Sunday, December 3, 2017

Peppery Glazed Tofu

Welcome to winter! It's been an extremely busy autumn around here, and between teaching, various professional and personal obligations, and staring in open-mouthed horror as the world burns down, I haven't had much time to conduct or write about kitchen experiments. But people need to eat, and the other night I decided to try my hand at Yotam Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu, which I'd been eyeing for awhile. As is often the case with his recipes, the prototype is needlessly elaborate, deploying multiple steps, esoteric ingredients, and a shedload of unnecessary fat - oil for frying and 11 tbsp. (?!) of butter? For four servings? - on its circuitous mission to destroy the kitchen. 

My version is less messy, more pantry-friendly, and much easier on the arteries and waistline. Besides dialing back the grease, I thought a glaze/sauce would be a nice addition and departed radically from the original recipe, which wound up being more inspirational model than actual source. But I'm happy to report that the results were hugely successful; served with steamed, short grain brown rice and stir-fried green beans, this made a totally delicious and satisfying dinner. My one caveat is that it was gobbled up so quickly that there were nearly no leftovers, so if you're serving four or more hungry people you might want to double it. (I will certainly do so next time!)

Peppery Glazed Tofu
~ 1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed
~ 2 tbsp. cornstarch
~ ½ tsp each: salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder
~ 2 tsp. canola oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 small red onion, chopped fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 tbsp. each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 cup water mixed with 1 tsp. “no chicken” bouillon ~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste
~ ½ cup ice water whisked with 2 tsp. cornstarch

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil and place in the oven.
~ Slice the block of tofu in half horizontally, and cut into approximately 1” cubes.
~ In a bowl with a lid, combine the 2 tbsp. cornstarch, salt, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder. Add the cubed tofu, cover the bowl, and shake to coat the tofu thoroughly.
~ Place the tofu cubes on the preheated baking sheet, shaking off and reserving any excess coating as you go. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy, turning at the halfway point. Remove from the oven and set aside.
~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola and sesame oils over medium-high heat and cook the chopped red onion for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so, until fragrant.
~ Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and hot sauce and cook for a few minutes more before adding the broth and tomato paste.
~ Stir well, raise the heat to nearly boiling, and then turn the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until somewhat reduced in volume.
~ Add the ice water and cornstarch mixture and whisk thoroughly.
~ Add the cooked tofu and any leftover reserved coating and mix well. Continue cooking for ten minutes more, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over steamed rice.

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