Friday, December 24, 2010

it's the most wonderful time of the year

And it has nothing to do with kids jingle-belling or people telling me to be of good cheer - in fact, that might only encourage me to tell someone where to put their good cheer.  I wouldn't mind some much mistletoeing, though...

No, it's the most wonderful time of the year, specifically 2010, because the last six hellish weeks have finally met their end.  I walked (actually, I ran) out of the building tonight armed with the incredible knowledge that I made it and now I get to relax.  I will be away from work for a delicious week and a half.

Speaking of delicious... I greeted my greatly anticipated vacation by cooking with champagne and drinking the rest.  I took a swig right from the little bitty bottle after measuring out what I needed for the Lemon-Champagne-Braised Baby Bok Choy, then realized that just because I'm not at work doesn't mean I have to abandon all class, so I poured the rest into a wineglass for my swigging pleasure.  One really ought not drink champagne directly from the bottle, no matter how small it is.

To accompany the bok choy, I made Pan-Seared Tofu with Basil-Balsamic Glaze.  I was pretty pleased with the way the flavors worked together and even more pleased that I found the energy to make such a fancy dinner on "my friday."

First, I wrapped my tofu in a fresh towel, placed a plate upside down on top of it and weighted it down with two of my favorite (and heaviest!) cookbooks.  After an hour, I unwrapped it, rewrapped it in a new towel, and replaced it beneath the books.  I have never pressed tofu so thoroughly in my life, but this is another recipe I'm testing and the author has requested that the recipe be followed precisely the first time, so I pressed it for two hours.  It all worked out, though, because the time it took to press the tofu let me unwind for the first hour, and then I spent the second hour prepping and cooking the bok choy.

Something I love about bok choy, especially baby bok choy, is that when you trim the bottom, it looks like a pretty pale green rose.  Those two beauties are posing with my single-serving champagne bottle.

Here is my pile of bok choy, pre-braising sauce.  In case you've ever wondered what 2 lbs of baby bok choy looks like, now you know.  Also, if you were wondering what kind of pan you would braise 2 lbs of bok choy in, the answer might not be your standard 9x13 - as you can see, it was nearly overflowing.  The leaves reduce a lot during braising, but it was a challenge to fit it all in while it was still raw.

While I was preparing the bok choy, I started marinading my tofu.  I flipped it probably four times, and when the bok choy had only about 10 minutes left of cooking, I preheated a cast-iron skillet and pan-seared those little suckers for about 3-5 minutes on each side.  They developed an attractive, dark crust around the outside of the tofu and the basil stuck on pretty tenaciously.

Mister had some pretty mixed reactions.  I kind of thought that might happen, so as we sat down, I reminded my poor, tired, cranky (but relieved) self that I didn't make the recipe for him.  I made it because I thought it would be fun and I enjoyed the process.

Turned out he liked the bok choy just fine, which is funny, since I thought that would be what he didn't like.  He did comment that the amount of lemon might be overwhelming for someone who wasn't expecting it or who didn't like lemon, but we liked it just fine.

He wasn't crazy about the tofu.  I liked it, but I could see his point - despite the marinating time, it seemed like the tofu just didn't absorb much of it.  The glaze was nice, but there was too much bland, squishy tofu in between.  I like the marinade, so I do want to try this again in the future, but I'm going to suggest to the author that the tofu would be better if it was sliced more thinly so it would end up a little more firm and crispy.


  1. Try the recipe from the Horizons cookbook - it's the best method I've found and before I read the book I always messed up tofu. Horizons changed everything. My husband loves it, too.

  2. thanks for the tip! I've meant to get that cookbook for a while now and I just keep forgetting.