Cooking With Foxfur: Hot & Sour Soup


Can you run a knife? Drive a stove? Hang onto a spoon? Yeah? Well then, kitten, you can make a mighty mean pot of hot and sour. In terms of ease it’s the split pea soup of China. Easy prep, easy cook, and you’d have to really apply yourself to screw it up.

Don’t let the hot part scare you off. It’s not hot in the conventional sense. The “hot” comes from white pepper which is identical to black pepper but for one detail. Peppercorns for black pepper are harvested from the tree when nearly ripe and allowed to dry in the sun so that the outer skin, the pericarp, oxidizes and turns black. That’s what gives the black pepper its black. White pepper is made from peppercorns that have been dried and then lovingly rubbed by silky handed virgins to remove the pericarp. White pepper still tastes very similar to the black but seems, to my palate, a bit more refined. Think of it as perfectly pampered pepper. It’s used extensively in Asian cuisine because it won’t feng your shui.

This is a dish that will convince guests and loved ones that you are a closet chef. Of its many pluses, the plussiest plus is that you can make it using ingredients that have a decent shelf life and won’t require a special trip to market right before making it. A block of tofu, a can of bamboo shoots, a can of shiitake mushrooms are the most exotic ingredients required.

Hot & Sour Soup

2 Quarts (8 Cups) chicken broth (I use powdered granules)
1/2 Cup soy sauce
1/2 Cup white vinegar
1/2 Teaspoon white pepper
1 Pound firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 Can bamboo shoots
1 Can shiitake mushrooms (or 4-6 dried, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes) 3 Well beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 Tablespoons cold water

Put the broth on the stove and set it to medium for a slow simmer. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and black pepper.
Dump the tofu in and and stir it up real good.
Cut the mushrooms into thin strips, about 1/8 inch wide, the size of matchsticks and toss ’em in the pot. Cutting the canned variety is like slicing jellyfish, careful!
Slice the bamboo shoots into 3 or 4 matchsticks from each flat slice as they come from the can. Heave ho, into the pot they go.
Increase the heat up to medium-high. Pour the cornstarch water in and stir to distribute. This will thicken the soup almost imperceptibly but your tongue will notice the slight velvety texture. Just see if it doesn’t…
Now crank up the burner to sorta not quite high to get a good almost boil going on.
Stir the pot so you get a good cyclone going and pour the eggs in a stream over 5 to 6 seconds. Stir a bit more to incorporate the eggy goodness.

Serve some up in a bowl and drizzle in a li’l bit of sesame or chili oil if that kinda thing pleases you.

Wanna get all fancylike with it? Throw in some crispy fried pork matchsticks, slivers of bamboo shoots, grated carrot or daikon, gold leaf, etc.

Survey says? You’re a genius!
After eating, I leave the pot on the stove top overnight. The flavors magically mingle and and magnify when you’re not looking. It’s a great breakfast on a cool winter morning.

The perfect accompaniment to hot & sour soup is crab Rangoons, A.K.A. crab puffs. I will publish that recipe soon…

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Cooking with Foxfur: Kitsune Tofu Salad


This one is for Serenity, a fellow WordPress blogger, and my friend Jenny who saw the photo I put up on Facebook (I like to tease my friends with foodporn).

I had a tofu salad at a very nice Japanese restaurant 15 years ago. I was looking at what I had left for food stocks the other day and decided I’d try to recreate it. Not only did I come close, I surpassed the original.

Kitsune Tofu Salad

1 14 ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin (sweetened rice wine)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, sliced paper thin
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Sesame seeds

Free the tofu from its plastic prison and slap it on a plate. Place another plate on top of Mr. Tofu and put a few cans on top to press it down a bit. It Mr. T starts to crumble, I pity you, fool. The idea here is to press lots of water out of the tofu so it will be able to soak up the yummy dressing it will eventually be bathed in. The ‘fu will need to be squeezed for up to an hour. Pour off the expelled ‘fu juices every 15 minutes or so. After draining, cut it up into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes.

