Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tofu basics AND Bar-be-que Riblets

Jo and I have officially fallen head-over-heels in love with tofu! This stuff is great - you can basically do anything with it, from baking a knock out bar-b-que to scrambling "eggs" for breakfast to even making mayo or sour cream substitutes. But first you gotta know how to work it, and work it right!

When I get that initial "ewwww" yucky face response to tofu from the unenlightened, I tend to follow up with a simple example question: "but do you like potatoes?" I ask all innocent-like to draw them y'see. Which always gets a " why sure I do." response. Then I hand them (if I have one handy) a raw, unpeeled potato and say, "well here you go, dig in!" "B-b-b-ut I can't eat this, it's raw!" they stutter (they always stutter when faced with superior reasoning, don't they).
Same thing with tofu. Raw, unpeeled potato equals raw, unprepared tofu. Both need preparation to be tasty.

Here's how to prep the tofu (figure out the potato your own self!):

* first, get organic tofu. (chemicals bad!)
* also first (first.b) get the freshest tofu package you can find - dig to the back of the counter to find the latest stocked items (I learned that when I worked at a grocery store in 1977!)
-- later at home--
* pierce the top of the package and drain the water the tofu is packed in
* slice the tofu into whatever size pieces are appropriate for your intended recipe (you'll understand when you get going)
* slip these tofu chunks into simmering, almost-but-not-quite-boiling water for about three minutes (slipping prevents splashing and the resulting burning, screaming and dropping of tofu which is painful to even watch)
* after simmering for three minutes, remove the tofu slices with a slotted spoon, and lay them out on a cloth (cheese cloth, tight-weave dish towl, paper towels, old t-shirt, etc)
* fold the above referenced cloth over the tofu and press it to squeeze out as much water as possible - this isn't a strength contest, don't smash the tofu - it will be fairly firm, so press firmly

This batch of tofu is now ready for whatever culinary masterpiece you have in store for it! such as ...

Bar-B-Que Riblets!
[NOTE: no animals were harmed in the making of this dish. Isn't that nice? Yeah.]

"Hey now! If going vegan or vegetarian means giving up muh real Texas bar-b-que, y'all can color me outta here!"
Ah, how many times have we heard that bucolic refrain ringing across the back yard grill? Too many to count, right? Well invite your neighbors over for an old-fashioned (but really new-fashioned) bar-b-que they'll talk about for months.

* Prepare tofu as you know how (see above) and cut it into riblet-sized and shaped pieces - approximately 1 inch thick and about two inches wide.
* mix up your favorite bar-b-que sauce - I like a good, bold bottle off the shelf to which I add chopped onions, crushed garlic, cayenne pepper, Tabasco© sauce - basically whatever Jo will let me get away with. The idea here is to get real close to making yourself cry from the heat without overshadowing the taste.
* pour 1/2 the sauce into your baking dish, place the tofu slices thereupon, and pour the rest of the sauce over, making sure all surfaces of the tofu are covered (don't be stingy! Remember the old saying "a penny saved ... is just flat-out cheap!")
* place the aforementioned baking dish into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes
* turn the riblets, making sure, again, they are all covered with the sauce
* return to the oven for another 15 - 20 minutes, depending on how chewy you want your riblets

* Serve with bbq beans and something cold to put out the inevitable (if you fixed the sauce right) fire - cole slaw is good, so is grape juice - fermented or not.

* Most important part: don't forget to invite me for dinner!!!!

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