Vegan Calamari Style Tofu Steaks


This dish is a great celebration dish! And it works well for the seasoned vegan perhaps wanting to indulge for the holidays, and/or for the curious about transitioning to a plant-based life-styler who likes to experiment in the kitchen. Either way we hope you love to cook because this dish requires some skill, time and patience in the kitchen, as with all dishes created by REAL co-founder and vegan chef, Gary De Mattei, who wanted to satisfy his nostalgic craving for an old-school Italian-style seafood dish, a long-standing family favorite from his youth that his family would order at the local Italian restaurant for the Friday night “Catholic” fish dinner. Only in those days it wasn’t calamari steaks that showed up on the blue plate special— it was a heavily seasoned, breaded and fried abalone steak. Abalone was plentiful in the good old days until consumer demand for the white chewy shellfish made it close to extinct. Years later abalone became so rare and so expensive in fact that one could only find it in the expensive restaurants. What started to show up on the menus at local family restaurants instead was something known as “poor man’s abalone” which was in fact, calamari tubes split, and pounded together, and then breaded with a heavily seasoned cornmeal that was dipped in an egg batter then quick fried in hot olive oil and served with a lemon sauce made with white wine and lots of butter. The end result was a square slab of rubbery breaded shellfish drowning in a white wine and butter sauce. Here is REAL’s vegan version.

This recipe will be enough for four to six entree size portions or up to twelve appetizer size portions.

1 lb tofu (extra firm)
1 sheet nori
1 cup medium grind cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour (gluten free was used in the recipe pictured here) plus 1 Tablespoon for roux
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely ground dried lemongrass
1/4 teaspoon of finely ground pepper flakes
2 cups unsweetened nondairy milk: soy, hemp, oat or nut milk of choice
1/2 cup vegan mayo or if you are wanting to keep it as lean and mean as possible, use a 1/2 cup of unsweetened coconut or soy-based yogurt
1 Tablespoon vegan butter for “buerre blanc” and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter for roux
1 Tablespoon olive oil for breading, 2-3 Tablespoons or more olive oil for frying tofu
2 minced shallots
1 cup dry white wine (alcoholic or non-alcoholic)
2-3 cups vegetable stock
Juice of one lemon

For the steaks:
First, prep the tofu (this takes about 20 minutes)
Remove the tofu from the water and wrap in a tea towel or other clean cotton towel to absorb all of the water. This is a very important step. As much water as possible should be removed from the block of tofu before slicing. Once all of the water is removed, slice the tofu into quarter-inch steaks or as thinly as possible. One pound makes about eight steaks.

Preheat oven to 350o. Line a large oven proof sheet pan with parchment paper.

Dry Breading Mixture
Take a sheet of nori and toast it either in a medium hot over (about 350o) for 10 to 15 minutes or take a sheet with tongs and fan over a burner “marshmallow style”on low heat until it toasts. Once the nori is toasted and cooled, cut into small pieces and grind in a spice grinder until it becomes powdery. To skip this step use two teaspoons of ground seaweed known as dulse.
Mix 2 teaspoons of toasted nori, cornmeal, 1/4 cup flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, ground pepper, lemongrass, pepper flakes together in a wide dish with high sides (a glass pie dish works well).

Wet Breading Mixture
Mix the nondairy milk, vegan mayo or yogurt together in a wide dish with high sides (a glass pie dish works well).
You may add a pinch of salt and pepper (optional).

Bread the tofu steaks as described below and place them on the sheet pan.
Three-step-breading process:
1) Dip tofu steak first in the dry mixture; coat well.
2) Dip tofu steak in the wet mixture; coat well.
3) Dip again in the dry mixture; coat well. Shake off excess breading and place on the sheet pan.

Repeat this breading process with all the tofu steaks. NOTE: You may need to add more dry and wet mixtures to your breading dishes. You may also need two sheet pans depending on the size.

Over medium heat place a large heavy saute pan. Stainless steel or cast iron works best.
Add enough olive oil to line the bottom of the hot saute pan, about two to three tablespoons.
Quick fry the tofu steaks on both side until brown; about two at a time. You may need to add more olive oil.
After quick frying the “steaks” place them back on the oven proof sheet pans lined with parchment paper and place them in the medium hot oven at 350o for twenty minutes.
Remove the sheet pan, flip the steaks, and bake for another 10 minutes.
At this point the steaks will be crispy and chewy.

While the tofu steaks bake, make the sauce beurre blanc.

Beurre blanc, literally translated from French as “white butter,” traditionally is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine and shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation. REAL’s vegan version uses vegetable stock and a little vegan butter. We thicken our sauce with a roux which is a pie dough like substance that we whisk into the simmering sauce a little at a time to achieve the same effect.

To make the roux, blend together 1 Tablespoon flour with 1 Tablespoon butter.
In a small saucepan heat vegetable stock on medium heat. Cover and let simmer until needed.
In a saucepan sauté 1 Tablespoon vegan butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft. Then add wine and cook until it reduces to about a 1/4 cup. Add 2 cups vegetable stock and lemon juice.
When it comes to a boil whisk in 2 Tablespoons roux for thickening and simmer for 10 minutes adding more hot vegetable stock if it becomes too thick. NOTE: make sure the vegetable stock is as hot as the sauce mixture.

To plate, heat a large heavy saute pan over medium heat, add half the sauce to the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer, then add the steaks to the pan and saute quickly until coated with sauce.

Plate the “steaks and garnish with chopped parsley and a slice of lemon for that old school look. If the sauce becomes too thick at the bottom of the pan before adding the steaks, thin with a little more vegetable stock before adding the steaks.

If serving American-style, which is a complete meal on a plate, we suggest serving with REAL garlic mashed potatoes and REAL sautéed greens.

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