Mix the soy, mirin, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger in a cup. I added a teaspoon of sugar the second time I made it. It was pretty good but I think I like it better without. If you have kids, they may be more likely to eat it. The second time I made it I also sauteed the garlic and ginger to see what it was like with them a bit crispity. Yum! It’s not necessary but kinda fancy…

Combine the ‘fu, tomatoes, and cilantro in a serving bowl. I like to get in there with my fingers to mess it up real good. Follow your heart here. Don’t worry it the ‘fu crumbles a bit. You’re never gonna get it Cooks Illustrated perfect. I sure don’t. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix it around a bit more. It’s just great right after you finish it and possibly a bit better after an hour or so in the fridge.Shake some sesame seeds on top of each serving before eating.

If you don’t have mirin, either don’t worry about it, or, go out and get some. I use it in everything from marinades to stir fry sauces.

Red onions give the dish a nice look. I ended up using Walla Walla sweet onions and it blew my mind.

By the way, kitsune is fox in japanese.

Enjoy

Cooking With Foxfur: Stir-Fry


Cooking! Foxfur loves it. Nothing is more satisfying to me than taking a bunch of cool parts and building something functional and beautiful from them. Of the many neat things I build, only cooking gives me the opportunity to eat what I have made. Sometimes I can combine my creations with food for tasty results. See my post on cooking Spam with a flamethrower for a tasty example ( https://foxfuramused.com/2011/09/25/flamethrower-spam-at-burning-man-2011 ).

Today I will remove the mystery of my favorite method of cooking: the stir-fry.

Stir-fry combines three main ingredients: Vegetables, meat (or alternate protein source), and a sauce. Some folks may prefer to omit the protein and sauce. Why? I have no idea. Do whatever you like but for the very best result include the sauce.

Stir-fry theory is relatively simple. Cook the vegetables, remove from wok or pan. Cook the meat, add the sauce, and throw the veggies back in. Eat.

First the vegetables are cooked. A bit of oil is heated, perhaps a teaspoon or so, garlic and / or ginger added to the oil and stirred for 5 – 10 seconds and then the vegetables are added. These are tossed around and constantly turned in order to avoid burning. Vegetables that require a longer cooking time are added first and cooked for a little bit before the more tender ones are added. Carrots, broccoli, etc. are added first. I usually cook the broccoli separately. When the veggies have been cooked for a few minutes, add a few tablespoons of water and cover. This allows them to steam a bit. I typically allow 60 – 90 seconds of steaming depending on the texture I like. If you want uber crisp veggies, omit the steaming.

Next, cook the meat or protein. Again, add the oil, a teaspoon to a tablespoon depending on the amount of meat you’re cooking. Then the garlic / ginger. Add the meat. Cook the piss out of poultry, pig, or seafood. Trust me, you don’t even want to mess around with medium rare pork. Beef is negotiable. If you wish, cook it 2/3 to 3/4 done, it will continue cooking once the sauce has been added and heated.

Then the sauce. Some like to add the sauce directly to the cooked meat. I like to remove the meat and do the sauce separately. I like to use a mix of broth and soy sauce or other liquids. A good all-purpose sauce: 1 cup broth (chicken, beef, ham, giraffe, vegetable, etc.), 2-4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 2-3 tablespoons of mirin or wine of your choice, sugar or fruit juice for a sweet sauce, vinegar for a tart sauce, fish sauce for a hearty sauce, Tabasco for a peppy sauce. Really, add anything. You can’t ruin a sauce. I guess you can if you throw in some really crappy stuff like angostura bitters or Liquid Plumr or the like. Taste the sauce and add junk as desired. If it’s awful, feed it to the sink and start over. I’ve added some bizarre stuff to mine: A1 sauce, Worcestershire, Heinz 57, orange marmalade, maple syrup, grenadine, whiskey, root beer, Pepsi, and Mad Dog 20/20. Get creative! Add the sauce to the wok or pan and heat thoroughly especially if adding reserved marinade (which I highly recommend!). If you like a thick sauce, add cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of water, stir the CS water in and stir the sauce until it’s thickened and cook for 30-60 seconds to cook the taste of starch out of it.

