I often cook for people with dietary restrictions. These restrictions have ranged from no dairy, soy, nuts, to the stricter, no gluten, sugar, or refined carbohydrates. I look at these restrictions as fun challenges. It’s kind of like being on Survivor (though with access to the greatest organic coop in the country) and trying to make the best out of what you have within the parameters you’re provided. (Wait, is this already a Food Network show?) I particularly like to make oxymoronic dishes like vegan and gluten free lasagna or, like I was most recently asked to create, vegan steak frites.
It was a French themed party, after all, and what is more reminiscent of a late night café rendezvous in Paris than steak frites? The berets could stay on their shelf; I had tofu to work on! From my vegan stint in the redwoods of Santa Cruz, I recalled a thing or two about dressing up tofu. One trick I learned there was that freezing tofu gives it quite a meat-like texture.
According to Cooks Illustrated, May and June 2013, “Tofu is about 86% water; as it freezes, the ice crystals expand, pushing apart the protein network. When thawed, the water drains away, leaving the tofu with a spongy consistency that is highly absorbent.”
With this in mind, I fashioned a solid block of tofu into three “steaks”. First, I sliced the block into thee planks and rounded the corners. (This made for wonderful meaty dramatic effect!) I then popped the planks into the freezer and left them to their meat-tastic transformation. In the morning, I took them out to defrost in the fridge and added a steak-like marinade, invoking the help of the flavor classics of A-1 and Worcestershire sauces.
For real dramatic effect, you could grill the tofu steaks on a slated grill pan. I opted to bake mine with the frites. You guys! Making French fries is so easy; you, too, can enjoy this comforting snack at home with just a little bit of knife precision. The mini-recipe for the frites is as follows:
Slice two large potatoes into ¼ inch planks then slice again into ¼ inch sticks. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, toss, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 425 degrees, flipping after 15 minutes. Top with Maldon flake salt, truffle oil or minced fresh parsley, if available.
The next time you find yourself caught between two conflicting culinary worlds, let the accommodating versatility of tofu come to your rescue. Et Voilà! C’est parfait.
Time, active: 30 minutes; inactive: 7 hours
1 Block of firm tofu
2 tablespoons A-1 steak sauce
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (Amy’s brand makes one and so does Trader Joes)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, groun
1. Slice tofu length-wise into three planks. Fashion into any meat-like shape that appeals to you. (I like to round off three corners and keep one end pointed.) Place in a large Ziplock bag and place in the freezer until frozen, at least five hours.
2. Add to the bag the remaining ingredients to make the marinade. Mix well, making sure all sides of the tofu are covered in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to 10 hours.
3. Heat the oven to 425. (Cut your potatoes now for the fries.) Place the tofu planks on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with frites!