There's nothing like going to see an Almodovar movie by yourself on a Sunday night. Resplendant actresses with perpetually tear-filled eyes and glorious bosoms, foul-mouthed declarations of love, music that makes your throat swell, gallows humor - it's all so beautiful that one can get downright melancholy.
I walked out of the movie theater late last night, my eyes still sort of wet, holding my little plastic shopping bag that contained one packet of tofu, one can of coconut milk, a sackful of green beans, and a lime. I'd done my grocery shopping before the movie, not remembering that after an Almodovar movie, the only thing you really feel like eating is a spicy bowl of gazpacho and a ham sandwich (Serrano, of course). Or, if someone else is cooking, a huge paella crammed with briny clams and tender octopus and savory chorizo and green flashes of peas, I suppose.
But a new-fangled, single-girl meal of Asian-inflected tofu? Dios mio. I can't see Raimunda eating that stuff for dinner.
Still, I couldn't very well go shopping all over again, and where was I going to find Serrano ham on a Sunday night, anyway? Tofu it'd have to be. But, oh, it felt awfully unromantic to be blotting tofu slices with paper towels when all I wanted to do was chop vegetables and weep into my cutting board (of course, it would have helped things if I'd been wearing a pencil skirt and Wonderbra, instead of my Sunday uniform of jeans and a lumpy sweater).
I'd had this recipe from the New York Times clipped for years, but since Ben refuses to knowingly eat anything with fish sauce in it, I'd had to save it for a night when I'd be eating alone. Brandishing my knife as sexily (and safely!) as possible, I sliced my block of extra-firm tofu into equal pieces and blotted them dry, before whisking together coconut milk, the fish sauce, lime juice, some sugar, a spoonful of Thai red curry paste and hot chicken broth.
I browned the tofu gently in the pan, then added the pale orange sauce (which bubbled up alarmingly) and reduced it to a syrupy glaze (this actually took more than 2 minutes, as Madison directs you, but no more than 4 minutes, because then you're left with very little sauce and as anyone who eats tofu knows, not enough sauce can be a Very Bad Thing Indeed).
With a small pile of patna rice and some steamed green beans drizzled with toasted sesame oil, it was a fine dinner and one I'll certainly make again. The tofu was appealingly creamy and tender on the inside, while the outside crust had a nice chew to it. The sauce was spicy and exotic, and nicely balanced with the whole sweet, sour, salty, hot thing. It wasn't the most authentic meal I'll ever cook, but for a Sunday night by myself (and as leftovers today), it was quite good.
Would I rather have been eating morcilla? Perhaps. But then again, I'd also like to look like Penelope Cruz. With the morcilla thing, I'll just have to be patient (we're going to Spain for a few days this summer). With the Penelope thing, I'll just have to be happy that Ben doesn't like Almodovar. Because who could compete with a woman like that?
Pan-Glazed Tofu with Thai Red Curry Sauce
Serves 2 to 4
1 one-pound package firm or extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Minced cilantro for garnish
1. Cut tofu widthwise into eight 1/2-inch-thick slices. Blot tofu dry between layers of paper towels.
2. Combine coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, lime juice, curry paste and sugar in small bowl, and set aside.
3. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add tofu, and cook over medium heat until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn and cook about 5 minutes more.
4. Add coconut milk mixture to pan and simmer, turning tofu once, until liquid reduces to thick syrup and tofu is glazed, about 2 minutes. Transfer tofu to serving platter, and scrape the glaze left in pan over tofu. Garnish with minced cilantro and serve immediately.