I made some questionable food decisions in the final weeks of 2017, starting with the self-imposed clean-up of leftover Reese’s minis after Halloween and ending with the thick cup of bourbon-enhanced, homemade egg nog on Boxing Day. I’ve had a pretty good run, but for the first few weeks of 2018, I’m going to eat more tofu.
My resolution is fueled in part by my newest kitchen device, a Japanese-style clay cooking vessel called a donabe. It looks like a soup tureen, cooks like a Dutch oven, and if you don’t have one, use a heavy, 4-quart, range-safe pot for this hearty tofu flavored with red pepper and ground pork.
What is tofu? It is soy milk that has achieved a semi-solid state, and it’s available in any grocery store. Eaten plain, it is rather bland, but readily takes on the flavors of any cooking broth, spice or condiment you add. And unlike every other kind of food, tofu has no season.
Adapted from a recipe at toirokitchen.com
Serves six, served over rice.
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger root
8 ounces coarse ground pork
1 tablespoon Chinese hot bean paste or Sriracha
1 tablespoon Chinese fermented black beans; rinsed, drained and mashed.
2 ½ tablespoons miso
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons sake
1 cup hot chicken stock
20 ounces medium-firm tofu, drained, patted dry with paper towels and cut into cubes.
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
2 ounces minced scallions
Freshly-ground white peppercorns
1. Heat the sesame oil in a wok, or a heavy clay or iron pot over medium-heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until fragrant.
2. Add the pork and continue to sauté until the meat is not pink.
3. Mash the Chinese bean paste or Sriracha into the rinsed fermented black beans
4. Push the cooked meat to one side and add the bean paste mixture. Stir the paste until it is heated and fragrant, then combine it with the meat.
5. Stir in the miso and sugar. Add the sake, and bring to a simmer.
6. Add the stock and tofu, turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture to a simmer again.
7. Add the soy sauce. Mix the cornstarch and water and add it gradually to the mixture.
8. Add the ground white pepper, sprinkle the scallions on top. Stir to combine.
9. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with rice.