Thursday, May 20, 2010

Corn Parfait Gratin with Tofu

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I used to be a pretty avid Food Network viewer; it was on my television constantly. I would spend most of the afternoon watching Ina and Giada, and sometimes even Rachael Ray (but NEVER Sandra Lee... she scares me). Lately, I've gotten bored with Giada's manicured nails, perky boobs, and her claw hands that make the same gesture for creamy, crunchy, chewy and every adjective that ends in a y. Even Ina has gotten on my nerves with her baggy shirts in only blue, black or white and her annoyingly overused catch phrase -- "now, how bad can that be?" Well, Ina, it can be pretty bad sometimes.

Until my cable company starts carrying the Cooking Channel, I'm finding culinary inspiration from an old familiar source -- Jacques Pepin's "More Fast Food My Way" on KQED. Sure, watching an old man cook in a low budget studio while speaking in an indecipherable French accent doesn't feel particularly compelling or inspiring at times, but I appreciate his simple, fresh and straight forward approach to food. He's often seen drinking wine while cooking; it's something that many of us do at home, but never seen on the clean cut Food Network shows. I certainly appreciate how "real" it all feels -- not glamorous, primed or pushed-up. I've definitely cooked more often with a wine glass in hand than with perfectly manicured nails.

This corn parfait gratin recipe was adapted from a Jacques Pepin recipe. You can watch him demo the recipe here, starting at the 2:20 mark. I substituted three eggs with a block of tofu and added miso and nutmeg for flavoring. The result was a very tender and flavorful gratin. For this recipe, you'll need:
  • 4 cobs of corn, husked
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 1 block of tofu
  • 2 tablespoons of miso
  • 1 healthy pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • grated Parmagiano Reggiano or Swiss Cheese
  • salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a food processor, first process corn to gritty paste consistency. Then add tofu, miso, nutmeg, flour and salt. Process again until well mixed. While the processor is on, stream in half and half. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 11 oven-proof baking dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the mixture is golden, puffs up and pulls away from the pan. Let it cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

This gratin tastes like delicate sweet corn. I opted for regular moo juice over soy milk to reduce the soy flavor in the final product. It still tastes faintly like soy, but not overtly so. The texture is delicate and more tender than egg based custard. In any event, tofu tends to be more forgiving than eggs -- using tofu reduces the likelihood of overbaking.

For a complete meal, I served it with a pesto pasta salad using other summer ingredients like basil and heirloom tomatoes. We enjoyed our dinner while watching "Chef vs. City." Don't get me started on that show.

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