For cooks who like a little something different and still deal in the familiar, I perfected a way to serve pretty darn good vegan chicken or pork cutlets.
Did I mention easy and a good jack-of-all-trades recipe? You can prepare a block of tofu into cutlets, cubed, or “ground” to serve in any fashion of chicken or pork: chilis, stews, and a very good TLT sandwich. I even include it in Asian summer rolls. It’s been a winner for years.
Here is a good back story on how I found it.
I loved the way my local health food store* prepared this as grilled tofu. The recipe was in a notebook only available to the cook. My tall, blond haired, blue eyed nephew was coached by me to ask for it. It took him a couple tries, but his smile and wink finally did the trick.
There is a strange included spice that I am taking out so you might better take a shot at making. Don’t worry, it works without it. I’ll offer it up at the end.
I have worked with variations of tofu to finally yield this nice meaty texture; not giggly as tofu is want to do. The whole recipe takes a few minutes to prepare and marinate before cooking, so it fits my easy, cookshare style.
Tofu is inexpensive and provides a vegan option as the mood pleases. I keep a block of tofu in my freezer, ready to become this versatile chicken/pork fill in.
* Restaurant is Feel Rite Fresh Market in Amherst, NY
Amherst Tofu Cutlets
tofu, firm, 1 LB., I prefer firm style in tubs
soy sauce, 2 TBS.
oil, 2 TBS., neutral flavored (grape seed, sunflower or other)
apple cider vinegar, 2 TBS.
black pepper, 1/8 tsp., fresh ground is best
onion powder*, 1/2 tsp., not onion salt
garlic powder*, 1/2 tsp., not garlic salt
sage, dried, 1/2 tsp., or 1 tsp. fresh, minced
*If you have asafoetida, omit the onion and garlic powders and use 1/4 tsp.
1 Freeze tofu in a tub for at least 24 hours. Take out of freezer the morning before dinner. Optionally, use fresh tofu and press in thick toweling to damp towel consistency.
2 Keep the tub and slice tofu into 8 equal cutlets. [See below]
3 Lay cutlets in single layer on a folded hand towel and cover with another towel. Press by putting cutting board over toweling and press firmly until like damp sponge.
4 Meanwhile, make the marinade.
5 Pour half the marinade into the empty tofu tub. Stack the cutlets back into their original block shape and slip back down into the tub. Carefully pour in the rest of the marinade. Gently spread each cutlet to let a little marinade ooze in. Allow to marinate for about 30 to 60 minutes.
6 Pre-heat a non-stick skillet, or a grill pan, then add a film of oil and sauté the cutlets; 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown – (make sure they take on a deep color).
Now you have the finished, meaty flavored cutlets. Serve hot or reheat. Alternately cut into cubes, or pulse in a food processor to turn into ground texture. They are also good as a lunch meat substitute. I love the TLT (tofu-lettuce-tomato) sandwich. Try it! When reheating as cubes or ground meat, sauté again to provide a firmer, almost crunchy texture. The cubes make for a great stir fry “meat.”
Planned-over Recipe: Amherst Fajitas
Sauté some onions and bell peppers in oil until soft, add in a little chopped garlic, some blackening seasoning or other cajun or Tex-Mex blend. Add in the chicken tofu after being sliced into strips. Squeeze a little lime juice and add some minced fresh cilantro. Serve on warm tortillas. Garnish with your favorite Tex-Mex condiments.
MASTERY EN PLACE: The Strange Spice that is getting noticed
Asafoetida (aka Hing) is a spice that out of the jar smells like dirty socks. But, once cooked, completely mellows and adds a mild layer of garlic and onion flavor. It’s a secret ingredient (no more) in my fermented vegetables, when I want to add allium depth with just a pinch of asafoetida.
It’s not expensive; locate in international or Indian markets. Some diners that can’t eat garlic or onions, can substitute asafoetida. It’s also said to aid with digestion and flatulence.
*To use in the recipe above, omit the garlic powder and use 1/4 tsp. asafoetida powder.
“You can not sell a blemished apple, but you can sell a tasteless one.”