The mise en place, to me, is a creature that exists in fantasy only. Here’s how dinner happens in real life: I cook and chop at the same time. It’s revolutionary, I know, but I suspect that many (most?) home cooks join me in rising up against French tradition in this regard. First we chop the onions, and then once they’re in the pan we chop the next thing. I’m not alone here, right?
But here’s the thing about on-the-fly prep when you’re making what’s essentially a stir-fry: you have to work fast. So be prepared to let your knife fly—or get all Martha and chop your ingredients in advance.I used yellow Roma tomatoes this time, but a good red tomato works nicely in this recipe too. The original recipe calls for deep-frying the tofu, but I’m scared of large quantities of boiling oil, so I pan-fried it instead. You may not share my concern, in which case, deep-fry away. Whatever method you use, though, make sure to cook a nice crisp crust onto the tofu, because the contrast of the crisp tofu with the soft tomato is central to this dish.
Mirin-Glazed Tofu and Tomatoes (adapted from Charles Phan of The Slanted Door via Epicurious): Press a block of tofu and cut it into 1/2″ thick dominoes. Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat and add a slick of vegetable oil. Place the tofu in a single layer in the pan, shower with salt and pepper, and leave it alone until the tofu pieces release easily from the pan and are golden brown. Flip tofu, add salt and pepper again, and cook the other side until a golden crust forms. Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain using a spatula.
A little oil should remain in the pan. Add half an onion, cut into 1/3″ wedges (like you’d cut an apple into slices), along with two cloves of minced garlic. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until golden, then add a pound of flavorful tomatoes sliced into 3/4″ wedges (again, like you’d cut an apple). Stir for a minute, just until the tomatoes begin to soften, then add 2 Tbsp. mirin to deglaze the pan. Return the tofu to the pan with a handful of green onions and stir for a moment to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve over rice.
We cook a lot of tofu here for the vegetarian teenager though i am not convinced about its protein levels, this looks like a super way to prepare his next dinner.. and what? people don’t always chop AS they cook? What a waste of time.. I most definitely chop and cook at the same time.. c
Funny, I always think of tofu as being very high protein! I know that lots of people end up cooking vegetarian food when their teenagers declare themselves vegetarian–I sometimes wonder if I’ll have to learn to cook meat a decade from now when one of my kids declares herself exclusively carnivorous. :)
That looks yummy!! Yeah…mise en place. Funny.
Right! But don’t you think recipes assume that people cook that way? I always want a heads up at the beginning if I *SERIOUSLY* have to have my ingredients chopped in advance. Otherwise I end up racing my way insanely through the recipe–like this one. (Oh, wait, I guess some people read through the directions first?) :)
Want to make something like this tonight!!
I hope you liked it if you tried it! You can’t really go wrong with good tomatoes, though, whatever you do. :)
I’m with you on the chopping… onions come first, and other things come during the cooking UNLESS I am 1) taking photos of the process for the blog, or 2) making something while there are guests in my house (my kitchen/dining room/living room are basically just one big space), in which case I’d get way too distracted and ruin dinner if I didn’t have most of it chopped up before lighting up the burner.
Ah, that right there is why you won’t find a single action shot on this blog! I agree that it’s nice to have prep work done before guests arrive–but I also admit that I often don’t. :)
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Onions first and on SUPER low so that when everything goes wrong they don’t burn. ;-) This looks great and we’re overdue for a new tofu preparation.
Funny, I take a different approach: onions on high to get things going and then I work frantically to keep up with them. :)
Ha–mise en place never happens at our house! Well, it might have happened once or twice, on occasions when I started chopping veg only to discover that no one else would be home for two more hours. :) This tofu sounds really good and easy!
What a happy surprise. Martha Stewart would be proud on those days. :)
Yup I work like you do. With littles underfoot, when do we have time to chop and prepare everything in advance? Dinner most often is a 20 minute ordeal with mad frenzied craziness :)
Seriously. I have a memory of a day when I was trying to cook with a baby on my back in the Ergo and a three-year-old literally wrapped around my leg. Under those circumstances it’s best to get it done as quickly as possible. :)
Oh my, so glad those days are (mostly) behind me! So hard to prepare proper meals with littles.