After five days in the Midwest—flying to Chicago, then driving to South Bend, then back to Chicago, consuming brats, duck prosciutto, Pat LaFrieda burgers, Lou Malnati’s pizza, and so much beer*—I’m ready to do Meatless Mondays, Vegan Before 6, and any other type of cleanse you want to throw my way. (Except for the Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP one. Did it once, ended very badly with a bowl of mac, cheese, and hot dogs.)
But I’ll just start by making a big batch of my baked tofu to throw into some veggie-centric dishes over the next few weeks.
What, are you shocked? Really, truly, I LOVE TOFU. Never had a problem with the texture, never balked at its blandness at all—in fact, I downright enjoy the way it soaks up flavors like a sponge. (And looks like a sponge to boot.)
I’m not going to try and convert the haters; trust me, I’ve tried to force-feed it to Dan one too many times to learn that tofu, like beets, is a taste that you come to on your own terms. But for those of you who have trouble getting a beautiful golden-brown crust on your pan-or-wok-fried tofu, try advance baking to ensure a crispity-crunchity exterior on your blocks of soy without leaving the tasty bits stuck to the bottom of a hot pan.
Yes, there are a few preliminary steps to follow, but they can be done in bulk and you’ll be rewarded with trays of well-browned, nutty tofu at your disposal. The key is the freezing process; when you give the tofu a subzero time-out, the texture changes so it stays firmer and never feels slimy upon thawing. You’re rewarded with something that feels meatier and more substantial without the dreaded saturated fat content.
[UPDATE: Thanks to Alexandra Grabbe at Chezsven, here are two incredibly helpful lists of which organic soy products and dairy products are best for your health (and yes, buying organic really makes a difference in this category). I'm happy to see that the Whole Foods 365 brand is getting 4 out of 5 stars on each list—for all the company's flaws, its house-label products are a good value.]
*Never fear, GFS faithful—more posts on Chicago are forthcoming.
Crispy Baked Tofu
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes (plus a day for freezing and thawing the tofu)
Makes 2 servings
- 1 block extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 tablespoon hot sesame oil
Drain and remove the tofu from the package, and wrap the block in a non-terrycloth towel. Place on a baking sheet, cover with another baking sheet, and weigh down with books, canned vegetables, or other heavy objects for at least a half hour to press the liquid out of the tofu.
Note that the oeuvre of Thomas Keller is particularly well-suited to weighing the tofu down while the liquid is pressed out.
Once the tofu has been pressed, freeze completely (at least overnight). This is where pressing more than one block of tofu comes in handy, as you can squash more than one simultaneously, and then thaw as needed. I try to do two or three blocks at once, since tofu lasts for months in the freezer.
Thaw at least a day before baking.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400˚.
Whisk the soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, and sesame oil together in a wide, shallow dish (a square baking dish is great). Cut the tofu in half horizontally, then vertically so you’ve got four slim quarters of soy, and then stack the quarters atop each other to cut into 1/2-inch strips.
Toss the tofu in the marinade, then place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper, and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until evenly browned and crispy.
If you’re eating it immediately, toss the tofu back into the marinade for extra salty goodness. If not, the tofu keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.