Monday, July 10, 2006

The tofu problem

As promised, today I'm addressing the complicated and sisyphean task of drying out a block of tofu. If you've ever tried this, you know it's not as simple as pouring the liquid out of the package once you've opened it. Nor can you be lazy about it, because wet tofu doesn't taste that great, and in some cases (especially when baking), the stuff can explode (and you guys know I'm totally speaking from experience).

Over the last year or so, I've gotten close to my dream of nearly dry tofu. I say 'nearly' because tofu is a sponge, which an endless and hidden source of water. You think there can't be any water left in the damn thing after wringing it endlessly, but oh grasshopper, how wrong you would be.

My method involves two plates (preferably plastic or otherwise unbreakable), four cans of various condiments -- I typically use a combination of black beans, Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable soup, chick peas, and Del Monte's diced tomatoes with garlic -- and two boxes of crackers (one mostly empty, the other brand new). I also use a small lid from a tupperware container. I also use at least one paper towel; your mileage may vary.

First, open the package of tofu and dump the water out. This is the easy part. Put the tofu on one of the plastic plates. Now take the second plastic plate, turn it upside down, and put it on top of the tofu. Now, weigh the top plate down with at least two of the previously procured cans. Slip -- gently -- the tupperware cover under the bottom plate. Now, you can walk away and answer email.

Come back fifteen minutes later, and drain the water that has pooled beneath the tofu. Wrap the tofu lovingly in the paper towel, pat it gently, and then remove the towel. Replace the tofu on the plastic plate, put the other plate on top of it, and this time, load it up with three of the cans. Again, walk away and do something nice for yourself.

Come back after twenty minutes, drain out the water, lovingly dry the tofu off, and then flip it over on the plate. Replace the top plate. Add four cans. For good measure, you can also add the two boxes of crackers on top of the cans. Walk away from another fifteen minutes. Come back, drain, and if you aren't starving by now, repeat one more time.

After the fourth time, I usually slice up the tofu into slabs and then pat each slab dry with the paper towel. In theory, every time I slice, I should pat it dry again, but I rapidly lose interest in this excercise, and rarely pat it dry after the slap step. Still, if you get through the four drainage steps, your tofu should be fairly dry enough to cook. It's never going to totally soak up the marinade (I've never tried, btw, the method of freezing tofu first, then thawing, and THEN marinating it), but getting a lot of the water out will increase the chances the tofu will actually absorb the marinade, rather than simply wallowing in it.

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