Tuesday, May 13, 2008

National Burger Month Day 12: Undermining the Tofu Burger

Tonight's burger was the most challenging burger we've made yet. After yesterday's bulgogi burger, I felt the need to leave the beef alone for a little bit. I suggested to the team that perhaps we could try our hand at tofu. But I also think all of us kind of realized how boring a prospect tofu in a burger would be. Personally, I've never met a tofu burger that I truly liked. Even in my days as a closeted carnivorous vegetarian (back when I hid from my friends the fact that I occasionally ate burgers and that I wasn't at all ovo-lacto) I never had a good tofu burger. I think it was Andrea who suggested we put bacon on our tofu burgers. Haha, funny, we thought. But then I remembered that Top Chef recently had an episode about tofu soaked in rendered beef fat. And the chefs who came up with that stuff won that challenge. So we decided that the only tofu burgers that we could possibly do for National Burger Month needed to soak in rendered beef fat, be fried on bacon grease, and be topped by strips of bacon.

And so was born the tofu burger, marinated in rendered beef fat, topped with a thai green curry, soy fried snow peas, and crisp bacon. It was inspired by and adapted from the Top Chef recipe by Dale and Richard.

The burger:
20 oz super-firm tofu, cut into 1 inch chunks
1.5 cups beef fat, rendered
2 tbsp scallions, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp green curry sauce
1 tbsp chipotle pepper, minced
5 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
1 cup panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

The crust:
2 tbsp coriander
1/2 cup sliced almonds

I rendered the beef fat first. I didn't do the labor intensive boil-the-fat-and-reboil-and-reboil method for rendering. I just simmered it in a pan until I got a bunch of greasy oil. I coated the tofu chunks in this oil and let them be for about half an hour, as I prepped everything else.

Threw the tofu, egg, chipotle pepper, ginger, scallion, cilantro, canola and sesame oils in a food processor and pulsed until the mixture was a smooth slurry. After this, the breadcrumbs were mixed in with the tofu.

Formed the tofu into patties, which were then dragged in a bowl full of the crust mixture. They were then ready to fry. But before this happened, we had to do the bacon, which we fried on a griddle, making sure to leave enough bacon grease to fry the burgers in.

As a side dish, I prepared some snow peas, which I stir fried briefly with some garlic and soy sauce.

Burgers were fried for about 4 minutes per side and laid onto toasted english muffins. Once ready, we spooned some green curry sauce (store bought) onto the burgers and then topped them with a piece of bacon and a pod of snow peas.

Not a beef burger.

The burgers were actually pretty good, though I wouldn't call them a homerun. I wanted more. I wanted the beef to show through the tofu. I wanted to take a bite and realize that this was tofu the way it was meant to be: full of flavor and full of depth. Looking back, I think I should've pulverize the tofu more before marinating it. But really, the burgers were extremely tasty. The green curry was delicious and the coriander lent the burgers a sweet, smoky taste. The snow peas were fragrant and crispy. The real star, and the key ingredient, was the bacon. It went so well with the curry sauce and the curry infused in the burger.

Overall, I think this was a good effort, but not a spectacular burger for National Burger Month. I wanted to be able to say "I can't believe this is tofu." If that were my only goal, then we only had middling results. But my real goal was to undermine the idea of tofu burger. And I think we succeeded in doing this. Go team.

I realized that I would've been much happier as a vegetarian a few years ago if I ate more bacon.

No comments: