This is not a bad thing at all–in fact, I am convinced that it is a good thing to have friends dropping by. It forces a degree of spontenaeity in the kitchen which can lead to new and exciting variations on tried and true recipes.
Saturday night, for example, I had planned to make Shredded Pork with Pressed Tofu, which is one of Morganna’s favorite dishes. Since Dan and she had been out being pixie-led (for those unfamiliar with fairy lore, “pixie-led” is a term that one uses to describe being so lost that you end up going in circles) in the woods all day, and since Heather was going over to some friends’ home to eat, of course, Morganna asked if Dan could come to dinner.
I had thawed out enough pork for three people, but not four, and I only had one package of the spiced dry tofu.
However, I did not let this get in the way of saying “Yes.” (Besides, I know how much Dan likes pork and how, since he is married to a Muslim, seldom he gets to eat it.)
I had considered adding bitter melon, but neither Zak nor Morganna thought it was a good idea, and after tasting the finished dish, I concur–the bitterness of the melon would not have gone well with the flavor of the pressed tofu–it would have overwhelmed it. I ended up adding shredded onions, carrots, sweet peppers and Chinese black mushrooms to the dish to great effect. The mushrooms, in particular, added a wonderful meaty quality to the dish and added a great deal of fragrance and flavor to the completed sauce. I also added fermented black beans, in order to change the sauce a bit more; the saltiness, musky quality of the beans offset the sweetness of the pepper and carrot.
What we ended up with was a totally different recipe that was flavorful and new, that helped stretch two fairly small pork chops and a small package of tofu to feed four people. (Along with big bowls of steamed rice, of course!) It tasted good to eat again, so I will immortalize it with a name to commemorate Dan and his day:
8 ounces pork loin chops, shredded into 1″x1/4″ pieces
1/4 cup Shao Hsing wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium onion, cut in half longways and cut into thin slices
2″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
2 ripe jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons fermented black beans, lightly crushed
1 6 ounce package pressed spiced dry tofu, shredded in pieces about the size of the pork
5 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water and Shao Hsing wine, stems removed and caps shredded
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
2 tablespoons mushroom soaking water
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and shredded
1 small sweet red pepper, shredded
3 scallion tops, shredded or thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Marinate pork shreds in wine and cornstarch while preparing other ingredients.
Heat wok until it smokes. Add oil and heat until very hot. Add onion and stir and fry until the onion begins to turn lightly golden brown. Add ginger, garlic, chile and fermented black beans. Continue stir frying until the mixture is very fragrant–about one minute or so.
Add meat to wok; reserve any liquid marinade left in the bowl. Spread meat out onto bottom of wok and allow to brown on bottom about one minute, then stir and fry vigorously. Add tofu and mushrooms and continue to stir fry until meat is very nearly done. Add soy sauce, mushroom soaking water and wine, then add carrots. Stir fry about forty seconds, then add sweet pepper shreds.
At this point, add any liquid marinade, and stir and fry until sauce thickens and clings to the components of the dish. Add scallions, stir and fry about ten seconds, and then drizzle with sesame oil.
Serve with steamed rice.
This, stir fried with additional scallions, leftover cold steamed rice and a couple of eggs makes a fantastic fried rice. Especially if you add a little bit of oyster sauce and chile sauce at the end.
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