Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Culinary Smackdown: BATTLE TOFU!

What choo talking 'bout Willis? Tofu? In a Culinary Smackdown? Well, yeah, if the last competition's winner was our resident vegetetamarian, vetetarist, um, blogger who doesn't eat meat. Except fish. She could have chosen fish. But she didn't. She chose tofu. And while that might get some people's panties in a twist, really, it's a rather genius choice. Because it's going to force some folks to scramble. (Heh. See what I did there? . . . Oh, never mind. If you, too, had spent the past two months trying to make industrial machinery sound sexy you would cut me a big fat literary break right here, right now.)

Anyway. Here's my entry:

Panko Fried Tofu Strips with Asparagus Pasta

Por le Tofu:
1 pkg extra firm tofu, pressed (or, do what I do, wrap the chunk o'fu in a couple layers of paper towel and set out for 30 minutes or so. The towels will soak up all the moisture and you'll have workable tofu, a la:)

1/2 cup all purpose white flour mixed with 2 T. cornstarch
1 large egg, preferably from a local chicken, beaten (the egg, not the chicken)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs mixed with:
1 t. salt
1 t. lemon pepper
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. dried basil
1 t. dried thyme
Peanut oil

Por le Pasta:
1 pound of angel hair pasta
1 bundle asparagus, lightly steamed al dente
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
2 T fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Por le Sauce:
1/4 cup basil pesto (if not homemade, try and find Buttoni)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Putting it all together:

In three separate plates, place the flour/corn starch mixture, the beaten egg, and the panko breadcrumb mixture.

Cut block of tofu into eight equal pieces: cut first in half width-wise, then cut each half in half again. Then, flip each quarter over once, and cut that in half.

In a medium-sized, high-sided saucepan over medium heat, pour in enough peanut oil to come one inch up the side. Heat until a bit of flour dropped into the oil immediately sizzles.

Dip each piece of tofu first in the flour, then in the egg, and finally in the panko mixture.

Then, using tongs, fry tofu slices in hot oil 3-4 minutes per side, until golden.

Set aside.

Cut steamed asparagus into thirds.

In a large saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium heat until hot. Add minced garlic and sauté for about a minute, careful not to burn. Add asparagus, chicken broth, and cream. Turn to low and cover.

In the meantime, boil pasta until al dente. Add to saucepan with asparagus cream sauce. Add minced parsley, basil, and grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and mix together.

Stir the pesto and cream together in a heat proof bowl and microwave on high for about a minute until hot and bubbling.

Cut each slice of tofu in half. Plate the pasta. Arrange two slices atop the pasta, then drizzle with the pesto sauce. Thusly:

Looks like fried chicken! But, tastes like tofu!

And with all that butter and cream and cheese, it's not like NOT having fried chicken is going to be doing any of your arteries any favors. BUT if you are a vegetarianist, at least you can enjoy all kinds of artery-hardening goodness without the meat!

To see who else is tossing their tongs into the ring for Battle Tofu, head on over to Miz Boxer's Place for all the details.


LẌ said...

Kind of looks like yummy fried mozzarella sticks! Mmmmm!

Sharon Rudd said...

"Looks like fried chicken! But, tastes like tofu!" Um, I'm not sure that's a good thing :) Still, props to you for attempting to amp up the flavor. I'm using asparagus in my dish too. But it will be far from a blogger jinx.

Thanks for playing! And I will most definitely cut you a big, fat literary break :)

Jenny said...

NICE!!! and we picked the same graphic so you KNOW that gets you extra points (so does the fabulous nails, btw!) Too bad SB isn't home, I'd love to know what he thought.

Great recipe. I love panko and think anything deep fried is worthy of eating... even tofu.

What did you think of your dish? OK? pffft? I'd rather have chicken?

Tofu seems to have been adopted by everyone who wants to make it something else. I have "issues" with that because no other bean has such a distinction.

GREAT recipe and thanks so much for putting your hat into the ring!

moi said...

lx: You are so right! Only minus the yummy!

Eggy: Mmm . . . more asparagus. I love asparagus.

Boxer: Actually, I stole the graphic from your page! The dish is a'right. Usually when I cook with tofu, I do something very Asian and spicy and the tofu soaks up all those flavors. Here, it just tastes like . . . tofu :o) so the key is to punch up the spice in the panko.

GrumpyGranny said...

That looks yummy! I love asparagus, too. Great job!


czar said...

Nothing personal there, Moi, but I'm rather looking forward to your magnum opus on industrial machinery.

All I ever needed to know about tofu came from some cookbooks I worked on years ago, which said that tofu simply absorbs the taste of whatever is near it for long periods of time.

In other words, tofu is the culinary equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Anonymous said...


You actually made that look very attractive and maybe even good (she said with trepidation). You must e a great cook!


moi said...

