Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Have you ever had one of those shopping runs where you only grab a tiny basket because you intend to only be there for 5 minutes to pick up just a few things, but end up leaving an hour later with a heaping cart full of groceries? That happened to me last week. I told myself, "Okay, only the essentials, go!" But then I remembered "Oooh, I need cereal" and "Oh yeah, I need butter, too," and then suddenly my $30 shopping trip cost over $100. Ah well.
For reasons unknown to me, I found myself picking up some tofu.
I've never bought tofu before, and I've never really had the desire to, so I'm not sure what struck me in that moment. I think that this blog is getting to me! My mom used to cook with tofu sometimes, and she was always pretty surprised when my brothers and I ate it instead of picking it out of our stir fry. From my perspective, though, it was tasteless and had the texture of cheese, so if it made her happy, then it was a good way to distract her from the fact that I was hiding my uneaten onions (I'm sure she had no idea). I didn't mind it, but I never had the inclination to purchase it when I moved out. Until now.
So here I was with a block of this unknown substance. What to do with it? I did a recipe search and found everything from Asian soups, to tofu cheesecakes, to stir fry with all sorts of ingredients that I didn't have. Then I stumbled across one for tofu parmesiana. It had absolutely glowing reviews, and the submitter claims, "You'll just about swear this is eggplant or veal! One of my husband's favorites, and he doesn't even suspect!" (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Tofu-Parmigiana/Detail.aspx). Well, Ms. Mittelstadt, we'll see about that.
First step, slice the block of tofu into slices about 1/4 inch thick:
The original recipe said to dip the slices in water, then in a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and oregano (though I used Italian seasoning, since I ran out of oregano when I made my Greek dressing a few days ago). Every reviewer insisted that instead of water, it's much better to dip in flour, then egg, then the bread crumb mixture. I don't know what the flour is supposed to do, but I'd guess it has something to do with making the egg stick to the tofu so that the bread crumbs would stick to the egg.
This was my assembly line:
The recipe said to fry the slices on each side until crispy and slightly browned. The reviews all said to bake them instead, 15 minutes on each side. This eliminates issues with the slices falling apart in the pan, plus they'll all fit so I don't have to do them in shifts. Honestly, I was a bit worried about the guesswork of frying them, not because that's hard but because the medium is so unfamiliar to me. Baking is safer (15 minutes is unambiguous), not to mention healthier.
After they baked for a half hour, 15 minutes on each side, I pulled them out. Following a combination of the recipe and the reviews, I layered a mixture of tomato sauce, basil, garlic, and Italian seasoning (again, supposed to be oregano) with the tofu slices, shredded Parmesan cheese, and shredded Mexican-blend cheese. I was supposed to use mozzarella instead of the Mexican-blend, but that's not something I picked up in my eagerness at the grocery store. I also stacked them 2 slices high, for no reason other than to blindly trust reviewers when I have no idea what I'm doing.
Twenty minutes later, finally time to eat.
I served it up with some angel hair pasta and a slice of garlic toast. I didn't quite fall out of my chair with pleasure, as I had half-expected from the reviews, but it was tasty. I think Ms. Mittelstadt is either lying or really stupid when she says that her husband has no idea that this isn't veal, because I had no trouble telling that it was tofu. That's not to say that it wasn't yummy, though, because it was. Granted, frying it would probably have made it taste better.
Also, I tend to taste as I cook, and I have found that this really reduces the pleasure that I get from the final dish, as I'm less hungry and already have a good idea of how it will taste. When I had leftovers for lunch, I was actually quite taken away with how much better it was than I remembered. Mental note: stop doing that!
Only complaint: it took way longer than I had anticipated. I used the baking time to do dishes and stuff, so I didn't need to be in the kitchen for an hour and a half, but it did take a lot longer to slice and bread and prepare everything than I had expected.
Recipe to appear in my Tastebook shortly!