Darlings, just a few weeks back, La Diva had, against her better judgement, entered a culinary smackdown hosted by the lovely Boxer for TOFU! After disastrous results, La Diva, shamed and humiliated by an ingredient she has mastered and manipulated in many ways, many times, decided that it was HIGH TIME FOR A REMATCH AGAINST TOFU-SAN.
Alas, your dear Diva had a bee in her bonnet that night (golly gee, I love that phrase!) about eating some crunchy, fried tofu. And all I gots was mush. When you have a true taste for something crunchy and savory and fried, the most disappointing thing you can eat is mushy, bland pulp. So, the idea for the tofu croquetas-arancini-meat-a-balls has been in my head twirling about and driving me pazzo since the smackdown.
So, today was the day. I had all the ingredients. I had the patience. And most importantly, I had the time. This is not a short post nor a quickie recipe, so pour yourself a sake, sit back and…..
Half a container of extra firm organic tofu, drained and blotted dry
1/2 c bread crumbs
1 tsp. each freshly minced Italian parsley and basil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese
salt and pepper
2 oz fontina cheese cut into 3mm cubes
basil leaf chiffonade for garnish
panko bread crumbs
oil for frying
5 plum or mixed very ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Put drained and very well blotted tofu into a large bowl. In a food processor, process garlic cloves, then add parsley and basil. Process until finely minced and then add to tofu. Add one egg, the breadcrumbs, parmigiano cheese and salt and pepper.
Using a fork, break up the tofu into a paste and mix well with all ingredients. Taste a bit and adjust seasonings, remember, tofu has NO FLAVOR, which is one of tofu’s STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. Use it to your advantage in battle and season well to avoid a tofu disaster.
Take about a tablespoon of the tofu mixture into the palm of your hand and flatten it out. Take a cube of the fontina cheese and adding a bit more of the tofu, add and roll in your hand into an oblong shape. You should be able to make a very moist croqueta with the tofu mixture. If it breaks apart, remove the fontina, add it back to the bowl and a bit more breadcrumbs and give it a few minutes to absorb and then try again. Set the croquetas on a plate and then freeze for at least a half an hour for the croquetas to set.
While the tofu is setting, start the tomato coulis.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to a saute pan that has been heated with olive oil. Add the garlic and a dash of salt. (Don’t add to much salt now, otherwise when it reduces it will be too salty, you can always add more.) Bring the tomatoes to a hearty boil and then reduce and simmer on the stove until they begin to break down. With a wooden spoon or spatula, help them along by breaking them up. Add a bit more water if it gets too dry.
Retrieve the croquetas from the freezer. They should be quite firm but not frozen solid. Make breading trays of each: flour, beaten egg and panko bread crumbs. Working quickly but gently, roll each croqueta into a bit of flour, knocking off the excess. Then the egg wash, making sure to cover completely with egg and finally the panko. Set on a plate until you are out of mixture. I had enough for 8.5 croquetas.
And now the fun begins: Zee frying! Heat up some oil (like peanut or safflower oil) into a medium size fry pan. To test, I stick a chop stick in and when it begins to bubble up the sides, I know it’s hot enough. I carefully add a few croquetas, about three or four at a time, and turn them once brown on each side. If the oil is getting too hot and they are cooking too fast, turn down the heat so the cheese inside will have time to melt. Drain on a rack over a paper towel on a plate. Salt lightly.
Take a small plate and add a bit of tomato coulis in a circular motion. Add three (or four!) croquetas into the middle of the tomato sauce and garnish with basil chiffonade. Mangia!
RESULT: TOFU-SAN, YOU WILL HANG YOUR HEAD IN DEFEAT!! La Diva conquered your pulpy, too-wet texture, your bland flavor and turned you into something EDIBLE. Not only edible, but delicious! Divine! Decadent! I have declared myself, La Diva, THE VICTOR!!! A big F.U., Tofu!
Actually, they tasted REALLY GOOD. The garlic added was not overpowering or subtle but just enough for nice flavor, the melted fontina was like a creamy surprise in the middle and the texture of the tofu was so light and moist, such a nice contrast to the crunchy outer layer of the panko breading. While the croquetas were quite large, I still thought it to be not as heavy as smaller croquetas I’ve had made out of potatoes and ham and cheese. I think they were superb.
If there is anything La Diva certainly knows about tofu, it’s that for me and The DJ to like it, it has to have some sort of crunchy texture, like being fried, or alternatively, it must be paired with something that has a crunch to it, like my stir fry with cashews and fresh vegetables. So, this covered my tofu prerequisites on all fronts.
While this recipe seemed a bit fiddly, La Diva would definitely make it again, especially as an appetizer for a vegetarian dinner.
Beware, dear Blogging Buddies, for La Diva is tenacious and competitive! I will be ready to CONQUER ALL who come against me in BATTLE CABBAGE hosted by Grumpy Granny! Til then, Ciao!