Tofu can be off-putting, or tofu can be delicious. It’s one of those neato foods that takes on whatever flavor – and often texture – you want it to, for better or for worse. Usually, thankfully, for the better.
So I think it’s kind of funny when people flat-out declare they hate tofu. Except, you know, they haven’t even tried it – in any shape or form.
I guess I haven’t eaten meat in years and you could say the same thing about some kinds of meats, so I really have no room to talk.
What I would like to talk about is this. Crispy salt and pepper tofu. This recipe – so simple, so easy – is totally a revelation for me. Not since I discovered Sara Moulton’s beer bread have I been so ga-ga over the possibilities of one single recipe.
See, the thing is, I’ve always been able to say I like tofu – done right – but I’ve never, ever been able to make a plain old block of the stuff taste as good at home as when I buy prepared (marinated, baked, smoked etc.) tofu from a restaurant or grocery store.
Every once in awhile, I buy a block and try to make it taste decent. It’s always edible, sure, but irresistible? Hardly.
Until now. Until now!
Scrumptious, betcha-can’t-eat-just-one, crispy salt and pepper tofu.
The super-simple secret is dredging it in cornstarch – and then, yes, frying it in a fair amount of vegetable or canola oil until crisp. (Note: I’m working on a healthier baked version, but it’s not ready for prime time yet. Soon, hopefully.)
I’ve been making this stuff by the freezer-bag-full. See, it freezes wonderfully and I can just pull a few pieces out to top pasta, to sub for chicken in barbecue chicken pizza (sooo good), as a quick snack for the baby … loads of possibilities.
Tofu. Done at home. Deliciously. Is my life complete? Quite possibly.
I do know this: even “never-tried-it-still-loathe-it” tofu haters would like tofu done this way. I’m pretty sure of it.
Crispy Salt & Pepper Tofu
- 1 block extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- Press tofu to remove excess moisture. To do so, line a plate with several paper towels. Place tofu on paper towels and top with two or three more paper towels. Place three or four more plates on top of the tofu, making sure they're well-balanced. Drain for 20 - 30 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure plates are still balanced (toppling plates = bummer!)
- Remove tofu from paper towels. Place on cutting board and cut tofu into squares or rectangles, as desired.
- Add the vegetable or canola oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to a large plate or shallow baking dish. Mix.
- Working in batches, dredge the tofu in the corn starch mixture, turning to coat evenly.
- Carefully add tofu to hot oil in skillet. Cook over medium-high for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides.
- Remove tofu from pan and place on several paper towels, blotting to remove excess oil.
- Serve as desired.