Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How Far Can You Stray From a Classic Recipe?

I’ve been aware of Gado Gado, an Indonesian salad, for years.  I’ve admired pictures of it and even considered making it at one point.  But I never did because 1) it looked like too much work, and 2) it didn’t appear filling enough to be a main course.

Sunset Magazine’s July issue carried a recipe for this salad, and I finally decided to try it.  ‘Too much work’ and ‘not filling enough’ still seemed valid concerns, so I decided to add a few of my own touches and subtract one of theirs--the bean sprouts, because there were enough cold vegetables already on the platter.

To make this salad more substantial, I added a bowl of cooked rice, 3 cups of shredded chicken, a bowl of sliced mangoes and a large garlic bread.  And because I was feeding 10 people, I increased the number of hard-boiled eggs.  I also doubled the amount of peanut sauce.  I confess I reduced the spiciness because of some tender young palates.

Maybe I ruined the dish for die-hard Gado Gado fans, but my family liked it.  There was something for everyone, even the pickiest of vegetarians.

This brings me back to my original question: does changing a classic recipe matter?  Yes, in some cases it does, although Gado Gado may not be one of them.

Julia Child’s Coq au Vin (Chicken in Wine Sauce) and Beef Bourguignon (Beef in Red Wine) recipes are two classic dishes I try to follow exactly.  I’ve experimented with shortcuts and substitute ingredients, and the dishes have suffered.  My compromise is not making them very often.  But when I do make them, I follow the recipes exactly.  I never regret it, even if I’m exhausted afterwards.

Pick a few favorite classic recipes and follow them exactly.  Then experiment with everything else. 
Gado Gado – serves 10 – adapted from Sunset Magazine, July 2017 issue 
1 package (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt 
10 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
3 cups thinly shredded cabbage
2 cups fresh green beans, cooked and cut in half
2 Persian cucumbers or 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and quartered
2 cups cooked rice 
5 honey mangoes, peeled and sliced 
1 loaf French bread, heated 
Peanut Sauce 
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup lime or lemon juice
1/2 cup hot water + more if needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic 
Cut the tofu into 1-inch square pieces and let sit on several layers of paper towels for 15 minutes.  Pat dry and transfer to a medium bowl.  Sprinkle with cornstarch, curry powder and salt and stir gently. 
Add the oil to a large frying pan and begin heating over medium-high heat.  Gently place the tofu squares into the hot oil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until it has browned on all sides.  Transfer the squares to one corner of a large platter. 
Arrange the hard-boiled eggs, chicken, cabbage, green beans, cucumber and radishes to other areas of the platter. 
Transfer the rice, sliced mangoes and slices of garlic bread to bowls. 
Make the peanut sauce: Combine the peanut butter, lime or lemon juice, hot water, soy sauce, brown sugar and garlic in a container large enough to stir thoroughly without spilling.  If the sauce seems too thick, add more hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Transfer some to a serving dish, set on the platter and refill as needed. 
Place the platter and bowls on the table with serving tongs and spoons and let people help themselves.
                            For more recipes, order "Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen!"

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