Friday, May 2, 2008

Grilled Tofu with Chinese Sausage and Black Beans

I cooked this a while ago but have never gotten around to posting about it. Poor neglected recipe...not that there was anything wrong with it! It turned out surprisingly well given my previously lackluster experiences with the cookbook from whence the recipe came (Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine). What a word, whence. Anyhow, this recipe is a fun one even if just to make the grilled tofu. I was very, VERY surprised at how visually appealing it was. A technique which I will definitely use again. This is an insanely easy recipe and if you are a cooking newbie, give this one a try. Hard to screw up.

Cookbook pet peeve here...bad recipe testing. For instance, the first ingredient is Szechuan peppercorns. The first step of the recipe is to toast and grind the far, so good. However, it never tells you when to add them to the dish! Am I supposed to toast the peppercorns as a strictly mechanical exercise? L'etude de Cuisine? Because the authors want my kitchen to smell of peppercorns? C'mon! As a consumer, I have paid good money for the book...put a little more effort into it! I just realized, it's not even bad recipe testing, it's bad editing! Reading the recipe should've been sufficient to notice the error!

1 teaspoon of Szechuan Peppercorns.
1 pound of firm or medium firm tofu
1/2 pound ground beef (Given my experience, I urge you to buy lean ground beef...if you buy the fattier stuff, the beef fat and fatty sausages make for an overly oily dish)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 1-inch piece fresh, peeled, grated gingerroot
1/4 cup fermented black bean paste (Pretty common product, not too unusual)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 bunch scallions
3 Chinese sausage links cut into 1/2 inch slices

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Toast the peppercorns, let them cool and then grind them.

Heat a grill pan. Grill tofu. This will take some time. I grilled it until I got a nice charred crosshatch. I cut the tofu into large chunk.

Heat a small, ovenproof pot. Add oil (just a touch). Add ground beef, garlic and ginger. (At this point, I also added the peppercorns.) Cook until the meat is browned. Add the bean paste, soy sauce, sugar and a cup of water. Stir. Add the tofu, stir well and bring to a simmer. Scatter the sausage and scallions over the tofu. Add a bit of water, if you need. Add seasoning...shouldn't need much. When the pot is at a simmer, cover it and move it to the oven. Or, I guess you could finish it on the stovetop but at a super low heat.

Recipe calls for a 1.5-2 hour braise. I did 1.5 and was perfectly happy. Serve with PLENTY of rice.

Time- 5 minute prep. 1.5-2 hour cooking time. Much of it is unsupervised.

Food cost
Ground Beef- $0.75
Tofu- $0.80
Chinese Sausages-$1.25 (Working from memory here)
Black Bean Paste- $0.75
Total-$4.05, Will serve 4 with rice and a veggie side dish/$1.00 per serving.


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