Chicken Too Pricey? Cook Tofu

Rachel Tepper Paley
July 10, 2014

Photo credit: Martina Schindler/Food52

Nobody panic, but the world’s largest chicken breeder recently came forward with a startling revelation: Up to a quarter of all birds raised for slaughter in the United States are being sired by a breed of rooster plagued by a genetic problem that affects its fertility. Translation: There’s less chicken to go around, and prices are going up as a result.

It’s a troubling development, and not solely because we love a fiery chipotle chili-flecked chicken tinga. Beef and pork prices are on the rise, too, which makes one’s supermarket protein decisions all the more difficult. 

One alternative protein to investigate: tofu, the soy milk–based product that in the Western world was once considered strictly the provenance of hippies and health food advocates. After a few decades inching its way into the American appetite, tofu seems to have finally gone fully mainstream.

A recent study led by Cornell University researchers found that millennial women are big fans of the vegetarian protein—and not because it’s healthy or sustainable. ”Millennials are much more likely to eat tofu if you simply tell them ‘It cooks like chicken, but doesn’t spoil,’ than if you lecture them about its nutritional value,” said the study’s lead researcher, Brian Wansink, according to a press release. “It’s quick to cook and it’s filling.”

If that sounds like something you’d say, pick up a pound of silken tofu for tonight’s dinner. This recipe from Food52 calls for folding cubes of soft bean curd into a fragrant mixture of sautéed shallots, garlic, peanut butter, fish sauce, and chili.

One can’t quite say “It tastes like chicken!” but this is the sort of recipe that’s just as satisfying.

Silken Comfort Tofu
From Food52
Serves 2

1 tablespoon peanut oil, Chinese if possible
2 shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Chinese chili-garlic sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 pound silken tofu, cubed
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup basil chiffonade, use Thai basil if possible
chili oil for drizzling

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet and saute shallots until golden. Add sliced garlic and sizzle briefly. Add chili-garlic sauce and fry until fragrant. Add fish sauce and sizzle until nearly evaporated. Stir in peanut butter, so mixture forms a rough paste. Whisk in hot water (and sugar, if using) - the consistency of the mixture should be between a thick sauce and a loose paste.

Gently stir in the tofu, trying to keep cubes intact as much as possible, Stir in green onions, cilantro, and basil and heat through. Drizzle with chili oil and serve with brown or basmati rice.