I’ve gone in a new, Parmesan-paved direction in my pursuit of the ideal baked crispy tofu.
The tofu parmigiana recipes I’ve seen call for topping the tofu with mozzarella and tomato sauce before baking. There are several vegan Parmesan-crusted tofu dishes available online. Naturally, it wasn’t until I was getting ready for a vacation to Parma, Italy, that I thought to try a sprinkle of the actual cheese.
I was whipping up one of my favourite tofus, the kind whose cornflour-and-oil crust becomes golden and crispy in the oven. I now always use this simple but amazing method for cooking tofu on a sheet pan that I learnt from cookbook author Jenny Rosenstrach. The tofu cubes become beautifully bronzed while roasting, and the method allows for other seasonal veggies to be added to the tray, making this dish suitable for a one-pan supper in any season.
Initially, I had planned to sprinkle grated Parmesan over the veggies, but as the fluttering strands of cheese gathered in the pan, thoughts of frico—the kind of browned, shatteringly crunchy discs that I can’t get enough of—began dancing in my brain. I poured the contents of the Parmesan jar over the tofu, placed the baking pan in the oven, and waited for the Holy Grail of tofu.
The results of my oven experiment exceeded my expectations. The tofu cubes became a rich golden colour on top, and the spots where the Parmesan cheese had come into contact with the heated pan were even darker. Caramelization and minor charring occurred in the onions and sugar snaps. I ate the tofu cubes while standing, dousing them in lemon juice and devouring them like handfuls of hot buttered popcorn.
Since then, I’ve produced vegan variations of this meal by replacing the Parmesan with nutritional yeast and using a similar quantity of vegan Parmesan.
The pursuit of perfection, of any kind, may go in unforeseen directions. Parmesan, however, stepped up to the plate as the unassuming star of this quick midweek meal.