Monday, March 9, 2009

Tofu with Orange Sauce

I recently discovered the 101 Cookbooks blog by Heidi Swanson, but I can't remember how I came across it. You can take it from me that EATS! will never look like 101 Cookbooks! There is some beautiful food photography on that site, which I'm sure you won't see here. The only recipe I've tried so far is the tofu adaptation of the Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh recipe, and it was a winner. I'm not a tempeh fan, so quickly opted for tofu. A friend made it with tempeh and had very different (though still delicious) results.

The first time I made the dish, I used tofu that had been frozen. I cut it into cubes rather than the triangles shown in Swanson's photo. Perhaps this was a mistake, as there were many more surfaces to try to brown. I didn't manage to obtain well-browned tofu on all sides, but the end result was delicious. And surprising. I think it was because the tofu was previously frozen (since I couldn't replicate it with fresh tofu), but each bite of tofu actually burst in our mouths with sauce. I've never known that to happen before. It was wonderful. My disappointment was that the tofu had soaked up so much sauce that there was none to spoon over the brown rice and finely-ground steamed greens with which I served it. Of course, I used a lot more tofu than the recipe called for. And, yes, I understand that perhaps this is inevitable with a recipe referring to a Glaze rather than a sauce, but I optimistically call my version a sauce in the hopes that I'll find a way.

The second time I made the dish, I decided to see if I could infuse the tofu with flavor but still have leftover sauce for spooning. I marinated fresh tofu (that I had briefly pressed) and then browned it (in a non-stick skillet using the dry fry technique from the Seasoned Bok Choy and Tofu recipe from November '08). In a separate pan, I reduced the sauce. I must say, this approach was not very successful. The tofu tasted great, don't get me wrong, but it had absorbed far less of the marinade's flavor than in the previous attempt. In addition, the sauce took forever to reduce and had a slightly overcooked flavor. Sigh.

I think that Swanson's method is the one to use and I just have to resign myself to having no sauce for spooning. I'll use the previously-frozen tofu again next time and try making a batch and a half of sauce to see if I can both reduce to a glaze and have a little left over in the pan. If any readers have suggestions on how to have both bursting flavor and spoonable sauce, let me know.

This is a great application for the ginger juice I mentioned in February. The first two times I made this recipe, I followed Swanson's directive and squeezed my own orange juice. In future, I'm not going to bother (it's going to be cooked anyway, after all). Rather, I'll use the flash-pasteurized juice from the supermarket. (I was interested to learn that Cook's Illustrated found that it's also cheaper to use juice; I would have thought it would be cheaper to use whole oranges.)

1 1/2 large blocks firm, extra firm, or silken tofu (previously frozen and thawed with the water squeezed out)
1 1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large juicy oranges) or high-quality storebought
1 TBSP ginger juice
1 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP plus 1 tsp mirin
1 TBSP maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, crushed

  1. Make sure you've squeezed out the excess water from your previously-frozen tofu. Cut the blocks into squares or triangles (I get 16 per triangles per block, I think and probably 24 squares)
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside
  3. Place a single layer of tofu in a nonstick pan with no oil and heat to medium (I had retired mine, but it works well at medium heat in this application). Alternatively, use 2 TBSP oil over medium in a cast-iron or stainless steel pan
  4. Let the tofu cook on one side without moving it around until it develops a nice crust. This will take several minutes
  5. Turn tofu over and repeat. If using squares, there are a lot of sides to cover! I wimped out after four browned sides. Triangles need only to be turned once
  6. Give the sauce a stir and then pour over the tofu
  7. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower heat so that the sauce simmers
  8. Let simmer until the sauce has reduced to form a syrupy glaze/sauce. Swanson says about 10 minutes but I think mine took longer
  9. Remove from heat and serve with grains and greens
At a recent dinner party, I did a build-your-own meal for vegetarians and carnivores. I served oven-baked brown jasmine rice, steamed carrots and broccoli, this tofu recipe and sliced roasted chicken breast, all to be topped with peanut sauce. It worked out very well and I was pleased to taste that the orange glaze and the peanut sauce complemented rather than clashed with each other. Most of us preferred the tofu to the chicken.

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