I was a vegetarian for about 10 years, which many of you probably don’t know, given my professed love of bacon. Well, I was. And to this day, I still don’t eat a whole lot of meat. We cook mostly meatless meals at home (phew, say that four times fast…) and we don’t go out that much anymore, now that we’re trying to save money. And meat, while tasty, is expensive! Cooking tofu though…well, that was always a little scary. I never wanted to end up with slippery little pale rectangles but that was invariably what happened. Until I discovered two things: cornstarch and baking. (Also, the importance of draining. You know when the recipe says something like “well-drained tofu”? They mean it. Seriously.)
First, the cornstarch. You know when you get fried tofu somewhere and it’s nice and crispy on the outside? A lovely golden brown? Almost looks deep-fried? Well, an easy way to get that at home is to pan-fry the little chunks after dusting them lightly with cornstarch! It took me a long time to figure out that they would never turn that lovely golden color if I just kept cooking them…and cooking them…and cooking them. So when I read somewhere about the trick with cornstarch, I was just thrilled. I figured I was the last person to learn this, but just in case there are some of you out there struggling with pasty, flour-hued tofu cubes, give cornstarch a try! I usually cut the well-drained tofu into cubes or chunks or whatever shapes I desire, then toss them in a little baggy with enough cornstarch to lightly coat them. Then, cook in a little hot oil. Voila! Crispy!
But this post really isn’t about that. It’s about baking tofu. See, I’m a big fan of cooking. But I’m a bigger fan of cooking that is easy. This baked tofu recipe is about as easy as it gets and delicious too. It takes a little bit of time, but very little actual hands-on time. The resulting tofu is flavorful and a little dry – not all wibbly wobbly and white. It almost has the consistency of meat. I use it on sandwiches, as a snack, in soups, in salad wraps… (Have I not gone on at length about my adoration of the heavenly salad wrap? I may need to remedy that…) Without further adieu: baked tofu.
from Laura’s accidental kitchen*
- one package firm tofu
- soy sauce
- various and sundry tasty things to add to the soy sauce, depending on your mood and what’s in your cabinet…garlic, maybe, or something spicy. I generally use plain ol’ soy sauce and have no complaints.
Drain the tofu well. There are numerous ways to do this. I generally cut the block of tofu in half so I have two 4x5x1-ish sized pieces. Then I lay them side by side on a cutting board near the edge of the sink that I’ve inclined a bit so the liquid will run off, usually by sticking whatever is handy underneath one edge of the board. I then cover them with a little bit of plastic wrap or foil before plonking a large skillet on top. Unless it’s a very heavy skillet already, I also add a brick to it. (Yeah, I have a brick. What of it?) Let the whole set-up chill for a half hour or so. It should leak some liquid, which will drain off the cutting board and into the sink, if your kitchen allows for such a set-up.
Once the tofu is well-drained, cut it into whatever shape you like. (I do little finger-sized pieces, but you could always get fancy and do triangles or something.) Now put the tofu in a container (tupperware, a glass bowl, a plastic bag…) and splash a generous amount of soy sauce in there with it. Now toss in your optional flavors and swish the whole mess around. Let the tofu sit for a while – 30-40 minutes seems like plenty. It should soak up that yummy soy sauce. While it’s sitting, preheat your oven to 375° and lightly grease a small pan or cookie sheet. When your tofu is done a-marinatin’, pop it in the pan and stick it in the oven for about 45 minutes, turning once. Cook a little more or less, depending on your preference for brownness. I cook it a wee bit longer, because I like the little brown crispy edges. Mmm. Add to a recipe or snack on it plain!
*We had just moved into a new apartment when I made this for the first time and it turned out that I plunged right in without actually having all of the necessary ingredients on hand. (Y’know, all two of them…) For an amusing first take on the recipe, go here.