Tuesday, October 20, 2009

VeganMoFo Day Twenty!: Challenges accepted, risks taken, lessons learned.

One evening not so long ago, I attempted a meal that was rather daring for me: Curried Barley with Lemon Ginger Tofu. Sounds good, right? I wasn't working from any kind of recipe; it's just something that occurred to me. A combination really of a craving I'd been having to try to curry some barley, and a bit of a challenge 'round the PPK boards to do a little lemon ginger something. Well, sometimes good ideas go wrong. It was after work, I was tired, and my methods and execution of the meal became questionable. Here, we dissect the meal's unfolding.

Things I already knew about yellow curry: the stuff what makes it yellow - that stuff being turmeric - will stain everything it touches an amazing golden color for round about forever. Your dinner, your silicone covered whisk, your skin, your pants, whatever. As seems obvious, this can be more or less acceptable depending on the object which it has touched.

Things I should have known about barley but decided to blissfully ignore when cooking this meal: barley must be cooked for a bare minimum of three hours if you haven't soaked it over night. Seriously. I don't care what the package or the internets or your friends or your mom says. This is between you and the grain. Cook that stuff for at least three hours. Trust me, it will NOT become too soft. When it comes to barley, this is a physical impossibility unless you are planning to can it for a year or more. And if you're going to cook for this long, make more than you want to eat that night.

What I did:
  • simmered 1 cup of barley in 2 cups of Rapunzel-bullion-cube broth plus a whole buncha spices that I just eyeballed for about two hours
  • once the barley had been cooking for about an hour, sliced a few small-to-medium shallots and browned them (this here was my first mistake - a compound mistake, actually)
  • in the same pan with the browned shallots (mistake number two), placed triangles of pressed tofu and braised them in some unchicken stock and lemon juice, covering them in too much ginger powder and lemon pepper (#3); let that cook off and then let one side brown
  • flipped the tofu over and let the other side brown
  • ended up leaving the tofu et cetera in the pan for far too long because I wanted it to brown more, which would have been fine except for the shallots and the way too much ginger powder
  • waited another hour after the tofu was totally cooked and turned off for the freakin barley to actually be edible, because as previously discussed you cannot cook barley in under three hours unless you've soaked it, even if the package says 1 to 1.5 hours (damn liars)
  • eventually had a serve-able meal, served it, ate it, and got mad because after more than three hours of cooking there were no leftovers
What I probably should have done:
  • started cooking an hour or so earlier
  • simmered the barley for 3 to 3.5 hours in broth and a measured amount of spices, because I went overboard like whoa
  • after the barley had been cooking for like 2 hours, started pressing my tofu
  • after the barley had been cooking for like 3 hours, sliced my shallots, browned them, taken them out of the skillet and set them aside, then put in my tofu triangles to braise and brown, coating them with an appropriate amount of lemon pepper and adding a small amount of fresh grated ginger later in the cooking process
  • added the shallots back in moments before the tofu was ready
Ah well. You live, you learn. We ended up with an edible meal, at least. The house did smell like curry for days afterward, and that's got to be worth something.

3 comments:

Veg-In-Training said...

This made me feel bad and laugh all at the same time. I have had some interesting mishaps similar to yours in the kitchen. Every so often all your skills and memories of how to cook just leave you for a while, like an out of body experience. Great post!

Mary said...

Whoa, maybe my barley was parboiled. I made risotto with it and it only tok about 30 minutes to get soft. I love the idea of currying it, though!

melissa bastian. said...

Veg-In-Training - thanks! I like your blog quite a bit.

Mary - hmm. Maybe you were using pearl barley? I should have specified that I was using hulled!