King Trumpet, Miso, Fried Tofu

I was picking up some ingredients for another dinner of Ramen the other day and stumbled on these awesome looking King Trumpet mushrooms. They looked fresh and plump, so I picked a few clusters up. The first thing that came to mind is to treat them as if they were the more prestigious Porcini or Matsutake mushrooms. When cooked like this these trumpets so resemble the texture of scallops and have an earthy mild flavor. I sliced each mushroom in half and slashed it in a corss-hatch pattern. These were then marinated in Ponzu sauce while I prepared the rest of the dish. Right before serving, I pan fried them in garlic flavored oil and re-seasoned with Ponzu.

The miso sauce was pretty simple. It consisted of soy milk, dashi (prepared following Cooking Issues method: 10g/L Kombu/water, circulated for 1 hr at 65C) white miso, pickled ginger and was set with a little Gellan F to give a good texture. It was very tasty and I could see a soup made from those ingredients and maybe garnished with mushrooms. I had seen in the Alinea cookbook a technique that makes a “sheet sauce”. Basically a sauce is gelled with gelatin or gellan and frozen. It is then cut into rectangles (or any other shape as appropriate) and then it is placed on top of the food at service. The sauce then comes to room temperature and coats the food item in an even layer. The effect is both functional (an even layer of sauce) and aesthetically beautiful. Here is a post of this technique by one of the chefs at Alinea on the Alinea-Mosaic site. You can also see a couple of examples on Alineaphile’s blog here and here. I wanted to give this technique a shot with this dish, but did not want to risk it completely not working. So I divided the sauce up into two. One got the freezing on acetate treatment and the other sat in a bowl in the fridge. I’m glad I did that. The sheet sauce kind of worked but it is not nearly as successful as I had hoped. I think it needed to be thicker to work better.

For the tofu, I made my own bean curd and cut it into cubes. I seasoned them with chinese 10-spice powder and breaded them (egg wash, flour, crumbs) with Panko bread crumbs before frying them till nice and crispy. I wanted to add some color to the dish and that’s where the orange sweet potato balls came in. I cooked them Sous Vide with a few tablespoons of pickled ginger juice. They tasted fantastic and looked really nice on the plate.

The rice is regular sushi rice seasoned with rice wine vinegar and sugar. Cooking it in more dashi as opposed to water gave it a deep and rich flavor. To make it into a cylinder I  extruded it through an oiled cannoli mold. The garnishes were soy bean sprouts (much more falvorful, substantial and have a better texture than mung bean sprouts I think) that were seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a touch of salt. The purple leaves are some sort of basil I think. They have a good sharp mint/basil flavor. I picked them up at the Asian grocery store as well and they had no label, but worked well in the dish and added a good color.

Here are a couple of shots of the dish plated with the “sheet sauce”. Notice how it kind of breaks a bit as opposed to staying intact and enveloping everything. I think a touch more gelling agent and making the sheet a bit thicker will help a lot. Overall this dish was fantastic, a really refined, delicious and wonderful looking vegetarian main course.

Advertisements

VDP: Green Curry with Tofu with Rice Noodles

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thai curry paste preparation is typically a bit complex. The number of items that go into the past can be huge, anything from dried shrimp to Kefir lime leaves to coriander roots. This one is a fairly simple one I improvised to make a quick weekday dinner. To make it faster I also used a mini-processor instead of my usual granite mortar and pestle. The result was very good for a tasty Thai-style green curry that took less than an hour from start to finish.

The past included garlic, galangal, turmeric (fresh NOT dried…well actually frozen and it looks like a miniature knob of ginger), shallots, lemongrass from my garden, Kefir lime leaves also from my own tree and cilantro. I pulverized the ingredients as well as I could in a small processor than sautéed them in coconut cream. Good Thai coconut cream separates in the can. So, you end up with a top layer of thick coconut cream, almost like sour cream in texture, and a more liquid part that is the coconut milk. Roughly about 30% of each can is cream. After the paste is cooked for a while and a bit dried, I added palm sugar, tamarind pulp, fish sauce and the coconut milk left in the can. I le this simmer VERY gently (or it will curdle) and then added my cubed soft tofu. I finished the curry with cilantro leaves and some shredded Kefir lime leaves.

I intentionally made the curry on the soupy side. The idea is sort of like a curry noodle soup of sorts! Heresy maybe, but the taste was exceptional. That blob of brown in the opening picture, by the way, is a Thai Chilli jam . I bring that up because it looks odd but it is so delicious. This mixture of chillies, dried shrimp, galangal and shallots among many other things is one of the best recipes I culled from David Thompson’s amazing tome, Thai Food.