Tofu can be a versatile base for many dishes, both vegetarian and meaty. Serve it in a stir-fry, as a sandwich filling, in soups, or let it shine, as we do here, as the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal. Cut squares of extra-firm tofu into thick slices and press them for several hours or overnight to release excess liquid, so they’ll absorb a spicy sauce. Dry them well and then sear them until golden. The five spices here — ginger, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, and sriracha — yield a clean sauce with subtly blended flavors (though you can buy 5-spice powder and use it in a pinch). The seasonings, mixed with soy sauce and water, make a complex braising liquid gently sweetened with sake (or sherry) and brown sugar. While the tofu cooks in the oven, put on a pot of rice and finish prepping any other accompaniments for these dark, deeply flavorful tofu steaks.
5-spice braised tofu steaks
|2||packages (14 ounces each) extra-firm tofu|
|3||tablespoons canola oil|
|½||cup soy sauce|
|¼||cup sake or dry sherry|
|2||tablespoons brown sugar|
|1||piece (3 inches) ginger, peeled and thinly sliced|
|2||whole star anise|
|1||tablespoon black peppercorns|
|1||tablespoon sriracha or other chile-garlic sauce|
|1||teaspoon sesame oil|
|2||teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water|
|2||teaspoons sesame seeds|
1. Slice each tofu block into four 1-inch thick rectangular pieces, making 8 pieces total.
2. Lay the rectangles on 2 large plates and top with another plate. Place a light weight on top of each and press in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Set the oven at 325 degrees.
4. Drain off all the liquid from the tofu squares and pat them dry. In a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil. Working in batches, cook the tofu squares for 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
5. Add 1 cup water to the tofu with the soy sauce, sake or sherry, brown sugar, ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, sriracha, and sesame oil. Stir gently. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.
6. Gently remove the tofu from the pan and transfer to a platter; keep warm.
7. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and return the strained liquid to the casserole. Stir the cornstarch mixture again. Set the casserole over medium heat and whisk the cornstarch into the sauce. Continue whisking until the liquid comes to a boil and thickens slightly.
8. Pour the sauce over the top of the tofu and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. Karoline Boehm GoodnickKaroline Boehm Goodnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.