Raise your hand—and raise it high—if you're excited to fry tofu on a weeknight. The brave among you are waving one arm in the air, pouring oil into a wok with the other. (You must have tasted Ottolenghi's black pepper tofu.)
While I salute you, I cannot join you. On any given weeknight, my psyche is not hardy enough to weather the frustrations of sticky skins; my paper towel supply is not plentiful enough to clean up errant oil splatters.
And so, when I'm feeling weeknight weary, I follow the lead of Cookie and Kate (and The Kitchn): Give pressed tofu a quick run through oil, cornstarch, panko, and sesame seeds, and put it in the oven.Ta-da!
Thirty minutes and one flip later, your tofu emerges with a crust as defined as the fried version (with a little help from cornstarch and panko), and you'll have skipped the sputtering oil and spatula contortion. The crowd of cubes will be evenly browned; the clean-up will be minimal.
And while the tofu is roasting, you can take advantage of the warm oven to cook accompanying vegetables: In that amount of time, thinly sliced shiitakes will shrivel, their savory flavor concentrating as their sponginess turns to chewiness. Roast sweet potatoes chunks, cauliflower florets, or carrot spears. Add asparagus and halved cherry tomatoes to the oven halfway through cooking time, when you flip the tofu. Oh, the possibilities!
Once you've dried out the tofu in the oven, it's more receptive to flavorful sauces: Mound atop a bowl of rice or sesame noodles; float in soup; or, add to your stir-fry.
Or simply drizzle with a bit of soy sauce (and fish sauce, too) and snack on them like you would chicken nuggets—or, you know, tater tots. —Sarah Jampel
2 to 3
14-ounce box extra-firm tofu
shiitakes, stems trimmed of woody parts and thinly sliced
vegetable or peanut oil, divided
sesame oil, divided
soy sauce, divided, plus 1 additional teaspoon for drizzling at the end
At least 30 minutes (and as many as two or three hours!) before you want to start cooking, press the tofu: Place a dish cloth or paper towels on a cutting board, then the tofu, then another layer of towels. On top of the tofu, place a board and some heavy objects to weight it down. Heat the oven to 400° F and line two sheets with parchment paper.
When the tofu is ready, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a bowl. In another bowl, place the sliced mushrooms. To each bowl, add 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and a pinch of salt.
To the bowl of tofu, add cornstarch, panko, and sesame seeds and stir to coat.
Spread the tofu out on one baking sheet and the mushrooms out on another. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. When the tofu and mushrooms are finished, mix them together and drizzle with fish sauce, if you'd like, and remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle with chives and additional sesame seeds.