(1) Choose “playful” dishes.
In my vast culinary experience, which has included an intensive practicum in viewing every episode of every season of Top Chef on Bravo-tastic looped rerun, I have learned that it is difficult to knock a “playful” dish. Usually such dishes will garner, at worst, a comment like, “Good concept, poor execution.” Tom Colicchio will shake his gloriously shiny head, but with a sly smile and a twinkle in his eye.
With that in mind, tonight’s dish is Ginger-beer-battered Stuffed Tofu paired with Spicy Mushy Peas, a playful vegetarian twist on fish and chips featured in Maria Elia’s cookbook “The Modern Vegetarian.” Just saying the name, I feel like I’m swinging from a jungle gym! Wheeee!
(2) Use only professional-grade kitchen equipment.
And if you don’t have any, at least hide the Chop Wizard when you’re done.
(3) Show them your personality.
A true master chef infuses his or her true self into every element of the diner’s experience. For example, if your temper is shorter than Tom Cruise without shoe lifts and you curse like a sailor, don’t muffle that behind the kitchen door! Let it shine! My diners were speechless with delight when the first batch of tofu I fried scalded off all of its ginger-beer-batter, hot oil leapt out of the pan and onto my bare feet, the smoke alarm began to wail, and I yelled $*#@ IT BURNS IT BURNS WILL SOMEONE MAKE THAT $*#@ BEEPING STOP FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY. It’s all about authenticity.
(4) One word: Footwear.
See foot burns, Step (3), above. Shoot for something between Mario Batali’s iconic clogs and The Barefoot Contessa’s … has anyone actually seen her feet?
(5) Every dish should tell a story.
Here’s an example:
“When you are a vegetarian living in England, “fish and chips” becomes “chips and chips.” Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some chips, but I have to admit that when I was living in London, consistent non-participation in the National Pub Fare made me feel a little bit left out.
That’s why I’m so delighted that I was able to capture that feeling of alienation in the preparation of this dish. For example, I made the stuffing–a mixture of shitake mushrooms, ginger, jalepeno pepper, scallions, soy sauce, grapeseed oil, and mirin–and then lovingly spooned it into slits that I had gently cut just-far-enough into each tofu cube. And it fell out. Then I burrowed a little hole in each cube for the filling, covering the holes with little tofu top-hats, and the filling still fell out. “What do I have to do,” I thought, “to just fit this in?” I felt like Happy Gilmore in the kitchen. Go to your home, mushroom stuffing! Are you too good for your home? Luckily, mushing peas is great for frustration, and cheaper than therapy. Ginger-beer-battered Tofu with Spicy Mushy Peas, everyone! Please enjoy.”
Categories: Cooking Stories
More Amateur Gourmet:
Favorite Food Sites:
- 101 Cookbooks
- Chez Pim
- Chocolate and Zucchini
- David Lebovitz
- Serious Eats
- Simply Recipes
- Slice NY
- The Food Section