Finally, add the veggies (and meat if you did the sauce alone in the wok) and toss to coat. Depending on the texture, I’ll cook it a bit more to infuse the saucy goodness into the tasty bits.

Serve with rice or noodles and shovel it into your food hole.

Here’s an easy example that I make at least twice a week.

Foxfur’s Furry Tofu (contains no fur)

1lb firm or extra firm tofu dismembered into 1/2inch cubes
1 large onion hacked into wedges
1 large bell pepper (red, yellow, orange, green, or polka dotted) diced into 1/2 to 3/4inch squares or trapezoids
A couple handfuls of sliced mushrooms (white, brown, magic, whatever)
1Tbsp finely chopped ginger
1Tbsp chopped garlic
Oil (peanut, olive, vegetable, palm, motor)

Marinade:
1/4C Soy sauce
1TBSP sugar
2-3 glugs of sweet chili sauce (optional)
Other crap you like (to taste)

Sauce:
1C broth
3TBSP Soy sauce
3TBSP wine (I prefer mirin)
2Tbsp sugar

Mix the marinade ingredients well. Drop the tofu cubes into a bowl and drown with the marinade. I like to let it sit on the counter for an hour or so.

Mix the sauce ingredients together. Set aside.

Add a teaspoon of oil to the wok or pan. Get that stuff hot but not smoking hot. The only smoking hot thing here is you, dear reader, mreow! Dump in the ginger and garlic and agitate it with a stick until it’s not quite done, perhaps 7.42 seconds. You want to kidnap the flavors into the oil not deep fry the stuff. Launch the onions and peppers into the wok. Keep ’em moving, do not burn! Cook for 2 minutes and then toss the mushrooms in. Slap the stuff around for another minute or two. Add a couple tablespoons of water into the bottom of the wok and cover. Drop and give me 25 pushups. Faster! Get up, remove the cover, evacuate the veggies to a dish or other suitable detention vessel.

Drain the marinade from the tofu into something that will hold it and set that aside.

Add a bit more oil, heat, do the garlic-ginger thing and dump the tofu in. Don’t worry if there’s marinade left in the ‘fu. It will get cooked into the cubes and be oh so tastay! Stir the fu every 10-15 seconds. Ideally you want the fu to be browned on all sides but chances are you’ll never be able to do it. I can’t. Whatever. It’ll be cooked. Keep going until you achieve the nirvanaesque state of light to dark
browning, your choice. I like mine a bit on the dark and kinda dry side of the spectrum. Transfer to the container with the vegetables to reflect on their impending doom.

Add the sauce and marinade to the wok and heat until it achieves a slight boil. Taste it and add stuff you like to taste. If it’s too salty add some water. At this point you’ll thicken it up. We do this by dissolving 2Tbsp of cornstarch in 2Tbsp of COLD water. pour half of this into the simmering sauce. Stir quickly to incorporate completely. Still too thin? Add the rest of the starch water. Still too thin? make and add more. Too thick? Add some water. Simmer for a minute or so.

Finally. add the veggies and fu to the sauce. Stir everything until coated with sauce. Continue heating and stirring if you want to. If you don’t want to, you’re lazy and need a personal chef.

Serve your splendid creation with rice or alone. Drizzle with sesame oil and shake some sesame seeds over it for a real treat.

I recommend washing containers and utensils as you go so as not to be overwhelmed with a stack of crap. Done right, you will be able to gorge and pass out where you sit. On coming to you will be greeted with a clean sink and should immediately have seconds.

Stir-fry is not complicated, it just looks like it when I write the recipe. You know me and words…