I’m good at cooking lots of things. I can do a million things with beans. I can make a mean pb&j (it’s an art! the proportion of pb & j needs to be perfect). I can bake just about any sweet you can think of-cookies, quick breads, thousands and thousands of french macaroons (remember those, Mom?). But one thing I’ve never been able to perfect is tofu. Yeah, I’ve shown a few recipes where I’ve gotten tofu right. But, for every tofu recipe I got right, I got about 5 wrong. Yup. 5. That’s a huge proportion of failure vs. success. I’ve tried baking it, searing it, sauteeing it, everything you can think of. And I’ve almost never gotten it right. There’s something about it that perplexes my mind. It ends up flavorless even if I marinate it intensely, it ends up falling apart, it ends up too spongy: it ends up not good. But, no matter how many times I’ve messed up, I never give up.
So, a while back (geez, maybe a month ago-possibly more?), I set out to bake up a block of tofu. Doing my typical make-something-on-sunday-to-eat-during-the-week move, it was going to be part of my dinner for several days that week. So, after pressing the tofu for about 30 minutes, I cut it up into about 8 or so pieces (although I really don’t remember-it was a loooong time ago), and set it to marinade in a loaf pan-my favorite pan to marinate/bake in. I marinated it in tamari, 5 spice powder, a little bit of rice vinegar and honey, for about 45 minutes. When I decided it was marinated enough, I stuck it in an oven at 375 or so (remember, long time ago). In the past when I’ve made tofu this way, which is pretty often, I’ve baked it for about 35-40 minutes. It hasn’t been great, but it’s edible. This time, after I stuck it in the oven…I forgot all about it.
I try to be responsible in the kitchen, but sometimes I’m not. My most common problem is that I forget about things cooking. I’ve burnt cookies this way, caused oatmeal to overflow, and once, while living in Spain, let a pot of boiling water evaporate completely and scorched the pot. This time, with the tofu, I did it again. I must have gotten distracted in some intense conversation with my roommate (probably about something important, like the upcoming election, or Gossip Girl), but all of a sudden, it was two hours later. I kept thinking it was really warm in the apartment and all of a sudden, I realized why: the oven was on and my tofu had been bakin’ away for about 2 hours. S***!!!!!! I was sure I was going to open up the oven and find 8 teeny pieces of black, shriveled up, hard as rock, things that used to be tofu. Instead, I opened it up and found 8, smaller, but scrumptious looking pieces of tofu. They were a gorgeous, caramel-y color that smelled fantastic. Yes-much smaller than what I normally have after I bake tofu, but 2 hours of sitting in a hot oven will do that to you.
When I ate some for dinner the next night, what did I eat: perfect, flavorful, chewy tofu. It. was. so. good. Look at the close up!
You can see how the flavor inundated the entire piece as the water evaporated. And they tasted that way too-by far the best tofu I’ve ever eaten. Yeah-cause the pieces were so good I ate it really fast, but I guess that’s the price to pay for really really really yummy tofu. But hey, now I’ve got 3 good tofu cookings under my belt. 3 out of 11-not bad.
So, friends, tell me this: is the secret to good tofu just baking the hell out of it? Was this just a fluke accident that ended up with excellent yumminess? How do you make tofu to make it good?