I don’t know about you, but I need a break-an intermission, so to speak, from turkey and cranberries and pumpkin. A break from stuffing and mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Ditto for the sweet potatoes. And the pies. Well, we didn’t do pies this year… I know all will come back as Christmas is not over, but right now-I need a break. And I’m not talking about a cookie break. (Though I do admit, I can always eat a cookie.)
No, I need my Asian fix. I need something spicy and garlicky and I want my house to smell like being outside of a Chinese restaurant. You know what I mean, right? How many times do you find yourself in some nondescript strip mall and all of a sudden there is that smell. That “oh, that smells so good”, smell; you know what I’m talking about right? Well, it is usually some nondescript Chinese restaurant that is emitting that garlic oil perfume into the surrounding air, right when you walk by. No, this is not a phenomena-it is true! And trust me, if you are Jewish and it is Christmas Day and you don’t feel like cooking, you can always find a Chinese restaurant open. Just follow your nose-that smell will guide the way.
Anyway…our Arctic blast arrived and brought snow with it, so if you haven’t made your ski vacation plans yet-now is the time. The mountains are being pummeled and I am here, secure at my little desk, watching the snow fall. It is white and soft and makes the world sound quiet. I like that.
And I like this. Black pepper, garlic, onions, butter; what a great combo. This dish is one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes from his book Plenty. It is plastered all over the Internet. It should be. It is good and spicy and keeps you warm on an Arctic blast day. It is loaded with pepper and even Manservant who got used to eating very spicy food in China, said it could be toned down a bit. I agree. I love that it uses butter which gives this classic Chinese dish a Vietnamese slant. You know I love Vietnamese, so this is like the best of both worlds.
This dish will totally take your mind off of turkey. It will keep your insides warm. It will make you want to curl up on the couch and watch “Breaking Bad”. I have my brother and sister in law to thank for this vice. We just discovered it on NetFlix this past weekend. I mentioned to Manservant that my brother said it was a good show. Now you know Manservant and I are most definitely not trendy. Therefore it took us 5 seasons to discover this show. I am still trying to figure out how a guy with lung cancer survives 5 seasons… This show is so bizarre, but yet it isn’t. I am very hooked, which is fitting, given the subject of the series. I can not wait for tonight. I think I am in love with Walter…
But I am also in love with this dish. I need my Asian fix. I need that garlic smell. I need an intermission! At least until the next round of holiday food!
What do you crave after your turkey day is over?
Black Pepper Tofu Serves 4 (From Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty)
1 3/4 lbs of firm tofu
vegetable oil for frying
cornstarch to dust the tofu
9-11 T butter
8-12 small shallots
8 fresh mild red chiles, thinly sliced
12 crushed garlic cloves
3 T chopped fresh ginger
3 T sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
3 T light soy sauce
2 T sugar (use brown for a more Vietnamese flavor)
5 T coarsely crushed black peppercorns (I would suggest no more than three)
16 small green onions, cut on the diagonal into 1″ segments
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan or wok to come 1/4″ up the sides and heat. Cut the tofu into 1″ cubes and dust with cornstarch. Shake off excess. Add to hot oil. (You will probably need to do this in batches.) Fry until they are golden all over and have a thin crust. Transfer them to a paper towel lined sheet.
Remove oil and sediment from pan. Melt the butter. (You can use less, but this helps create the sauce.) Add the shallots, chilies, garlic and ginger and saute on low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the ingredients have turned shiny and are totally soft. Add the soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed peppercorns. (OK. I admit to adding some Szechuan peppercorns, too.)
Add the tofu and warm it in the sauce for about one minute. Finally, stir in the green onions. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Now go check out Breaking Bad…
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