Get me started using extra firm tofu, please!
I want to start serving it to my family. I am not a cooking novice but not all that accomplished either. And the only times I have ever been exposed to tofu are via occasional Chinese buffets. I vastly prefer firm tofu because I like the meaty texture of it so I need help cooking it to make it as firm/meaty/chewy as possible, I think.
What are the best ways to prepare it, and the tastiest combinations? We are a sauce, gravy, & condiment family, if that points you in a direction.
I have heard that freezing tofu can produce a meaty result when thawed and cooked. I believe firm and extra firm tofu were used for this freezing. I have never done it myself, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness.
I like to boil cubes of firm tofu before putting them into a stir fry. I tried frying them and they produce a different texture - crispy on the outside and very soft on the inside. I find that by boiling them, the texture is more consistent. The degree of resistance depends on the length left in the boiling liquid.
I'd think if you crumbled extra firm tofu, you could fry it, and add it to various foods - lasagna, or a curried scrambled tofu. In either case, it is hard to turn extra firm tofu into mush, as can be the case with soft tofu and overcooked firm tofu. That's one of the reasons I normally don't use extra firm tofu - it offers too much resistance to my palate!
the water in tofu expands when frozen, riddling the tofu with little holes. when you thaw it out, the texture is spongey and more absorbent than regular tofu. i personally don't like frozen tofu, but then again i prefer medium to soft textured tofu.
pressing tofu over a period of time will firm it up a little bit, but more importantly it drains the liquid, which helps the tofu absorb more flavors from marinades, and makes it easier and safer to work with if frying or pan-frying (splatter. ouch).
First I must say that I have found "Extra firm" firmness varies between brands. I have just sliced extra firm, marinated it (think of tofu as a sponge re this process) and grilled, sauted or stir fried it.
If you find your "extra firm" is a bit less firm then you wish, freezing it then using, takes out the water that makes it less firm, as well as pressing it under weights.
But do think of tofu as a sponge in alot of ways, what you marinate, cook, sauce it with, is what it tastes like. Texture is the issue. Will tofu ever feel like a steak, ground meat, chicken...? No.
Can you use it crumbled as say Ricotta cheese; Oh yes!
To recap i think that using extra firm tofu will not be a flavor issue, but rather a texture issue when you use it to replace other proteins.
If you seek a meaty texture for a vegetarian type protein, you may want to consider seitan. It has a different texture than tofu. Even the prepackaged already made seitan is very good, and has a chewy texture with good flavor. I know it's not soybean based, but if the texture is what you are after, you may want to try seitan in various recipes. It is very good in a stir fry.
When I lived in The Big City (vs. small town rural Texas now) I used to eat lunch at Whole Foods and loved their seitan dishes, but I honestly don't think my grocery store here carries it. But I will check. They have sometimes pleasantly surprised me here. Yeah, texture is what I'm after, really.
I'm trying to get my husband in on eating tofu too (I love it) and have found that he likes it better when I press the tofu between layers of a dish towel with a plate on the bottom, an inverted plate on the top (think tofu-plate sandwich), and a large can of tomatoes sitting on top. This squeezes out a lot of the extra liquid and gives the tofu a meatier texture, which most people who haven't had a lot of tofu tend to prefer. I actually squeeze mine for like eight hours or until the block is about half of the original height.
Then I cube it, toss it in seasoned flour, and then "pan-fry" it in a little olive oil to make it crispy, or add it at the last minute to stir-frys or coconut curries so that it warms through, but doesn't have *too* much time to absorb a lot of liquid (obviously, you would need to compensate with a very flavorful sauce in this type of application). This is because, in my experience, people object more to the texture of the tofu, rather than the taste of it.
Also, if you can find it pre-marinated (or smoked!) it's really good as well.
In any kind of stirfry it's good
Make BBQ tofu: make or buy a sauce you like, marinade it for 2-12 hours (I usually cube it and marinade it in the morning; some say freezing first helps it absorb, I never plan that far ahead). Serve with mashed potatoes and veg of choice.
Great in curries
I use in place of croutons: cube it very, very thin and "stir fry" it (in PAM, usually) with seasonings. Crispy/chewy on salads.
I grill it and put it on sandwiches.
I use boca crumbles in chili, could also use tofu.
If you want to "sneak" it into dishes, use the silken and in lasagna use 1/2 silken and 1/2 ricotta.
You can make like an egg salad, crumble the tofu, add chopped celery, green onion, tumeric for color and mayonnaise. I have served this to friends and they really thought it was egg salad. Make it a little ahead for the taste to develop, but eat it the same day.
Slice pretty thin, Marinate in lemon, olive oil and garlic and then grill (Indoor grill is fine) - so good! Serve like you would chicken breast.
I cube the tofu, marinate in soy sauce and sesame oil, then bake on a cookie sheet at about 350 - how long depends on whether I'm going to use it cold in salads (maybe 40 minutes, flipping halfway through) or add to a stir fry (shorter). To make it absorb more marinade and come out firmer, I first slice the block in half cross-wise and press between layers of paper towels to drain out excess liquid. This makes very firm, salty, crispy little blocks that are delicious in salads, or tossed with asian noodles. I like to make a lunch of buckwheat soba noodles, kale or spinach sauteed with ginger/garlic/chilis, and tofu cubes.