Saturday, June 22, 2019

Incredible Sauces and Former Vegetarians

My freshman year of high school I announced to my mother that I was becoming a vegetarian.

This announcement triggered a years-long attempt on her part to care for my nutritional needs by sneaking tofu into food, pointing at the word "seitan" in a recipe for the clerk at the health food store to avoid mispronouncing the word, and making sure that beans and rice were always paired to create a complete protein (to be honest I don't even know what that means...should I have learned this in Biology?).

Tofu was in enchiladas.  Tofu was in lasagna.  Tofu was everywhere.

Despite the fact that I'm still not much of a meat-eater, I haven't been a vegetarian for 18 or-so years now- and I haven't bought tofu since I moved out on my own.  This isn't the kind of recipe I'd normally gravitate towards!
I'm not sure what prompted me to try my hand at a tofu-centric dish, but something about it sounded really good.  I soon found myself returning to that weird little section of the produce department that houses veggie hot dogs, wonton wrappers, and myriad varieties of tofu.

Did the heavens open and angels sing as I realized how fabulous tofu is and what I've been missing out on all of these years?

Definitely not.
You know, it's ok.  I don't see a lot of forays into the land of tofu in my future.  But it's fine.
Maybe tofu is your thing, and that's totally cool.  If so, definitely forge ahead with this recipe as-is!

In my mind, the real star of this show is the sauce.
It is absolutely loaded with flavor- you're definitely going to want to serve this with rice so you can sop up every last drop!

I've made this recipe again several times now using other proteins like chicken breast and shrimp and I've tossed in broccoli and carrots too.  It's super adaptable to whatever you need to use up in the fridge.  Tofu or not, definitely give this one a try!

½ (12 oz) package extra-firm tofu, sliced (or protein of your choice)
2 Tbsp whiskey (or cooking sherry)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, or to taste
1 C unsalted raw cashews 
1 heaping Tbsp minced garlic
1 onion, julienned
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 fresh red Chile peppers (or jalapeƱos), sliced thinly
3 Tbsp water
4 green onions, sliced
Steamed veggies if desired (may want to double sauce if adding veggies)

1. Combine tofu, whiskey, fish sauce, soy sauce, molasses, and oyster sauce in a bowl and marinate for 4 hours.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok over medium heat and fry cashews until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer cashews to a bowl and pour out oil.
3. Add garlic to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in tofu and onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add brown sugar and chile peppers. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Add water and stir until well mixed. Remove from heat. If desired, stir in steamed vegetables.  Sprinkle the cashews and green onions on top.

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