Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tofu Tower Triumph!

A few days ago I shared my tofu tower learning experience and said I had one more try left - well it turns out third time is the charm!

Extra-pressed-extra-firm tofu, sliced into 8 towers instead of 6, extra-TLC on tower formation, and a well-oiled non-stick pan all worked together to produce some very pretty and quite tasty tofu towers.  I'm rather pleased with myself.

On the other hand, I'm probably not going to make these again unless it's a really special occasion that really calls for them.  They're not the easiest or most convenient thing to make, they take a long time for not that much output, and you end up with leftover ingredients that are annoying to find uses for.  But the bigger reason is that pan-frying them on all six sides well enough to cook the chicken all the way through is a MESS.   The oil spits everywhere.  See that liquid sheen dripping down the front of the range?  That's OIL, and it's gonna be a P-I-T-A to clean up.  I suppose I could fix that by using a taller casserole or something, but then that just gets more annoying to work with.  No reason to put that much effort into something unless you need to, and there are many other tasty things to make in the kitchen.

Random aside - somehow I've ended up with a ton of food in my fridge.  Besides these towers (which with broccoli will be 2 meals), I have 4 meals of pot roast, another 4 meals of random ramen-like soup (more on that later), enough leftover veggies for 2 stir-fry's, 4 avocados and chips that were supposed to be guacamole before plans changed, a pound of kielbasa that was an impulse buy, probably 3 meals worth of bacon and eggs and toast (I treated myself to a nice big breakfast in my new house last weekend), to say nothing of all the frozen meals I stocked up on for the move.  And I already know 2 nights next week where I'll be dining out for dinner.  This will be an interesting week to see if I can get through them all without wasting food.

Some house pics later today!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tofu ... Somethings!

Woohoo, another year, another chance to do more than 1 or 2 blog posts!  I'm sure this time will be completely different than last time, and the time before that, and before that, and before that, and THIS time I'll stick with it.  Surely.

Anyway, if I do stick with it, I'm sure most of the posts will be about the new house... but TONIGHT is about kitchen creations.  A few months ago I saved a facebook post for tofu ... stacks?  Burgers?  Sliders?  You basically sandwich some ground chicken and vegetables between two slices of tofu, dredge in corn starch, and pan fry each side.  I've settled on "tofu towers", but if anyone has a better idea, I'm all ears.  But whatever you want to call them, they'll always have the honor of being the first true cooked meal of the new house (easy mac and pizza delivery don't count).

Anyway, I had good friends J&D over for dinner (first dinner guests!), and D had asked for one of the recipes I saved on facebook ... I ended up choosing the tofu towers.

It was an adventure.

First, the recipe was in Japanese, and while someone had helpfully published an English version in comments, it wasn't exactly a stellar translation.  I mean, you could gleam most of it from the video, but it helps to know about how much ground meat you'll need, or exactly what that brown liquid is that you're pouring into the pan (I assumed soy sauce).  So I improvised.  Second, those towers do NOT stay together well, at least mine didn't.  The ground chicken mixture has chopped up vegetables, and I think I did too rough of a chop, which meant the meat couldn't really grip the tofu well and they just sort of fell apart.  I put skewers in them, but I think that only made it worse.  Some stayed together, though, so pics of those.  Third, when the towers are done, you deglaze the pan with a mixture of soy sauce and sake to make a dipping sauce.  I used WAY too much soy sauce and the sauce ended up pretty salty.  Overall, though, they were tasty, and the ones that stayed together did look pretty good.  D agreed that they were good too, although she's way too nice to tell me even if otherwise.  She's awesome like that.

I ended up using only 1/3 of the lb of ground chicken, so I resolved to try it again and next time pay more attention to forming the towers before cooking them.  Tonight I kept that promise, and switched a few things up.  First, I switched from firm to extra firm tofu, which may help the tofu hold together better.  Second, I pulsed the vegetables in the food processor to get a much finer mince, which should give the tofu something much easier to mold onto.  Finally, extra time and attention to forming the towers, pressing them together, smoothing over any bulges, and giving a good pat of corn starch on all sides.  All of that helped, I think.  Unfortunately, I didn't think about the pan, and THAT made things worse.  While last time I used a nonstick pan, this time I used just a plain old iron pan.  And even though those towers were sitting in 1/4 inch of oil, they stuck fast to the pan.  The little buggers would just NOT come up.  In the end, a metal spatula had to be employed several times, and it ripped a lot of the nice crispy crust off.  Harumph.  But this time I only deglazed with sake, and then mixed that with the leftover soy-heavy sauce from earlier.  And THAT tastes much better.

I still have the last 1/3 of chicken left (already mixed in with minced veggies, so there are only so many things to do with it) and I'm thinking third time may be the charm!  This next time, I think I'm going to slice the tofu a bit thinner to make 8 towers instead of 6, and will know to use something less sticky than tonight.  What's happening in YOUR kitchen tonight?