Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tofu Benedict with Asparagus

I love breakfast food. Pancakes, eggs, the whole deal. On the other hand, I hate mornings. It's only logical that I should eat breakfast foods in the evening in order to not waste them on my inevitably bad morning mood. 99% of days I eat something very simple for breakfast like a smoothie or steel cut oats (both largely prepared the night before) so that I can sleep for every possible second before getting up and getting ready for work. When I want to make a delicious breakfast dish, I serve it for dinner. This dish, Tofu Benedict, is like a dream come true for me. I found it in a semi-recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Apparently the recipe came from a restaurant in Paris called The Gentle Gourmet, which by the way looks A-mazing. Someday when I have money and can go places like Paris, I'm there.

The "Hollandaise" sauce is savory and rich with a hint of lemon. The tofu is tasty and chewy and fresh tarragon gives the whole plate a kind of zip that is very attractive. All that without all the fat and cholesterol that make regular eggs benedict a nightmare for someone like me who has naturally high cholesterol. I made this for first time a few months ago on a night J was out working. I was a little skeptical about the whole tofu-instead-of-eggs thing and I wanted to try it out myself before serving it to someone else. I loved it so much that I ate half of it for dinner and took all the rest of it to work with me the next day for lunch. Then I went and raved about it so much at home that J got a little mad that he didn't get any. I finally got around to making it again last night for both of us and it didn't disappoint.
The first step is to marinate the tofu overnight. Okay, let's get this out of the way: I'm vegan. I obviously like tofu. I've actually always liked it, even back when the only kind I knew about was the jiggly cubed variety served at The Great Wall. But I understand that it has a stigma among non-vegetarians. I don't really believe that most people hate tofu. I just think most people cook it wrong. After over 10 years of trying to figure out how to cook tofu well (people who knew me in high school and college can attest to some oily disasters), I've narrowed it down to two methods. One is to broil it, which we will do here. The other is to cook it low and slow in a nearly dry non-stick saute pan, but we'll address that another time. I pretty much ignore how most recipes suggest to cook tofu. No matter what they say, I use one of my two proven methods. They haven't failed me yet.

In addition to cooking it correctly, the other key to good tofu is to impart some flavor to it yourself. Start this recipe by whisking together this marinade.

Tofu Marinade:
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
The first steps of dealing with tofu are the same every time in my kitchen. Drain the water out of the package, wrap the tofu block in a clean tea towel, and put a heavy cast iron pan on top of it all. You want something heavy enough to encourage some of the water to release into the towel, but not so heavy as to crush the tofu. Let the tofu sit for about 10 minutes. For this recipe, slice the tofu across into four thin slabs, then cut each slab into circles with a drinking glass or some other cylindrical object. Don't worry about the scraps, just use them for a stir fry or something else within the next few days. Place the tofu circles in a shallow baking dish, pour the marinade on top and store in the refrigerator covered with saran wrap.

The next day, when you are ready to begin cooking, preheat the oven broiler and place the marinated tofu circles on a lining of aluminum foil. (If your broiler is very hot turn it down to 400 or so instead) Once you have the tofu going, clean and trim a bunch of asparagus and 10-15 shitake mushrooms. Toss the asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute the mushrooms in a bit of olive oil with salt and season with black pepper. Check on the tofu circles. If the tops are getting brown and crispy, it's time to flip them over and add the asparagus to the broiler. Now make the sauce.
This Hollandaise sauce recipe sounded really strange to me when I first read it, but believe me it's delicious. I smother it all over the asparagus and everything else on the plate. Heck, it would probably taste good on a plain english muffin. Or a piece of cardboard. Don't expect it to taste like regular Hollandaise, because it doesn't really. Then I again I haven't had hollandaise in over 3 years so I don't really remember what it tasted like but this stuff is YUM. As an aside, I have to mention that J and I love to make fun of vegan-ized foods with stupid names a la "Chick'n." What, so taking out a vowel makes this nasty fake meat protein thing vegan? Another favorite is "cheeze." Who sent out the memo that using a Z instead of an S makes this food vegan as well? We just couldn't resist renaming this sauce as well, so please now refer to this as "Hollan-dayze." I'll send the memo.

Hollandayze Sauce:
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 Tbsp. white wine or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp vegetable Better than Bullion paste
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Begin by whisking together the wine, vinegar, soy milk, cornstarch, turmeric and bullion in a small saucepan. Turn the burner on medium and heat until warm. Meanwhile, saute the shallot in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the soy milk mixture to the shallots with the heat on medium-high and stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and mix in lemon juice.

To assemble the benedict, begin by toasting 2 english muffins. Place a tofu circle on each muffin half. Top with mushrooms and asparagus. Smother everything in Hollandaise sauce and garnish with fresh tarragon. I guess a serving size is 1 half muffin, but when eaten for dinner, I needed 2. Actually, J headed right back to the kitchen to serve himself an additional 2 and was pretty upset when I told him that the recipe only made 4. So if you are serving a really hungry guy who likes to go on 4 hour bike rides while you are at work all day because he is a freelance musician with an extremely light schedule during the summer months, you should probably double the recipe.


  1. Oh, I don't remember your tofu being oily! Maybe just halved in quantity because of sticking to the pan, though :) I wish I could live without non-stick surfaces, but I can't.

  2. I think it should be "Holl'ndayze"... just so you get the apostrophe in there too =).