First and foremost, let’s get to the winner of my homemade jam giveaway! I chose the winner using the True Random Number Generator on www.random.org. And the winner is …
OK, now on to this very delicious meatless creation, the Mushroom & Crispy Tofu Gratin. Let’s start with a short anecdote, shall we?
My best friend Laura and I have very different—and very busy—schedules, so every other week or so we like to have what we call jammy jams (super nerdy, I know, but bear with me). These so-called ‘jammy jams’ are our version of a girls’ night in. I usually make us a meatless meal of some sort and we drink white wine or Champagne and hang out in our pajamas. And there’s usually some even nerdier TV watching to be done. (We love you, Human Planet and Law & Order SVU!). There really is nothing like some R&R with your best friend, as I’m sure many of you know.
Now, Laura’s not a vegetarian, but she definitely has her own style of eating. I love cooking for her because she has the completely opposite palate of Doug. She loves beets and mushrooms and pickles and tofu—all things my boyfriend Doug would rather throw across the room then stick in his mouth. Our little girly date nights are ways for me to experiment in the kitchen with different flavors, textures and products than usual.
When prepared and cooking correctly, tofu is amazingly tasty alternative to meat. I find that, properly prepared, it has the texture of chicken—crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. The preparation technique for extra firm tofu is pretty easy: simply press the tofu for an hour or so to get rid of any excess liquid, coat it in seasoned flour, and then pan fry it in a little oil until crisp and golden. YUM!
If you have properly prepared tofu, all you have to do is combine it with some sautéed mushrooms and onions and a quick béchamel sauce and you have a very delicious and not-too-terrible-for-you gratin.
Everyone loves gratin—vegetables slathered in cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or crackers, and baked until golden brown. So if you want to make a somewhat healthier entrée version, this a great dish. I served mine with vegetables cooked en papillote, using the same method I used when I made this recipe from Dorie Greenspan. It’s such a delicious and healthy way to prepare vegetables. I suggest you give it a try soon.
Mushroom & Crispy Tofu Au Gratin
A tofu press is a quick and easy way to press tofu of excess liquid if you make a lot of tofu. Otherwise paper towels will do the job just fine. Make sure and start this recipe at least an hour ahead of time to press the tofu. Or press the tofu in the morning so it’s ready when you come home from work. Use Parmigiano Reggiano for the best quality béchamel sauce. Click here to download a printable PDF copy of this recipe.
For the Tofu:
1 block extra-firm tofu
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Mushrooms:
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. oil
1 (8 oz.) container cremini mushrooms, wiped cleaned and quartered
1 small onion, sliced
For the béchamel sauce:
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. sifted all-purpose flour
1½ cups milk
4 oz. plus 3 Tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup Ritz crackers, crushed, or breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Press tofu. Put the tofu between two paper towels and put a heavy lid or plate on top. Let the tofu press for one hour, changing out the paper towels as needed when they becomes saturated.
Sauté the tofu. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Place a few tablespoons of flour in a shallow bowl. Season it well with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Meanwhile, pat the tofu dry one last time, then cut it into cubes. Dredge the tofu pieces in flour, shake off any excess, and fry the tofu cubes in batches in the hot oil until they’re golden brown on all sides. Move the fried tofu from the skillet to a plate to drain.
Sauté the veggies. In the same skillet that you fried the tofu, add 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When they’re melted and hot, add the mushrooms and onions. Sauté until the mushrooms have browned and the onions are soft.
Make the béchamel sauce. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in flour, then cook for about 2 minutes, making sure not to let the roux brown too much. Slowly whisk in the milk. When the mixture is thick and smooth, slowly add the 4 ounces of Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup). Season the sauce with 1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper. If it’s too thick, add a bit more milk and simmer for another minute or two to blend the flavors.
Build and bake the gratin. Spray an 8” x 8” baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange the mushrooms, onions and tofu in the dish. Pour the béchamel over the tofu-vegetable mixture and sprinkle it with the Ritz crackers or breadcrumbs. Break the last tablespoon of butter into pieces and dot the gratin with it. Sprinkle the last 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over the butter and breadcrumbs. Bake the gratin in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the gratin is lightly brown.