October 18, 2011

Stir Fry with Peanut Tofu

There aren't many aspects of my marriage I have an issue with.  I think it's a testament to exactly how good I have it that, when thinking of areas of contention, something this trivial comes to mind.  We don't have big blow out fights, don't run around on each other or even (six years in) spend much time apart.  But whenever Wife and I go out to eat, there is an elephant in the vehicle. 

She doesn't like Asian food. 

She doesn't like Chinese.  She doesn't care for Thai.  She's not terribly fond of Vietnamese. 

It's not that she hates these foods.  On occasion she'll be in the mood for "the broccoli beef from that one place," and she is satisfied after eating a bowl of pho.  If she were to have a say in this blog, if we were to put the food debate on trial, I'm sure Wife would say that it isn't that she doesn't like these foods, it's that I like them entirely too much.  Both of us would look at a typical conversation on the trip to the drive-through to state our case. 

Wife:  Wanna go out to eat?
Me:  (Looks at dirty dishes.)  Sure, why not. 
Wife:  What should we get?
Me:  In the mood for Chinese?
Wife: Not at all.
Me:  Whatever you want, I guess.

My lawyer would make a chart of all the times we go out to eat in a typical year.  It would look a bit like this:

He would pull a pile of receipts, and it would show that while Chinese food was often reserved for occasions such as my birthday, all pizza needed was a Friday. 

In turn, her lawyer would point to the transcripts of our car conversations.  During cross examination he would ask, "Do you ever suggest anything other than Chinese food?"  The jury would gasp.  As he walked back towards Wife, telling the judge that he had no further questions, I'd yell "It's only because I was still waiting.  I never had the chance to suggest a place the time after Chinese, because we never went."  A valid point, but stricken from the record because he never actually asked. 

In such a situation, I imagine my wife would be the victor.  Boy and Girl could provide expert testimony that, while acceptable, the food of Asia was inferior to the cheese coated delicacies of Italy and Mexico.  I would be forced to admit that I like pizza just fine; this would prove that Wife had more to lose by going with my suggestion than I did by going with hers.  I would be put on probation.  No asking for stir-fry or curry or fried rice for a year.  I would be forced to resort for more subtle methods to get my fix.  Then again, that's what I end up doing anyway.

Over the last year I've made a push to make grocery shopping my chore.  Wife doesn't particularly like fighting the Sunday crowds at the store with the kids in tow anyway, so it was an easy battle.  What she didn't realize at the time was this-they who control the shopping list control the menu. It's not a power I take advantage of very often.  Potato bar, chorizo spaghetti, beef stroganoff-all of these things are in fairly heavy rotation.  But last week I could take it no longer.  Between the aforementioned potato/chili concoction and bean and cheese burritos, I put "stir-fry."

It was partly out of necessity.  A pile of vegetables that Wife had planned to turn into snacks were starting to turn.  The morning before I planned to make the stir-fry, I prepped the vegetables.  I cut 1 red bell pepper, 1 green bell pepper, 12 baby carrots (about 2 carrots), and a head of broccoli (stem and all) into matchsticks.  They went into the fridge, and I went to sleep.

Colorful Veg, Matchstick Style

When I woke up, I started the rice.  Wife hates brown rice, so I settled for some long grain white rice, about 1 1/2 cups prior to cooking.  Once I had it simmering away and had set the timer, I began work on my peanut sauce. 
Everything at the ready.

1 C. Smooth Peanut Butter
1/4 C. Light Soy Sauce
1 T Chili Garlic Sauce (this stuff again)
2 T Brown Sugar
2 Limes, juiced
2/3 C Hot Water
1/4 C Cilantro, finely chopped
1 T. Sesame Seeds

Put everything except the water, cilantro, and seeds into a sauce pan over medium heat and whisk it together until the peanut butter looses up in response to the heat.  Once everything has bonded together, add the water slowly until the sauce has the proper consistency, and fold in the cilantro and sesame seeds as you remove it from the heat. 

With the sauce made, it was time to start the stir-fry.  In a large skillet over medium high, I heated up a tablespoon of oil for my veg, making sure the oil was nice and hot before I added anything.  I tossed in my matchsticks, tossed in the oil briefly, and moved on to my tofu while it cooked. 

Chop a package of extra firm tofu into little cubes like this:

Once chopped, wrap them top and bottom in paper towels and place on a plate under a weight (I used a spare cast iron) to squeeze out any excess water while you set up your assembly line. 

In the first pie plate goes 2 eggs, beaten.

In the second goes a cup of cornstarch, plus a touch of salt and a generous helping of black pepper. 

The idea of using cornstarch on tofu is something I got from another cooking blog, and I have been really impressed with the way it works.  You can bread tofu in flour, but it's hard to keep the coating from falling off of the cubes while they fry, where the water absorbing properties of corn starch cause it to hold firm to the tofu. 

Tofu Assembly Line
With the assembly line ready, dip the squeezed out tofu into the egg first, and then roll in the cornstarch.  Once they are all coated, return to the vegetables on the stove.  They should be tender but not soggy. Add a clove of garlic, minced, and cook for another two minutes.  Once the garlic has had time to mingle with the other vegetables, take them out of the pan and heat 3/4 of a cup of canola oil. Once it's nice and hot add the tofu in batches, frying until lightly brown and crispy, about 3 minutes a side. 

While the tofu is doing its thing, divide the rice among four bowls, and top with equal portions of the vegetable mixture. 

As soon as the tofu is done frying, toss it in 3/4 of a cup of peanut sauce and divide it among the bowls as well.  Garnish with sliced green onion.  Serve hot, with remaining peanut sauce on the side.

Yes, even Wife liked it!

 I thought this turned out really well.  Wife liked it, even though it's not typically her thing.  Boy liked it, even though he claims to hate tofu.  I loved it.  It took a bit longer than I typically look to be cooking for a weekday meal, but I'll be making it again some weekend soon. 


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  2. Thought this looked good man, will have to tell my wife to take a look at it. Good eats.