GG: Thanks for stopping by! You packed a powerful punch!

Czar: In other words, tofu is the culinary equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome. Best. Line. Ever.

Serendipity: Well, it ain't elk, that's for sure, but it's also not bad. Sort of like broccoli. Which will do in a pinch when, say, asparagus isn't available.

Buzz Kill said...

First, machinery.is.sexy. Don't get me started on my sawzall.

Second, Looks like fried chicken! But, tastes like tofu says it all about this challenge.

Third, tofu is the culinary equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome is brilliant. Nice job Czar. I'll weigh in that it is a culinary SEAL Team 6. It somehow gets in the recipe, does it's job, gets out and nobody knows it was there except for all the dead bodys littering the dining room (well maybe that doesn't happen).

I like the basic preparation with the egg, flower and panko. You could go in a whole lot of directions with that. Did you reduce the asparagus cream sauce or was it already thick enough? I'm with Boxer in wanting to know more about how it tastes. It's certainly a colorful plate of food. Well done.

moi said...

Buzz: I don't really reduce the sauce much, because I find if left thin, it coats the noodles more effectively. I'm also not a "soak with sauce" person. In my family, we eat our pasta "dry." To me, tofu has no taste unless it can soak up the surrounding flavors, which it doesn't do here. So the key is to really spice up that breading (next time, I'll add some onion and garlic powder as well) and the pasta--hence all the garlic, basil, parsley, etc. The pasta sauce is one of my staples, so that's always flavorful. You could make this dish with just about anything. When S.B. gets home, I'll do it with chicken strips.

Jenny said...

bwahahahaah to Czar.

Anonymous said...

Nice thoughtful dish. I'd eat it.

moi said...

Boxer: Right?

Troll: Hey, there you are! I was about to have a bit of a pout.

Aunty Belle said...

uh, nice scramble (yep lit break conceded)--but uh, freeze some cause I need to know if SB will eat it??

Akshully, this is impressive--a real dinner anyone would love...wif' chicken.

moi said...

Aunty: Not sure. He did text me a "good-looking dish" last night, but I seriously doubt he'd eat such large pieces of tofu. I'll probably be safe and make the dish for him with chicken.

chickory said...

oh im sure you whip that up for SB all the time. grrrrrhahahahahahaha. God that photo of the bitten tofu ...i just said no. Your automotive lacquer nails are super groovy though. Good luck in the tofu smackdown.

chickory said...

grherherherhahahaha @ Czar

czar said...

Damn. It seems that I've been wasting my time delivering czarist perspective at Haiku Monday. Much friendlier crowd when y'all are discussing food.

Same shtick, different day.

I remember reading those cookbooks, and pages were devoted to how to tilt and rotate your tofu receptacle at just the right angle in the refrigerator for 24 hours to ensure that the flavors were properly imparted. Because the key, dear readers, is marinating the tofu for a day before cooking. Or so they say.

My thought now is like one that occurred to me when the czarina (a pretty good cook) and I were preparing some recipe one night and I said, "If the issue here is how much ketchup to put in, I don't think we have to worry about screwing this up too bad."

LaDivaCucina said...

Oooh, sexy, hot, hard macheens!!

Hey, I LOVE your tofu idea, was going for something similar and was really looking forward to a nice crunchy bite...didn't happen. Boo! Glad yours worked out well and PROPS for the glam nail polish AND for the 1 cup of cream, Moi don't do nuthin' by halves! (as in half and half! haha!) I'm up too.

moi said...

Cheekoree: That bitten tofu a little squicky for your taste? I agree. Although, I'll go with lx and say it plays as cheese . . . No?

Czar: Catsup is my super duper secret ingredient to fabulous beef stroganoff!

La Diva: Some machines are sexy. Like cars. Speed boats. And guns. Others, like lawn mowers? Not so much. Half & Half? Horrors. Girl can't maintain an Italian ass on low fat.

Milk River Madman said...

Didn't read anything past "she doesn't eat meat." Just wanted to say hello. Semi-back in the blogosphere. Glad you are well.

moi said...

MRM: Heeeeyyyyyyy! How you doin'? Bet you looked at the last photo, though, and said, "Looks like chicken."

Karl said...

Good morning Moi,

It sure does look good. If it was chicken or fish, bet it would taste good too. Mozzarella could be interesting as well.

moi said...

Karl: I'm not much of a fan of fried cheese but S.B. likes it.

Sharon Rudd said...

Saw your mention at Boxer's place that you couldn't view my blog today. Tried changing to the recommend "pop-up" setting tonight. Let me know if that helps?

Lori said...

Love how that crunchy coating on the tofu! Asparagus is a favorite around here to. It looks great!

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In three separate plates, place the flour/corn starch mixture, the beaten egg, and the panko breadcrumb mixture.
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