Beer Battered Fried Tofu
Home Grown Tomatoes is a weekly Vegan/Vegetarian column by Giovanina Bucci
I had some serious challenges this week deciding which recipe to post. My heart has been swept up by thoughts of Thanksgiving, however, my cooking has been swept up by a wave of needing and wanting all things fried. Strangely enough I am writing this post on my birthday, which is my excuse to be able to indulge in french fries tonight. Although, Beau conveniently pointed out to me that I seem to have a "valid" justification every time I am craving french fries or anything fried for that matter...'It's my birthday', 'I am going to start eating better next week', 'It's your birthday', 'I'm drinking beer and some things just go together', 'It's Sunday and we're watching football'... you get the idea. So here I am, mouth watering, at the thought of dipping those delicious fried numbers into globs of ketchup...
Anyway, I have an excellent beer batter recipe that can be used on most anything: tofu, onions, veggies. I even dove into the world of chili rellenos for the first time this past weekend (recipe to come), beer batter and all. I've decided to share the Beer Battered Tofu recipe this week, as the tofu takes a bit of prep in order to attain that cravable texture: crisp on the outside, tender and moist on the inside.
Serving Size: 4 people who are "munching"
1 block Extra Firm Tofu
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbs. Braggs Liquid Aminos
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Drain tofu, either by hand or by weight, and dice into cubes. Laying the tofu on the larger rectangular side, I cut the tofu once in half, horizontally, and then cube from there. This makes for perfect bite size bits that are easy to work with. Although, I have sliced the tofu into thin "french fry" like strips (as seen below) too, and that seems to be great for dipping (because, of course, you NEED a dip). Spread your tofu out into a baking pan, drizzle olive oil (don't be shy) and Bragg's, and let tofu bake for about 12 minutes. Usually 6 or 7 minutes in, I try and turn most of the pieces over, or at least move them around to ensure that they are not sticking to the bottom of your pan.
While your tofu is baking, you can prepare the batter. Now I am going to be honest, I have not measured this to perfection. But seriously, you can't go wrong, because you're frying something, and that's pretty difficult to butcher. Just to premise the batter, the idea is that you want it to be like the consistency of pancake batter. And for those of you who have gluten issues, you may want to try and experiment with different kinds of flours. I'm not sure which alternative flours fry the best.
1/4 C. whole wheat pastry four (whole what or white flour works great too)
6 oz. dark beer (i.e. Ambers, Stouts, Porters, etc.)
1 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. grade B maple syrup
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp of basil
Dash of cayenne pepper and/or red pepper flakes (depending on your like of spiciness)
black pepper and parsley to taste (optional)
Whisk all ingredients together until you have a batter that drips off of your spoon, yet retains a bit of thickness to it (as I mentioned, just like pancake batter). If you find your batter is too thick or too runny, simply adjust by adding more flour or more beer. Now the problem is, if you end up starting with too much flour and have to add all of you beer, you can't drink the rest. Try to avoid that!
Once your tofu is ready, heat up your oil on medium high heat (I use half olive oil and half vegetable oil, because we're on a budget) and fill a large pot about 1/4" to 1/2" up from the bottom. Basically, depending on what you are frying, you want enough oil for one side to fry without having it touch the bottom of the pan. With this tofu recipe, you can use the lesser amount of oil. The main objective being, you don't want it to stick to the bottom. If you're frying the smaller cubed pieces of tofu, you can even use a smaller pan and fry in batches of 8-10 pieces. (Be careful with the oil, you don't want it too hot, whereby, you're getting hot oil splattering up into the air and potentially onto your precious limbs.) You'll hear a subtle crackling sound, and that's the safety zone. Any loud pops means your oil is too hot. Drop a bit of batter in to test it out, and you'll easily be able to tell if you need more or less heat.
To accompany this dish, I make a VERY simple aioli that you can adjust to your taste buds.
1/2 C. vegannaise
1 tsp garlic powder
dash of red pepper flakes
juice from 1 lemon (substitute with about 1-2 tsps of apple cider vinegar if you don't have a lemon)
dill, cilantro, or parsley - whatever you have on hand or are craving...
Mix all ingredients together. You'll end up with a punchy tartness, smooth texture, and a subtle herbal inspired backdrop.
Speaking of backdrops...this is our front yard table that overlooks the garden in the summertime. A perfect place to enjoy snacks and beverages on an evening in Flagstaff. The fresh mountain air, good company, and the sound of the Rt 66 train in the background.
Enjoy this recipe, and play around with it. It's extremely malleable, and can accommodate whatever your needs may be, not to mention, the fried tofu in particular makes for a great appetizer! Also, don't hesitate to recycle your oil. I usually strain the leftover into a Tupperware container to alleviate any extra fried batter. Have fun with this!