Festive Fried Chicken Tofu
This concoction comes from two of my favorite books, ever, Ann Jackson's "Heart of the Home", and "How It All Vegan" by Tanya
Barnard and Sarah Kramer. (Annie's got the tofu, the Tanya and Sarah have the spices - thanks ladies!) Annie says that there are as many ways to make fried chicken tofu as there are kitchens, and I believe her: once I over-salted and burned mine in the midst of entertaining company, and it tasted like fat-back - interesting! Let this be a lesson to ye!
1 pound extra firm tofu-double this whole gig if you are cooking for more than three folks-trust me!
2-3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil-must be olive!
2+ Tablespoons tamari (or Braggs, in a pinch)
about 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 Tablespoon dill
1/2 teaspoon each of rosemary, thyme, marjoram, & sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
[And if you want some gravy, also have on hand: a big handful of flour, the leftover yeast from the breading, and some COLD milk, water, or unsweetened soy milk (must be unsweetened)- I think water or cow's milk (gasp!) makes the best gravy. Miso also adds great flavor to vegetarian gravy, so get some of that, too.]
First off, press your tofu between 2 plates with a big can of tomatoes on top, or a large bag of rice, and pour off the liquid-allow 15 minutes or so for this -it shall prevent thy tofu from exuding liquid into the oil and clouding it. I do this every time I use tofu.
When the tofu is drained, put the seeds in the skillet, then the oil, and heat on medium-ish heat. While the pan is heating, round up your herbs, and mix them in a small bowl or cup to sort of homogenize the mixture, rubbing the dry herbs between your fingers to help bring out the flavors.
Now, add the herbs to the yeast, mix it up, well, and dredge your tofu cubes or slices (hint: you can fit the whole pound in the pan if you cube it 1/2"-3/4" cubes work well) in the yeast/herb mixture. A smart guy I know came up with the ingenious idea of using a bag for this part-just like on the old Shake & Bake(TM)- it works quite well. By now, your seeds should be starting to sizzle - this is your clue to put the tofu in now.
Drizzle it with tamari, and cook until golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side or sides.
don't go stirrin' crazy with this stuff or you will knock all the good stuff right off. Annie says, "just scoot it around with a spatula." Here's where the individual part comes in-I like to cover my tofu and let it cook for a while this way, then removing the cover and leaving it off at flip time. Don't really know why, but after at least five years of making this stuff, one develops a method. I suggest making a batch without the herbs before your big holiday meal so you can see how you like to do it, and so you can taste the original recipe in all it's glory!
Now for the gravy-when your tofu is cooked to perfection, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and turn down the heat. Please note that if you cook a double batch without using two pans, you will need to start with a clean pan and fresh seeds/oil or else by the time you get to the gravy stage, your seeds will be burnt and nasty, and so will your gravy. So, toss a handful of flower into the pan with the remaining oil and stir it around while it slowly toasts. You are making a roux now!
Throw in some leftover yeast and herbs also. The slow toasting and the yeast are the keys to good gravy! You should be able to see it darken as well and smell it toasting, and when it is toasty but not burned, add 1-2 cups of COLD liquid. Once I chose not to use cold liquid, just to see what would happen, and it was the most un-cool thing ever-lumpy gravy!! No self- respecting cook would ever serve lumpy gravy, and now you don't have to wonder why everyone insists on cold liquid for sauces. If you accidentally confuse your beer bottle with your tamari bottle, and some suds end up in the sauce, don't sweat it! Your animal free gravy will taste just like my grandmother's roast beef gravy. (Who knew?)
Let the stuff cook a bit on med-low heat-it should simmer gently-stirring almost constantly, tasting sometimes. I add a spoonful of miso as the salt in my gravy, but you don't have to. Salt and/or tamari are fine. Add lots of black pepper. When your gravy is the consistency (and taste) you prefer, it's ready!! Pour it over your mashers or rice and tofu and let the feasting begin!
Hope y'all enjoy this!