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.