've tried has either used bad, crumbly tofu, or barely fried it (and raw tofu is not very appetizing). I tried to replicate the way my favorite Chinese place in Cleveland makes it, using this recipe as a guide. I much prefer my way of frying tofu to the way the recipe suggests (so I've put mine in here), but otherwise this turned out well. Not quite the same as at Chopstick, but close enough to satisfy me for now.

1 package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and dried
1/4 cup Asian bean paste (I found it at Whole Foods)
1/4 Chinese chili sauce (I used Sriracha because it's thin)
1 teaspoon sugar (I used palm sugar, since I had it)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 head broccoli
1 small bell pepper
1 large shallot
1 small can sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 tablespoon rice wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 rice cooker cups of rice

Put the rice in the rice cooker or on the stove. Cut the tofu into cubes. Heat 1/2 cup oil over high heat and slide in the tofu cubes, being careful not to splash yourself. Fry them for about five minutes on each side, or until they're a fairly dark golden brown. Use a slotted spatula to transfer them to a paper towel-covered plate and set aside.

Mix the bean paste, chili sauce, and sugar in a small bowl and set next to the stove. Pour out about half the oil, and reheat the remaining 1/4 cup on medium heat (alternately, use a fresh 1/4 cup). Chop the broccoli, pepper, and shallot and stir-fry in the oil until softened.

Turn up the heat and add the scallions and ginger. Stir-fry for one minute, then add the bean paste and chili mixture. Stir until mixed through, then add the fried tofu, water chestnuts, rice wine, and soy sauce. Reduce the heat to medium and stir for 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the bean sprouts, and serve over the rice.

I mis-measured the soy sauce and this came out quite a bit saltier than I wanted, but overall was a good dish. Maybe next time I go to Cleveland I'll ask the people at Chopstick exactly what they put in their sauce.

Thai Green Curry With Tofu

Thai Green Curry

Made this on a whim, because the aforementioned Most Wonderful Boy mentioned it and I instantly developed an insatiable craving. Had a lovely time shopping for the ingredients in Chelsea Market, which smells better than almost anywhere I've ever been and is home to a great Thai takeaway place that sells Thai cooking ingredients as well. I wish I lived closer and could afford to actually shop at the Market on a regular basis. I modified this recipe, which (I think) is the one I used the last time I made this about a year ago. I used a curry paste from the Thai store instead of making it myself, but I added a couple more ingredients because it was a bit bland. Overall, this turned out fantastically. I could eat it every day.

2 1/2 tablespoons green curry paste
2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional--the recipe is otherwise vegan)
1 tablespoon palm sugar (crumbled, if yours comes in blocks like mine)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 package firm tofu (not the gross silken type), cut into cubes
1 head fresh broccoli
1 small bell pepper
2 shallots
1 sweet potato
1/2 lb snow peas
6 tablespoons oil
2 rice cooker cups of rice

Add the tofu and four tablespoons of oil to your wok. Fry on medium-high until the cubes are golden brown on all sides, stirring occasionally. Now would be a good time to put the rice in the rice cooker/on the stove, as the rice takes about the same length of time as the tofu to cook. Chop up the bell pepper, broccoli, and shallots and stir-fry with the tofu (and maybe a little more oil) until they soften a bit.

Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into the wok and turn heat to medium. Add the curry paste, then the fish sauce, palm sugar, and ginger. Stir for one minute (I try to keep it to one side of the tofu), then add the coconut milk.

Add the bell pepper, broccoli, and shallots, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes.

Serve over the rice. I ended up with about three portions from this recipe. It was fairly vegetable-heavy, so if you like a more saucy curry I suggest increasing the curry paste and coconut milk by half or so.

Ale and Stilton Gougères

Ale and Stilton Gougères

These are basically the same as the Gruyère Gougères I made last time, but with ale replacing the water and Stilton cheese replacing the Gruyère. I recommend using a milder Stilton, because the cheese tends to really take over the flavor of these puffs. I made these with bacon in them (as per a friend's request), but that can easily be left out. Recipe is from the same 2005 issue of Gourmet as the last ones, and can be found at Epicurious. I doubled the recipe and ended up with about four dozen puffs.

* 1/2 cup ale such as Bass (pour beer slowly into measuring cup; do not measure foam)
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
* Rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 large eggs
* 1/2 cup crumbled Stilton cheese (from a 4-oz piece; rind discarded)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Cook the bacon until it's crispy (I put it in the oven in a shallow baking dish at 400 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes), blot on paper towels, and crumble.

Combine beer, butter, and salt in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring until butter is melted. Reduce heat to moderate and add flour all at once, then cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from side of pan, about 30 seconds. Continue to cook, stirring and flattening batter against bottom of pan, until excess moisture is evaporated and a film forms on bottom of pan. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.

Beat in eggs one at a time. (Batter will appear to separate initially but will become smooth once beaten.) Add cheese and bacon bits and stir until combined well.

Drop small spoonfuls onto a sprayed or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until puffed, golden, and crisp, 12 to 18 minutes. The puffs will get a bit foamy while baking, due to the beer. Cool slightly before serving.

I don't love these as much as I love the Gruyère ones, but they're pretty delicious when you're craving stinky cheese.

Monday, February 15, 2010

gruyère gougères (a.k.a. fancy cheese puffs)

Gruyère Gougères

These are a French snack traditionally served with wine, but they're excellent for basically any occasion on which one eats. The recipe that my mom and I adapted is from some cooking magazine we found years ago, and can be found here. Ours are a little softer and cheesier than the traditional ones. Make extra if you are serving them at a party, because you'll inevitably eat a good portion before it begins.

* 1 cup hot water
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon sugar
* 1 cup flour
* 4 eggs
* 2/3 cup to 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
* 1 teaspoon whole seed mustard
* 1 teaspoon hot paprika

- Combine the hot water, butter, salt, and sugar and heat on medium until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is starting to boil. Add the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough and peels away from the sides of the pot. When most of it is in one clump, turn off the heat and transfer it to a mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Batter will separate at first, but will smooth out as you mix.

- Add the cheese, mustard, and paprika to the dough and blend it together. Butter or spray a baking sheet and drop the dough on in small spoonfuls (I usually get about four dozen gougères out of this recipe) or force them through a pastry tube (more trouble than it's worth). They rise upwards instead of out, so you can place them closer together than you would cookies or other baked treats.

- Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. They're delicious warm or cold, and will last about twenty-four hours covered by aluminum foil. The dough can also be refrigerated overnight, and most likely frozen, though I haven't tried the latter.

These are addictive the way that french fries and chocolate-covered espresso beans are addictive, and I've yet to find anyone who doesn't like them. Perfect for parties or for random snacking, as they take very little time to make and are decidedly finger food.

Next up: a Stilton and ale version of this recipe.
Until then: just found out that my roommate never thought Cary Elwes was crush-worthy in The Princess Bride. My mind is reeling, must eat more gougères.