“Mom, you must really like honey.” said my daughter after dinner last night. And, she’s right. I do really like honey although that in itself doesn’t explain the all-out honey madness I’m inspired with this week.
That goes back to one of my New Year’s ideas. I won’t go as far as to call them resolutions, but I did have a whole list of things I wanted to try this year on my blog. And one of them was to dive in more deeply into a foodie theme rather than just picking up some random idea out of the blue and quickly trying a single recipe and moving on. Having themes will help me focus my enormous laundry list of “should try” recipes that I jot down each month from my many, many cooking magazines. If you haven’t guessed yet, this week is all about honey.
My initial thought for this dinner was Honey Walnut Prawns… those embarrassingly good bites of sweet goo covered fried shrimp. I don’t even want to think about the picture of what 200 calories might look like. 1 Prawn with sauce? Or perhaps just 1/2. But, oh my, are they good. Who would have thought that mayonnaise, sweetened condensed milk and honey would be so good together? As I contemplated this idea, I decided that rather than prawns, I might try tofu. Not slimy cold clammy tofu, mind you. No, the yummy kind. The kind that has been deep fried… not to the point of chewy, but just to the point that there is a tender bite, like you get with Agedashi tofu. The warm and creamy tofu turned out to be great topped with a slightly lighter version of the honey sauce.
To make the sauce, I started by whipping up some homemade mayo. This isn’t necessary, but we almost never use mayo and jars tend to expire before they get used the 2nd time. But, I do almost always have the makings for mayo fresh in the house… eggs, oil, lemon and salt. Having never made mayo before, I made the mistake of starting out using my Kitchen Aid mixer. The recipe (from the Joy of Cooking) said to use a whisk and a stainless bowl, so I figured the mixer would simply do it faster. But, as much as I whipped, I was just left with a liquid mess of oil and egg. Soon, I gave up and moved the concoction to my Cuisinart… and presto, it started to take some form. Adding the honey and condensed milk at this point right into the food processor made the rest of the sauce a no brainer. If you don’t have a food processor, a blender will also do the trick.
For this recipe, I used yet another honey… this time Mesquite honey which I had picked up at Trader Joes. This honey comes from the southwest, where the bees feed on the flowers of the mesquite tree. The honey is a medium golden and has a very buttery flavor… not quite as green tasting as the Tupelo honey, but still just a little tangy and citrusy.
For dessert, I decided to make up some sweet wontons… a slice or two of fresh mango and a smear of crystalized or creamed honey wrapped up in a won ton wrapper and deep fried. Once cool, they can be doused in a bit more honey or for a less sticky treat, sprinkled with a bit of powdered sugar. The key to making great little bites is to start with small, round wrappers, don’t over stuff them, and to make sure that the oil is hot enough to brown them quickly before they absorb too much oil.
Honey Walnut Tofu
Makes about 10 pieces
1 block of medium-firm tofu
rice flour or potato starch
oil for deep frying
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil such as Canola
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup honey
2 T sweetened condensed milk
cilantro, chopped for garnish
I used store bought walnuts, but you can make your own first if you have the time. I like Elise’s recipe for them.
Remove the tofu from its package and dump out any liquid. Place the tofu on a paper towel on a plate. Place another folded paper towel on top of the tofu, and place a heavy plate on top. Let the tofu sit this way for at least 30 minutes.
If you are making rice, you might want to get it going about now. I have a rice cooker which means I can just start it cooking and then forget about it.
Remove the paper toweling from the tofu, pat dry with a new paper towel, and cut into 10 pieces. Set aside.
If using making your own mayo, combine the egg, salt and lemon juice and whip till frothy. Start dripping in the oil just a little bit at a time, while whipping. When you’ve added about 1/3 of the oil, it should start to thicken a bit. Continue adding the rest of the oil, letting it whip and integrate all the oil. It won’t be as solid as jar mayo, but it should have a bit of thickness to it. Once combined, add the honey and condensed milk, and blend to combine. Add a bit more salt if necessary.
Now it’s time to get the oil heating. I like to use a wok, but if you have a deep fryer, by all means, use it. If you are using a regular pan, make sure you add enough oil that the tofu can be completely surrounded by oil. You want the oil to come to about 350F. You should see a rippling in the oil, but it shouldn’t be burning.
While the oil is heating, pour some rice flour, potato starch or even regular flour into a shallow bowl and lightly coat each cube of tofu. Then, once the oil is hot enough, add the tofu to the oil and cook until very light brown, turning over at least once while cooking. Don’t over crowd the oil… it’s better to do multiple batches. Remove the tofu from the oil with a slotted spoon or wire basket thingy, and let it drain on a paper towel.
Then, quickly fill a bowl with rice, top with pieces of tofu and drizzle with the honey sauce (make sure you get some on the rice between the pieces of tofu). Crunch a few walnuts over the top, sprinkle with a bit of chopped cilantro, and serve immediately.
mango, sliced into 1/2 inch slivers
crystalized or creamed honey
egg wash (egg yolk whisked with a bit of water)
oil for frying
honey or powdered sugar for garnish
Place a wonton wrapper on a plate, and smear a bit of the creamed honey just below the half-way point. Place two small slivers of mango on top of the honey.
Dot the sides and top of the wrapper with a bit of the egg wash, and roll, from the bottom up about half-way. Fold the sides in, and press down lightly. Fold the top down to cover the side “flaps.”
Repeat until you’ve made as many as you’d like. I would have happily eaten a dozen of these if I didn’t care if I fit into my pants tomorrow.
Heat the oil to 350F (best to use fresh oil… but I cheated and just re-used the oil from the tofu). You can test it by sticking corner of one of the rolls in. If it doesn’t bubble violently, it’s not quite ready. Then, drop the wontons into the oil. Don’t over crowd them. When they’ve turned golden brown on one side, give them a quick turn to brown on the other. Then, remove them and let them drain on a paper towel.
Top with more honey (mmmm) or a bit of powdered sugar (pretty) once they’ve cooled slightly.