Tofu is one of the most cherished and versatile ingredients for plant-based diets and many global cuisines. Its neutral flavor is easy to infuse with any marinade or dry seasonings, and its firm yet tender texture can take on most cooking methods, from frying to sauteing to grilling. While many recipes infuse flavor into tofu by marinating it or tossing it in a stir-fry sauce, cross-hatching tofu is a creative and efficient method to upgrade its flavor and texture.
A common practice for vegetables and proteins, cross-hatching entails making shallow slits that intersect each other over the surface of a vegetable or cut of meat. In the case of inherently flavorful meats and veggies, cross-hatching is more of a textural asset, allowing moisture to escape more easily during the cooking process. For tofu, cross-hatching's benefits are twofold; the slits will help tofu dry out to maximize its absorption while also creating evenly distributed crevices to fill with sauces, spice mixtures, or any other seasoning recipe you have in mind.
This hack is a preparation tip that keeps the tofu whole. It'll work best with dry heat cooking methods like the air fryer and oven. After cross-hatching the block of tofu, simply drizzle a spoonful of oil over the slits and place it into the air fryer basket or onto the baking sheet. A block of tofu will crisp up and dry out in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit or at 400 degrees Fahrenheit in the air fryer.
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Tofu And Sauce Pairings
Air-fryer cross-hatched tofu will take around 15 minutes, while oven-baking tofu will take around 30 minutes. Either way, this gives you plenty of time to whip up a sauce or seasoned oil to pour over the tofu hot out of the oven. The cross-hatching has primed it both for flavor absorption and distribution.
When it comes to flavor pairings, the sky's the limit with tofu. As a popular Asian ingredient, any classic stir-fry sauce will pair wonderfully, from Teriyaki to Hoisin. That said, a simple mixture of soy or tamari sauce with honey, grated garlic and ginger, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes will come together in less than five minutes. If you'd rather not make a sauce from scratch, you can build on your favorite store-bought sauce with fresh ingredients and staples. Blend sriracha with sweetened peanut butter, grated ginger, and lime juice for an easy satay sauce.
Seasoned oils like chili oil or vinaigrette would also add plenty of flavor to a block of tofu. You can pour hot oil over a mixture of aromatics, herbs, and dry or powdered chilies in a glass bowl to infuse the oil with flavor and provide a texturally diverse seasoning sauce for the tofu. Saute fresh garlic, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes for a savory garlic sauce on the fly. A homemade vinaigrette with mustard and balsamic vinegar would provide a tangy, spicy kick for the tofu, which you could serve over a bed of greens.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.