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Maple mustard tofu is all about the sauce

In this recipe for tofu, the maple mustard sauce takes the spotlight for its flavor.  (Rey Lopez/For the Washington Post)
In this recipe for tofu, the maple mustard sauce takes the spotlight for its flavor. (Rey Lopez/For the Washington Post)
By Joe Yonan Washington Post

Do you ever make a dish just for the sauce? What’s enrobed in it is almost beside the point – ideally, it’s so good, you mutter something about being willing to eat it on a shoe. Not that I would ever equate tofu with a shoe – far from it.

And in this recipe from Jean-Philippe Cyr, the tofu brings its own positive qualities to the plate: nutritious protein, of course, but also a firm exterior and creamy interior from baking. Before it goes in the oven, you coat it in a mixture of cornstarch, nutritional yeast and dried herbs, creating a flavorful shell.

But the magic is in the sauce, a sweet-tart concoction made of maple syrup and two types of mustard. A little cognac (or whiskey, brandy or wine) deepens the flavor considerably.

Eat this with something that’ll soak up that sauce. I could imagine polenta, grains or even bread, but to me the most obvious choice is the best: mashed potatoes, as chunky or smooth as you like.

Maple Mustard Tofu

Tofu gets a rich, glossy and deeply flavorful treatment thanks to the balance of maple syrup, two types of mustard and dried herbs. There’s no need to press or even pat the tofu dry, as its moisture helps the coating stick to it during baking.

Serve with mashed potatoes (sweet or white), polenta or the grain of your choice, plus steamed green beans or another crisp vegetable for a complete meal.

For the tofu:

¼ cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

½ teaspoon fine salt

One (14- to 16-ounce) block firm tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped (¼ cup; may substitute red or yellow onion)

3 tablespoons cognac (may substitute brandy, red wine or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus 2 tablespoons water)

½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the tofu: Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, nutritional yeast, sage, herbes de Provence and salt. Add the tofu cubes, drizzle with the oil, and toss to thoroughly coat. Spread the tofu on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway through, until it is lightly browned.

While the tofu is roasting, in a saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the cognac, and cook until it reduces by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the broth, maple syrup, nutritional yeast, whole-grain and Dijon mustards and pepper, stir to combine and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened and the flavors have melded, about 5 minutes.

Add the tofu to the sauce and stir to coat. Remove from the heat and divide among the bowls; serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

Storage notes: Refrigerate for up to 5 days. Freezing is not recommended.

Adapted from “The Buddhist Chef’s Vegan Comfort Cooking” by Jean-Philippe Cyr (Appetite by Random House, 2022).

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