Thursday, October 30, 2014

Crunchy Tofu Nuggets

Ah, "kid food."  Who doesn't love kid food?  Personally, if I made the rules there would be no such thing in this world as "kid food" -- kids would be exposed to a wide variety of different cuisines (and receive lots of praise from their grown-ups for trying new things,) while adults would be "allowed" to love things like macaroni and cheese, french fries, and crunchy nuggety-type things!

Enter Crunchy Tofu Nuggets.  I based my recipe on this recipe from Fine Cooking, but after careful thought and a couple of trials, I learned my version was MUCH better than the original.  What changes did I make?  For starters, I really wanted to bake these nuggets.  Yes, baking is healthier than frying, but really ... I was motivated by laziness.  I didn't want to stand over a splattering pan of hot oil, likely watching the crispy coating I had so artfully applied to my tofu nuggets disintegrate in the oil (because, you know, I suck at frying things); I also didn't want to clean up said splattering oil from my stovetop.  Baking sheet, parchment paper, cooking spray ... love you guys.

After following the original recipe the first time, I realized Fine Cooking erred on the side of using WAY too much cornstarch, liquid, and breadcrumb for the coating.  Who loves dumping ingredients down the drain?  Not I.  The original recipe also made WAY too much dipping sauce, in my opinion, and could easily be replaced just by a tablespoon or so of extra hoisin sauce.  Love it when things are simpler AND tastier!

I also prefer to use "super firm" tofu these days, because, well ... like I said before, I can be just a wee bit lazy sometimes.  Who wants to spend all that time pressing tofu when you can buy it pre-pressed? Not me, I tell you!  (Plus, the super firm tofu has a little more protein per serving than regular tofu -- a bonus for this slave to MyFitnessPal.)

So, after several tweaks to the original recipe, I'm happy with my version of Crunchy Tofu Nuggets -- and hope you are, too!

Crunchy Tofu Nuggets
serves 2 or 3

olive oil or cooking spray
one 10-ounce package "super firm" tofu (or regular firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed well)
1/3 c cornstarch
1 egg
1 1/2 tbsp prepared hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt (divided)
1/4 tsp chili-garlic sauce
3/4 c panko (I like to use a combination of white and whole-wheat crumbs)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray or lightly brush the parchment with olive oil.
2. Cut your tofu into sticks, triangles, or cubes.
3. Grab three shallow bowls.  Add the cornstarch to the first bowl.  Whisk together the egg, hoisin, vinegar, oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and chili-garlic sauce, and add to the second bowl.  Combine the panko, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper in the third bowl.  Visual aid:
4. Bread the tofu: coat each piece of tofu first in the cornstarch, then in the egg mixture, then in the crumbs.  (Helpful tip: assign yourself a "wet hand" and a "dry hand" for this process, because things get frustrating if your hands get all mucky.  I like to remember to keep my dominant hand my "dry hand," because there are more dry steps than wet.)  Arrange the tofu on the baking sheet with plenty of room between each nugget.  Brush or spray the tops of the nuggets with oil.
5. Bake the tofu for about 15 minutes.  Use tongs to flip the tofu pieces, and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until your nuggets are golden brown and very crunchy.  Serve immediately, with extra hoisin for dipping and some steamed broccoli (and if you're really feeling the comfort kid-food vibe, sweet potato tater tots, too!)

(Note: leftover nuggets are just okay.  They reheat well enough in the oven, but the coating tends to fall off.  They are not great microwaved.)

I have been loving these for quick dinners for myself, and served them to an omni friend who was also really pleased.  I have been toying with the idea of coming up with a honey-mustard version sometime soon.  :)  What traditionally "kid-food" meals do you enjoy?


Eileen said...

These guys sound great! I would be all about dipping them in spicy mustard. Also, I have never seen super firm tofu before! It would be super nice to avoid the pressing stage. Also also, guess who now has a copy of Making It in hand?

Catherine Weber said...

Eileen, the super firm tofu I buy is from Wildwood -- I believe it is sprouted, too.

Let me know what you think of "Making It!" The chapters about butchering chickens and humanure were a little out of my comfort zone, but there were so many other good ideas, I had to buy the book. :)

Anonymous said...

It is so weird seeing pictures of your apartment (well, kitchen) and not recognizing it! These sound really yummy :)


Catherine Weber said...

Courtney, I know! I have moved WAY too many times this year. Let's hope this place is home for a while! Let me know if you try to veganize the tofu -- it might be nice to post an updated vegan version!