Yesterday I told you about wet cooking methods. Obviously, the other cooking method is dry cooking. These methods that do not use moisture to transfer heat but instead use oil, radiation, or hot air to cook food. As the heat is applied, moisture in the food evaporates creating a dry or crispy outside. Browning of food is only accomplished with dry cooking. This browning creates complex flavors and aromas that can't be achieved with wet cooking.
There are 6 main methods of dry cooking.
Saute: quick cooking in a small amount of oil over high heat, keeping the food moving to ensure even cooking. Stir frying is a type of saute, where the food is cooked more quickly, often in a wok as in Asian cooking.
Fry: Frying using a large amount of oil at a temperature of 350 to 375 degrees. The heat sears the outside while keeping moisture on the inside. This makes for a crisp exterior and a moist interior. Sufficiently hot oil keeps food from being greasy - not hot enough and the food absorbs the oil. You can deep fry where food is fully submerged, or pan fry in which the oil is about 1/2 way up the food. Always drain food on paper after cooking. Use a thermometer to ensure the correct temperature, or use an electric fryer which minds the temperature for you.
Grill: To cook food over heat generated with gas, wood, charcoal or electricity. The grill we usually think of has a rack like your outside grill but a flat griddle (like for pancakes) is also considered grilling.
Broiling is cooking food directly under the heat source. Roasting is cooking food on a rack inside the oven, uncovered. Be careful as there is often carry over cooking after roasting, meaning the food continues to cook a little after you remove it from the oven. You can also brown the food before roasting for better color and added flavor. Restaurants often cook steaks and thick seafood cuts like this.
Technically I don't think roasting a marshmallow is actually correct terminology but it looks good doesn't it?
Baking is cooking food uncovered in the oven, usually at a lower temperature than roasting.
We made a pan fried tofu in class that I made again at home with a slightly different recipe. It is delicious. It cooks quickly, is nice and crunchy, and is a good way to eat tofu. Tofu can be bland, so it would be nice to press the tofu and then marinate it a bit in some coconut milk, garlic, ginger, and a little soy sauce if you want to accentuate the coconut in the crust. Let it marinate for about 30 minutes, then pat dry and proceed with the recipe. The tofu will absorb all those flavors, especially if you pressed and drained the tofu. Or perhaps just add some extra spices to the flour. Sage, rosemary and thyme would be nice (like poultry seasoning!). You can be creative with your marinade and spices. If you don't have time to press the tofu, just press it with a towel to extract as much water as you can. If you hate tofu, you can use this same recipe for shrimp or even boneless chicken pieces. I ate this with some salsa verde that I shared a couple of days ago and some steamed vegetables. Delicious!
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Southern Fried Tofu
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Ingredients (2-3 servings)
- 1 package of firm or extra firm tofu, drained
- 1 cup of flour (wheat or rice)
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
- salt and pepper
- coconut oil, grape seed oil or safflower oil
Drain the tofu and wrap in a dish towel. Place on a cutting board and put a heavy pot or book on top. Let the water drain out for about and hour. (If using shrimp, fish or chicken, prepare accordingly.)
Unwrap the tofu and cut into 8 pieces: cut in half horizontally (through the middle to create two pieces), then cut each half into 4 equal pieces. Set aside.
In a shallow dish mix flour with a big pinch of salt and 8 or so grinds of pepper. In a second shallow dish beat the egg with the milk. In a third shallow dish mix the panko with the coconut and additional salt and pepper. Line up all three dishes into an assembly line with a clean plate at the end.
Take one piece of tofu and dredge in the flour, turning to coat all sides thoroughly. Next coat the tofu in the egg wash, turning to coat both sides. Then put tofu into the panko, pressing the crumbs into all sides of the tofu. Set aside on the plate. Repeat with all pieces of tofu. Tip: use the left hand for the flour and panko and your right hand for the egg. This will keep you from breading your fingers!
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of coconut oil, grape seed oil or safflower oil. When hot (shimmers, and a small bit of panko will sizzle when added), add the tofu using tongs. If your oil is hot, they will sizzle and bubble and quickly cook. When brown (a minute or two) carefully turn over. Brown on the other side, another minute or two. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. The tofu will absorb very little oil if your oil is sufficiently hot. Serve.
Note; this would be delicious using coconut milk in the egg wash. If using shrimp, fish or chicken make sure to cook through. Tofu does not need to cook as long as an animal protein to maintain food safety. For other proteins be sure to blot dry before breading.