There are times when I want to take an enormous bite of food and feel the substance of it in my mouth. I also want that bite to be packed with flavor. Until recently, this was an issue in my relationship with tofu. As lovely as it is, in order to imbue it with stronger flavors it has to be cut into smaller sized pieces so a marinade can penetrate into the curd and/or sauced heavily. Neither option scratched my itch. Since I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted at the grocery store, it was time to do it myself.
I recently wrote about making fresh tofu at Velvetpark and will reprint the procedure here because this is now the tofu I use in my recipes unless specified. Trust me, fresh tofu does make a difference.
How to make Fresh Soymilk and Homemade Tofu:
2 cups organic soybeans, soaked overnight in water
3 tsp natural calcium sulfate (gypsum)
tofu mold [This is the one I use and it makes a double block of tofu: Wooden Tofu Mold]
Place soybeans in a blender and cover with water by an inch. Blend until liquefied. Transfer to a large stockpot and bring up to 5 quarts with water. Simmer at 180-200°F for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth into a fresh pot. At this point you have soy milk. See how easy?
Return the milk to the stovetop and bring to 200°F . Add 3 tsp calcium sulfate to 3 cups of boiling water and mix well. Pour ¾ of the mixture slowly into the soy milk, very gently stir through once. (You do not want to agitate the milk at this point or the light and fluffy curds shall fall apart and become particulate.) Turn off the heat and allow it to sit, untouched, for 10 minutes. If the liquid (whey) is cloudy add the remaining coagulant if, however, it is clear then there is no need. Transfer the curds to a mold lined with cheesecloth and place a weight upon the top. Press for 30 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water and soak for an hour to set.
Chicken-Fried Tofu Steak with Slow-cooked Mushroom Gravy
This is a substantial meal that is guaranteed to satisfy any rumbling belly and should yield four servings. This recipe yields 4 cups gravy.
For the Gravy:
1 onion, diced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, diced [You could use whichever mushroom blows your hair back.]
6 cloves garlic, minced
fresh thyme [I tied 6 sprigs together with kitchen twine to make a bundle.]
5 cups mushroom broth, divided
freshly-cracked black pepper
½ cup white wine [I used a sauvignon blanc that I had on hand.]
¼ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg
¼ cup non-dairy creamer, optional [I used So Delicious original coconut creamer.]
Sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, mushrooms and thyme and sauté until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and are starting to dry. This should take 30 minutes or so. Add the wine and turn up the heat to simmer off the alcohol. Add 4 cups of mushroom stock and reduce heat back to medium low. Simmer until reduced in volume by half. Transfer half of the gravy to a blender and pulse until pureed. Return it to the pan. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
In a separate pan whisk together the flour and 2 T olive oil, cooking for a few minutes until the flour has a nutty scent. Add one cup warmed mushroom stock, whisking as it’s added. Add the roux to the gravy and bring to a low boil until thickened then reduce heat. You can add in the non-dairy creamer at this point if you wish a more Southern-style gravy.
For the Chicken-Fried Tofu:
Fresh silken tofu curds ready to be placed into a mold
½ cup mushroom gravy
1 T steak sauce
1 T fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup flax seeds
1 cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup brown rice flour
4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp freshly-cracked black pepper
canola oil, for frying
Ladel some fresh tofu curd into the mold to a depth of about an inch. Mix the steak sauce and parsley into the gravy and spoon 1/3 over the layer of bean curd in an uneven pattern. Repeat twice more and then end with a final layer of curd. Press for 30 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool.
[If you are using a store-bought tofu then 2 blocks would equal one of the homemade's amount. Simply treat the tofu the same from here on out, cutting each block in half to create four portions. The texture of the homemade is on the softer side, somewhere between an extra firm silken and a soft regular tofu. It's up to your tastes which variety of tofu you choose to use.]
Add flax seeds and ¾ cup water to a blender and blend on high until homogenized. Set aside in a bowl to thicken. Place rice flour in a bowl and mix in half of the spices. In a separate bowl mix the remaining spices with the bread crumbs.
Pat the tofu dry with a paper towl and cut into 4 steaks. Dredge in the seasoned rice flour and then dip into the gelled flax seed before coating with bread crumbs. Place into a pan of hot oil and brown on each side. Set on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
I served mine doused with the mushroom gravy over a cauliflower and potato mash with collard and beet greens. This was some serious vegan comfort food.
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