I have already spent a good deal of time professing my love for citrus fruits, so I won’t launch into that again. However, winter’s end is rapidly approaching and whether you consider that a blessing or a bummer, it means that my beloved tangerines are making their grand exit.
I recently asked my husband for some inspiration, regarding ‘omnivore’ foods he misses. After a lot of thought (there’s not much we have want for), he came up with Orange Peel Chicken. Mmmm, that ooey-gooey sweet citrusy sauce – oh yes, I’ll happily veganize that!
After some recipe investigation, I learned that there is quite a disparity between what Americans call Orange [Peel] Chicken, and the actual Chinese dish. You know that sticky sweet deliciousness all breaded and deep fried, featured in most American chain ‘Chinese’ restaurants? Well surprise surprise: it’s not so much ‘authentic’. The traditional Chinese recipe, called Chen Pi Ji, translates roughly to “Old Skin Chicken”. The dish centers around aged (a few days) dried orange peels, and also uses significantly less sugar than its American counterpart.
Here, I’ve fused these two, old and new, for my own take on the template. I wanted to provide my husband the nostalgic flavor he craved, while remaining true to the traditional, more-bitter-than-sweet quality. And of course, because we prefer tangerines to oranges, and because we prefer tofu (and alliteration) to any faux meat, I decided on Tangerine Tofu. This dish is NOT quick/easy/cheap – it’s pretty involved and you’ll want to be around all day for it. You could, however, easily modify it to take less time (no need to marinate all day, I suppose) and I wouldn’t be offended. Just promise to let me know what you did, and how it turned out!
1 block extra firm tofu
At least 1 tablespoon tangerine zest, as much as you can get
1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 tablespoon sherry, saki, or other cooking booze
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 yellow onion
1 yellow or orange pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 poblano pepper
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
In the morning:
Press tofu, then cut into triangles.
Zest tangerines, and then squeeze 1/2 cup fresh juice. In a mixing bowl, combine tangerine juice, vegetable broth, agave, saki/booze, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and cornstarch, and whisk until well blended. Place tofu in a shallow container (with a lid), and cover with 1/2 of the marinade. Put the lid on and refrigerate until the evening. Cover the remaining marinade and refrigerate as well. Spread out your zest on a paper towel to dry out. Snack on tangerines.
In the afternoon:
About 2 1/2 to 3 hours before you plan to eat, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove the tofu from the marinade (reserving liquid) and lay the triangles out on a baking sheet (either greased or covered with parchment paper). Sprinkle the tofu with sesame seeds, then bake for about an hour. Every 15-20 minutes, turn the tofu and brush with more of the marinade. After an hour do a final turn, a final brush, and another sprinkle of sesame seeds. Bake for another 30 minutes untouched, and then turn off the oven (but do not remove). Snack on tangerines.
Meanwhile, rough chop the bell peppers and sliver the onion and poblano pepper. Mince the garlic and grate the ginger and set these aside in a separate small dish. Collect the dried zest in another small dish. Now you’re ready to cook!
Heat a dry, large, nonstick pan or wok over medium high heat. This is a dry pan – do not add oil. When pan is heated, add the tangerine zest and toast until fragrant and slightly browned – about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove zest and return to small dish.
Let pan reheat (medium high), and add the tablespoon of sesame oil. Allow oil to heat, and then add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for about 1 minute. Add all veggies and toss, allowing veggies to cook just until al dente – about 2-4 minutes. Do not overcook! Remove from pan and return to plate/bowl.
If pan is dry add a bit more oil and allow to reheat. Whisk up the second half of the marinade and add to pan. Allow this to heat up real good, and just when it begins to bubble, add the baked tofu. Toss to coat and turn down heat to medium (so the sauce does not burn, but still hot enough to reduce). Allow to thicken a bit (2-4 minutes) and then add the vegetables back in. Toss to coat, let flavors fuse for a few minutes, but again not too long (no soggy veggies!).
Serve over brown rice and garnish with the tangerine zest.
Do NOT give in to the beggars!