GENERAL TSO’S CAULIFLOWER

GENERAL TSO’S CAULIFLOWER
We were starting to think cauliflower recipes were beginning to go out of style, or perhaps that people had exhausted all of the cauliflower recipes they could think of (cauliflower pizza dough, cauliflower dips, cauliflower soup, etc., etc.), but, then again, that really would never happen right?
After all, cauliflower is the new kale.
So enter General Tso’s cauliflower.
I know this is technically not a new recipe, because how could a dish with healthy cauliflower combined with the popular General not already exist? Sounds improbable, but indeed some brave soul pioneered the combination.
Well, our story is that a good friend of mine invited us over to his house for an Indo-Chinese meal, and he drummed up excitement by saying I would be “pleasantly surprised.” Now the other twist is that my buddy became a vegetarian years ago and moved on to become a full blown vegan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and, truthfully, I was hoping he wasn’t going to serve me up alfalfa sprouts, beans, and salad.
I was pleasantly surprised when he served up delicious dishes of noodles, rice, curried eggplant and yes, General Tso’s cauliflower! He jokes around with us that we are obsessed with our blogging so I didn’t disappoint him when I said, “I’m going to blog that recipe!” Here it is, although slightly varied, since I decided not to blanch the cauliflower before frying, and instead of going with a shallow fry, I went for the deep fry.
We use cornstarch in the marinade to keep the cauliflower moist. Coating the florets in rice flour mixed with sesame seeds produces that crispy coating that everyone loves in General Tso’s Chicken!
General Tso's cauliflower is the vegetarian version of the beloved Chinese American dish, General Tso's Chicken. Our General Tso's cauliflower is as good as the original.
Ingredients
For the cauliflower:
  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 to 3 cups peanut or canola oil, for frying
For the sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 5 whole dried red chili peppers (optional)
  • ½ tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1½ tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup water (or chicken stock)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 scallion, cut at an angle into half-inch pieces
Instructions
  1. Cut the cauliflower into 1- to 2-inch chunks. Mix the cornstarch, baking soda, salt, sesame oil, white pepper, water, and ¾ cup of rice flour in a large bowl until it forms a batter. Toss in the cauliflower and fold together until the cauliflower is well coated. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of rice flour over the cauliflower, and stir until everything is sticking to the cauliflower. There should be no more batter at the bottom of the bowl. If there is, just add a little bit more rice flour.
  2. Next, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds evenly over the cauliflower. Heat the oil to 375 degrees in a cast iron pan or small pot. Fry the cauliflower in batches until light golden brown and crunchy (about 3 minutes), and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in your wok over medium heat. Add the minced ginger, and let fry for 15 seconds. Add the garlic and dried red pepper. Stir for 10 seconds. Add the Shaoxing wine, and immediately add the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and water (or chicken stock). Turn the heat down to low, letting the entire mixture simmer.
  4. If you fried the cauliflower in advance and want the pieces to be extra crispy, re-fry the cauliflower in batches for about 20 seconds or until golden brown, and drain on paper towels. Add the cornstarch slurry gradually to the sauce while stirring constantly, and let simmer for 20 seconds. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon.
  5. Add the cauliflower and scallions, and toss the entire mixture until everything is well-coated in the sauce. Serve!

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