Saturday, February 22, 2014

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu
I seem to be on a tofu kick lately.  Most people say that they don't like tofu because of it's texture and bland flavor.  That always puzzled me because all the tofu dishes I grew up eating, which were home cooked thanks to my mommy, were flavorful and had varied textures depending on the dish.  Tofu acts like a sponge and soaks up any sauce that it is cooked in.  Even the plain ones that are simply deep-fried taste great to me when it is served with dipping sauce.
There are many different types of tofu available (egg tofu, soft, silken, medium, firm, tofu skin, etc.)  Combined with the vast possibilities of cooking method (chilled, steamed, braised, pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried, grilled, pressed, frozen-thawed, etc.), the variety of texture grows exponentially.
Maybe I just have weird tastes.  Or maybe most people didn't have the luxury of a cook like my mom to introduce them to tofu and unfortunately came to know poorly prepared tofu.  Even some restaurants do not do their tofu dishes justice.  It sometimes seem like it's just on the menu to be there.
In any case, this one is amongst my favorites.  I love the texture of silky soft tofu with steamed rice.  If you do as well, this is the dish for you.
My mom also sometimes uses ground pork for the stuffing, which I will get into another time.

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu
1 block of soft tofu
fine sea salt
cornstarch for dusting
10-12 large shrimps, shelled
1/3 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp minced green onions
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce

Prepare tofu:
Cut tofu into 1 1/2 inch cubes.  Make a well in the center of each cube by scooping out the middle with a metal spoon.  I used the spoon to make 4 cuts on the top of each cube, slightly angling the cut towards the center.  Be careful not to break the sides of the tofu.
Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the hollowed tofu cubes.  Turn each cube upside down.  The salt will soak in and the tofu will drain any excess liquid while you prepare the shrimp filling.

Prepare shrimp filling:
Now you may wonder why I would do this by hand, rather than utilize a food processor to pulse the shrimp into a paste.  For one thing, because my momma said so.
And...I find it difficult to maintain enough control with a food processor to keep the shrimp from ending up being too mushy.
Using a heavy meat cleaver or santoku knife, chop the shrimp up into little pieces. Mince the shrimp until the texture is like a thick paste with bits of shrimp mixed in.
Transfer the shrimp into a bowl.  Stir in a pinch of sea salt, 1/2 tsp cornstarch and white pepper.  Mix well.

Flip the tofu cubes hollow-side up again.  Very lightly dust the wells of the tofu with cornstarch.  Don't over do it, otherwise, you'll end up with glue inside the tofu.  This will help the shrimp stuffing stick to the tofu.
Scoop the shrimp filling into each tofu cube.  Place each shrimp-filled cube onto a heat-proof dish with raised sides.
Fill wok (or a large pot that is at least 1-inch wider in circumference than the dish) with 2-3 inches of water.  Place a steam rack in the wok or pot.  Place the dish on top of the rack.  Make sure the water does not reach the top of the dish.
Cover the wok or pot with lid.  Steam for about 10 minutes or until the shrimp turns pink.
Drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce.  Sprinkle with green onions.
Photograph and post pictures.  Serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lemon Créme Brûlée

Lemon Créme Brûlée
My Superbowl potluck dish this year is not any type of wings, dip or chili.
I had purchased a kitchen torch a few months ago and have been itching to make créme brûlée.  When my friend decided to host a small Superbowl get together, I immediately said that I will take care of dessert.  The recipe called for 6 eggs yolks to 3 cups heavy cream.  I think the custard turned out a little loose.  I decided to up the egg yolk to heavy cream ratio.
The recipe that I had altered promised 6 servings, but serving size depends on the size of your ramekins.  I suggest filling your ramekins up with water and then pouring the water into a measuring cup to figure out how much custard you need to make. Instead of vanilla bean, I opted for a bright lemon flavor instead.  The amount of sugar was also cut down since I am not a fan of overly sweet desserts.

Lemon Créme Brûlée
(makes about 3 1/4 cup custard)
3 cups heavy cream
zest of 1 lemon
8 large egg yolks*
1/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
Turbinado sugar

kitchen torch
large baking dish
tea kettle
cooling rack

*Tip: Freeze the egg whites into individual ice cubes for future use.

Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together egg yolks, white sugar and salt.
In a 1 quart pot, combine heavy cream and lemon zest.  Heat over medium flame until scalding hot but not boiling.
Baked custard filling
Whisk 1 tablespoon of the cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture.  Repeat 10 times.  This will help temper the egg yolks so that you don't end up with sweet scrambled eggs.  In a steady stream, whisk in the rest of the cream mixture.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
Boil water in a tea kettle.
Place the ramekins in the baking dish so that they lay flat.  Bake in separate batches if necessary.  I had to bake mine 3 ramekins at a time since I have a teeny tiny oven.
Ladle the custard into each ramekin.  Carefully place the baking dish in the oven.  With the tea kettle, fill the baking dish (not the ramekins) with enough water to cover the bottom half of the ramekins.  Be careful not to get any water into the ramekins.  This will create a water bath to ensure even baking.
Bake for 30-35 min.  The custard will be set.
Remove baking dish from oven.  Using tongs, place ramekins on cooling rack.  Once custard has cooled to room temperature, place ramekins in refrigerator.  Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Right before serving, sprinkle turbinado sugar evenly over custard. Use the torch to melt and brown the sugar evenly.  If you do the brûlée part ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, the top will get soft and you won't get the satisfying crack when you first dig in.  
Top to bottom: Brûléed, brûléed, not brûléed


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ground Beef Rice Claypot

Ground Beef Rice Claypot with Runny Egg 
I love one pot meals.  I love it even more when that meal can be eaten straight out of the pot it was cooked in.  Affordable, filling, simple and most importantly, flavorful.  Rice claypot meals are very popular in Hong Kong.  There are many different kinds, depending on the protein that is cooked over the rice: ground pork, chinese sausage, chicken, minced beef, vegetables, mushrooms, even seafood.  Here is one variation.
Ground Beef Rice Claypot
1/2 cup raw rice
1/2 cup water
1/4 lb. ground beef
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 handful of frozen vegetables
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
pinch of sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
5 tbsp water
egg (optional)
small claypot w/ lid that can hold at least 2 cups of water
Soak claypot overnight or for at least 30 minutes in cold water.
Sprinkle the ground beef with cornstarch and mix well.  Mix 1 tbsp oyster sauce with beef.  Marinate in the refrigerator until ready to add to claypot.
Dry claypot.  Add raw rice and 1/2 cup water to claypot.  Bring rice to simmer for 8 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add frozen vegetables and ground beef mixture on top of rice.  Drizzle the oil onto the inside edges of the pot so that it will flow down to the bottom.  This will make the bottom of the rice crispy.  Cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Mix the 1 tsp oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch and 5 tbsp water together.  Pour over meat mixture.  If desired, make a well in the beef and crack an egg into the well.  Cover and let the residual heat cook the egg to your liking.  I recommend about 2 minutes for a runny yolk.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Loquat-Soy Glazed Wings

Loquat-Soy Glazed Wings
Loquat Preserves and Soy Sauce
A while back ago, one of my friends decided to make a batch of Loquat Preserves from the fruits of her loquat tree.  She very graciously reserved a jar for me.  She had warned me that it would be super sweet.
Used half the jar to make a simple marinade and glaze for a batch of oven baked wings.  I can't wait until the next time her tree bears fruit and she starts canning again.  Obviously, loquat preserves are not easy to come by, so feel free to substitute with any other fruit preserves.

Loquat-Soy Glazed Wings
12 chicken wings
12 cloves garlic, smashed and skin removed
1/2 cup loquat preserve
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 tbsp brandy

Combine brandy, loquat preserve and soy sauce in a medium pot with a lid.  Simmer and stir for about 10 minutes.  Let mixture cool.  Reserve half and set aside.
Add wings and garlic cloves to the pot.  Mix well to thoroughly coat the wings in the marinade.   Let sit  in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  The soy sauce penetrates into the wings pretty well, so it doesn't need to marinate for too long.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spread wings out on a foil lined baking sheet so that they are not touching each other.  Bake for 20 minutes.
Heat remaining half of the mixture in a wok over low heat until thickened.  Toss the baked wings in the glaze to thoroughly coat and serve.