Thursday night went really well. That's what happens when I have a plan. Even though Gusty had street hockey until 4:30 and we didn't get home until almost 6:00 we managed to get all the homework done, practice the cello, have a real home cooked meal, watch a 1/2 hour of Boomerang and and still get to bed at a normal hour.
Dinner was braised tofu sticks with green beans and rice. I had never made tofu sticks before and was unsure what to do with them. If you've never seen them, they're available at Asian markets. They come in a bag and look like giant, yellow, gnarled witch's fingers. I have gotten them before and they languished in the cupboard and ended up in the garbage. Not this time. Inspired by Gusty's desire for a reproduction of the roast "duck" served at the vegetarian Chinese joints, I looked into their preparation. Suffice to say that they will become a regular on the meal roster.
I put them to soak in the morning before we left the house and when we returned home I put them in a pot with star anise, cinnamon sticks, sugar, rice wine, soy sauce, a few dried chilies and ginger. After a 40 minute simmer they were ready to eat along with simple preparation brown rice and some garlic sautéed green beans. Gusty, who originally complained that he would be eating something brown (huh?) ate them with wild abandon and we all enjoyed the chewy texture along with the sweet and savory broth. A topping of garlic chili sauce didn't hurt either.
The braising broth was complex. It had some spice, some sweet, some savory... I wondered what it would taste like if I simmered it until a reduction ensued. After refrigerating the tofu, I put the pot back on to simmer for about 45 minutes and I wasn't disappointed with the results. The broth reduced to a more pungent version of itself and I tried it over vanilla ice cream. That was good too but next time I'll sprinkle on a few sesame seeds. The plot thickens.
When I make the tofu sticks again I'm going to soak them in a more flavorful concoction, maybe some tea and peppercorns. They absorb a ton of liquid. Why shouldn't that liquid have some taste.
On Friday night we had tofu pups and popcorn for dinner. I definitely did not have a plan.