Tofu with a kick
Yes, I’m a carnivore. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy meatless meals now and again….
When “Good Eats” was in its original run — and I discovered it within its first few months — one of the first Alton Brown recipes I prepared was something Alton calls “Filet O’Fu.” You cut a block of extra firm tofu into slabs, squeeze the excess moisture out, replace it with a tasty marinade, and then pan-fry the tofu in a flour-and-egg coating to give it a nice brown crust.
Tofu, of course, is not known for its delicious, stand-alone flavor. It adds protein and texture to other dishes, and absorbs the flavor of marinades or sauces. Extra-firm tofu is basically a sort of vegan equivalent of hard-boiled egg white.
This recipe takes advantage of tofu’s tabula rasa. It’s obviously not a vegan recipe, due to the egg wash, but the coating gives a nice texture contrast and an appealing brown color.
I have been seeing Facebook ads for a kitchen gadget that presses the liquid out of tofu. It’s way overpriced and I’m not interested in buying it, but it did get me thinking about this dish.
Alton’s original recipe uses a marinade of worcestershire sauce, sherry vinegar and hot sauce to taste. Back when I made this a few times, years ago, I could not find sherry vinegar in Shelbyville, and I replaced it with some other vinegar, no doubt losing some distinctive flavors in the process. The dish was good, but not great, and I hadn’t made it in quite a while.
Alton does not submerge his tofu in marinade; he makes up only a small amount, marinates one side, then flips the pieces over and marinates the other side. That may be frugal, but it may also be to help keep you from overhandling the bars of tofu, which can break apart very, very easily.
The blogger at Allison Cooks Alton’s “Good Eats” documents her attempts to cook recipes from the program. In her remarks, she said that she planned to marinate the tofu for much longer — 24 hours — the next time she tried the dish. That sounded good to me; I figured it would lend some extra flavor.
I also had my own ideas about a marinade. I have recently been enjoying the hot version of Manja Sauce, a really good, really spicy sauce, sort of like a slightly tangier (and in the case of the hot version, a lot hotter) barbecue sauce. It’s sweet and delicious, and I figured that it would make a fine marinade for the tofu. I thinned it with some red wine vinegar so that the tofu would absorb it better, and immersed the pressed tofu slices in it in a zip-top bag, which I let set for more than 24 hours in the fridge.
I fried up my tofu “filets” for lunch today. You can see the photo at the top of this post. I have to say, this turned out great.
By the way, one of the other Alton Brown recipes from that same episode was for a no-bake chocolate pie which uses silken tofu for its creamy texture. The “Allison Cooks Alton’s ‘Good Eats’” blogger, in that same blog post I linked to above, wrote this:
This pie is delicious, and I will absolutely make it again. The pie is super rich, full of chocolate flavor, and has a dense, smooth texture. You would NEVER guess that tofu is in this pie. I would say this is one of the best recipes I have made so far in this project.
I don’t make many desserts here at home, but I may have to try that one some time.