9/1/11

Everything right is wrong and now right again.

Today, we were reviewing the recipes, and realised that many of them weren't nearly as good as they could be. The Korean Tofu Cutlets, for one, were ending up way too sweet, without enough spice, and you could hardly taste the ginger. What's the point of putting it in there if you can't taste it? The latkes were ending up falling apart. The yuba crunchies (that go atop the Four Seasons Salad) were ending up on the greasy side, even though they're not deep fried! What gives!?

We went ahead and poked around until we got things just right. Then we wrote down copious notes as to how to get it just right. And then we tested it again and again, until it was just right. It's days like these that remind me why I love cooking in the first place. It's like the greatest mystery novel ever: "How can I get that to taste like it did that one time, no not that time, the other time", but without the annoying cliffhangers, or diversions. When Bossman and I are working together, to perfect and refine the recipes, it's like the best parts of Chemistry class (the labs) and the best parts of toddling around behind my mum when she was in the kitchen, and asking me my opinion on how to refine such and such dish.

On the other hand, it's also massively rewarding, because I know that it'll mean that the people eating it are going to enjoy it so much more.

Y'see, recipes go through a sort of radioactive decay. Over time, like a game of Telephone, you start to lose the exact measurements, the exact techniques, the ingredients, etc. Every now and again, regardless of whether it's at home or in a professional kitchen, you need to tighten things up to make sure everyone's on her or his toes.

For example, there are recipes that I've made so many times that I'm a bit lax on the measurements. "Eh, it could use a titch more pepper", or "Why don't I add less cumin?" Then, as time goes on, the original recipe, though still bravely sitting around, starts to fade at the edges. Things get tweaked in the interest of expediency or time, and now the food no longer tastes right. The last incarnation (which, fortunately, didn't go out to the customers) of the Tofu Cutlets was just /sweet/ and nothing else. No ginger, no chile, no sesame. Just sweet. Gag.

We looked at the recipe, and realised that some of the kitchen folks would bump up the chiles a little, while others would use a different amount of maple syrup, and different amounts of fats. It was a mess.

The two of us went in, pens blazing, to fix those egregious errors. We tasted, we blended, we gingered. I know ginger isn't a verb. It is now. When you bump up 1 TB of ginger to 1/2 cup, it's a verb. Mind you, this is for 9 pounds of tofu, and it cooks a long time, so it's not like you're biting into a bag of gingery gingerness.

Sorry. Got carried away.

Anycow. We replaced some of the maple syrup with a bit of sucanat, twiddled the amounts of sesame oil and canola oil, and added a touch of salt, a bit more chile, and baked it way longer than before.

Perfection. Utter and complete perfection.

Until one of the guys tried to recreate it, and rather than laying down the slices of tofu in one neat layer, stacked a couple, because he had extras. And again, the blurring. So again, with the explaining and refining and making sure everyone gets everything right every time, so help us G-d. And again we go flying into the sublime. It's now crispy on the outside, slightly chewy, a little sweet, a bit salty, a light hint of ginger, a good kick of spicy, and ever so tasty. This is exactly what food should be. And then, served atop the steamed kale? Excellent.

This is why I cook.
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