Tofu Exploration, Part One

Do you have a strong opinion about tofu? How about any opinion? Are you a tofu devotee, or are you one of those people who claims tofu smells like feet and has the texture of soggy bread?

I fit neither category — really, I don’t. In the past, I’ve shied away from preparing tofu at home because, whenever I cooked it, it was spongy. And not good spongy (see also: angel food cake), but gross spongy (see also: soggy bread). Sure, I tried pressing the tofu pre-cooking; I tried blotting it with paper towels. Nothing worked. I sighed a little sigh of “ho-hum” and went back to eating chicken or edamame.

Of course, I like ordering tofu at restaurants. Professional chefs, it seems, avoid the pitfalls that plague me, and their tofu is always crisp and golden, rich with the flavor of the sauce it was cooked in.

This dichotomy caused me to form the pessimistic belief that home-cooked tofu is gross and restaurant-cooked tofu is tasty! Just writing that, I felt like a dork: everyone knows that statement’s false. My quandary: how do I cook delicious tofu at home?

Last over cocktails,* Aurora gave me some tofu-cooking pointers: blot yer block thoroughly with paper towels, cut it into dice, and fry it so that it browns. Give it more pan time than other meal components (veggies). And don’t be afraid to mess up.

For this, the first installment of my Tofu Exploration, I made tofu two ways: stir-fried with onions, Brussels sprouts, sweet corn, coconut milk, and spices; and slathered with BBQ sauce/baked in the oven. (Note: guess which preparation is pictured above?)

I have to hand it to myself: the stir fry turned out really well. Of course, I started with a recipe I know and love — Indian Spiced Chicken and Asparagus — and modified it to fit what I had in my fridge. I think you could cook anything with fennel seeds, cumin, curry, garlic, and coconut milk and it would taste damn fine. Still, I made sure to brown the tofu before adding the veggies and milk, and the result was killer. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next two days, and my opinion was twice more confirmed.

The BBQ tofu, on the other hand, was a no-go. Not a total fail — I managed to eat one of three portions I prepared — but the baked tofu didn’t taste so great cold (atop a salad). Rather, the taste was OK (barbecue, baby!), but the texture was bad spongy. Perhaps if I’d reheated the tofu slabs, this problem could have been avoided? Perhaps. Am I going to repeat this preparation? Not until the memory of cold, squishy BBQ cubes fades.

Despite my distaste for the baked tofu, I declare this week’s exploration a success. Check back for periodic updates on Project Tofu, the successor of Project Seafood. (Because, guess what? I like seafood now. BAM!)

***

*Which we enjoyed in Aurora’s magical fairytale backyard (and that description is in no way an exaggeration: this backyard has a greenhouse, plots with fresh herbs, and a rustic table that would catch Martha Stewart’s eye).

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2 responses to “Tofu Exploration, Part One

  1. I LOVE TOFU. What texture are you using? You want extra-firm. And you need to do more than blot it: I sit that block in a strainer, put something flat (a plate?) on top of it, and put something heavy (a cookbook? a few canned goods?) on top of THAT. Leave it like that for up to an hour, the longer the better. Then, and only then in my opinion, is it ready for marination, frying, baking, +c. I ought to send you some tofu recipes STAT.
    s

  2. Yo hey! I did indeed use extra-firm (the package of which claimed it was “best for stir-frying!”).

    I’m going to try draining the tofu next time, for sure; as I wrote, my stir-fried tofu was bomb, but the baked stuff was not so great.

    Send me recipes!(!!)

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