Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tofu with Sesame Peanut Sauce

Whoopsie-daisy! Another pristine cookbook from the local library's collection falls prey to my slovenly ways. I couldn't help myself! Everything in there sounds so damn delicious! This one endeared itself to me by devoting an entire chapter to fish, even though its title is From the Earth: Chinese Vegetarian Cooking. Flipping to the back flap, I recognized the author, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo from The New York Cookbook as the woman who squires Molly O'Neill around Chinatown, explaining how to make Peking Duck with a bicycle pump.

The first thing I made after checking it out was "Chicken" with Sesame Peanut Sauce.

Well, actually, the first thing I made after checking it out was pizza, because the kids had been subjected to a long, unrelieved spate of my culinary biases and I felt I owed it to them to make something they'd like. Of course, the only kind of pizza they like is the kind that costs $2 a slice on every other street corner in New York City, so I might as well have served them brussels sprouts. Freaky little ingrates.

So, "Chicken" with Sesame Peanut Sauce was the second thing I made, and with all due respect to Eileen, I've got to say, it's one of the few things rumored to taste like chicken that really just doesn't by any stretch of the imagination. I figured out a really easy way to fix it though, which is to change the word "chicken" to "tofu". Then you don't have to waste valuable cooking time fooling with quotation marks!

Tofu with Sesame Peanut Sauce

Crack open a package of firm tofu, cut it into three pieces, unless it's already in three pieces, and submerge it in boiling water for four minutes. Drain the water out of the pan, refill it with cold water, then fish out the tofu and cut it into 1/3 wide strips or whatever size strips you'd want to eat if you were eating chicken in sesame peanut sauce.

Heat a wok over high flame, add three cups of peanut oil and when it's hot enough to inflict lasting scars, dunk the tofu strips for about three minutes, which is longer than Eileen says, but please, the woman inflates ducks with bicycle pumps! I can't imagine she's that big of a stickler for the rules. Retrieve your tofu strips and drain them in a mesh strainer. It's up to you to decide what to do with all that leftover oil. Maybe somebody wants a massage.

Now for the sauce:
Put 1 tablespoon of tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons of minced garlic
and 1 teaspoon of minced ginger in a large bowl.

Bring 4 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable stock to a boil, then pour it into the bowl over the garlic and such. (Given my propensity for cutting corners w/ Knorr bouillon cubes, I made a 1/2 cup of the stuff, then absentmindedly dumped it all in to no detrimental effect that I could glean.) Whisk things to a state of creamy smoothness.
Then add:
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of white vinegar (yes, the cheap kind you use to clean the bathroom mirror)
2 teaspoons of hot oil (mine has a rooster on it and lots of curly Thai writing. I can confirm that it's oil, though, not sauce)
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
and 2 teaspoons of sherry.

Toss in the tofu, as well as 1 and 1/2 cups of julienned cucumber and carrot sticks. Give it a stir to distribute the sauce and serve it atop white rice.

Glower at the little freaks when the first bite causes them to make all sorts of pathetic, horror-struck faces. What do they know? Only that they hate that jack ass ginger their mother keeps on putting in the food.


Anonymous emily said...

Do you have a secret source of dirt-cheap peanut oil that you can share? I'm a)po' and b) a total cheapskate and using three cups of something that (in my key foods) costs $7 a bottle puts this recipe in the 'Versailles-style-decadent' category for me.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

Yeah, I second Emily's question - we have the same ancient crusty bottle of peanut oil in our cabinet that's been there for about 2 years (and I'm stingy with it).

5:28 AM  
Blogger Ayun said...

Great balls of fire, I just buy my clothes at the Salvation Army and call it even.

But I remember back in the day, my theater company rented our theater out to a guy who was going into hock putting on an ill-fated one man show ... and he had these big ideas about treating the audience to homemade chicken wings at intermission. Unfortunately, said audience never materialized, and two weeks into the scheduled run, he vanished into thin air, leaving behind a sizeable balance due and an enormous plastic jerry can of peanut oil. It's probably still under the refreshment counter. I'm not suggesting you go so far as contacting the Neo-Futurists to offer to take it off their hands, but you might try poking around the least gourmet grocery in an area where people have large families and like chicken wings, but don't want to spend a fortune serving them to the whole extended clan. You know, SoHo. Park Avenue in the 70s.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous emily said...

I got over my oil stinginess and made this for dinner! I guess this is the part where I get all epicurious up in here. I did the sauce in the food processor from start to finish with excellent results, and I served this with scallions and fresh cilantro and lime wedges to be fancy. It rocked. Henry says thanks, Ayun (even though he cut his finger in three places while trying to julienne carrots).

5:53 PM  

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