November 26, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving: tofu turkey or TG part 1

I altered our family tradition this year and made a tofu turkey instead of a stuffed seitan, and I thought I'd do a little step-by-step photo story as I made the dish. I really love when bloggers show the progress of a complex creation. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people, though I seriously tried. The camera was in the kitchen, but my mind was preoccupied, and I only got so far. The recipe on which I based my tofu turkey is here. (I made my own version of stuffing.)

Before getting to the tofu, I started the day with a nod to the season and made a cranberry smoothie. It also had banana, frozen blueberries, frozen mango, a tablespoon of frozen OJ concentrate, lucuma powder (thanks, Ricki!) and almond milk. It was so pretty and delicious that I think frozen cranberries may become a regular smoothie ingredient. Suitably fortified, I moved on to the tofu business.

The following takes place the day before Thanksgiving.

Since pressing the tofu seemed key to getting the texture right, I first pressed my tofu for a few hours in my Japanese pickle press. The tofu was the fresh stuff from a Vietnamese tofu shop, and seemed quite firm, but I was amazed to see how much water came out of it, so I'm glad I took this extra step. Fresh tofu is much more flavorful than the supermarket variety, and I wanted my concoction to taste really good, but any extra-firm water-pack tofu would be fine.

After pressing, the tofu got puréed in a food processor. (I tried the VitaMix first, but that was too gross, and removing the tofu from the blender jar was horrible.) Next the seasonings were added. I used hickory smoked salt in the seasoning mix, not broth powder. In addition to the herbs in the recipe, I added some light yeast flavoring that I'd previously made from this recipe from Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner.* (She used to make and sell the Now and Zen Unturkey, which I've never actually tried, but the light yeast seasoning is very handy, and you might want to make some!)

The next step was to line a colander with cheesecloth, and pack the tofu into the colander, covering the top with the overhanging cheesecloth. A plate got placed on top of the cheesecloth and a weight was placed on the plate; in this case two boxes of veggie stock were placed on their sides atop the plate. This is where the communications between my brain and the camera broke down, and no further illustrative photos were taken. The tofu-packed colander was placed on a plate and went into the fridge overnight.

The following takes place on Thanksgiving day.
I made a stuffing with wild rice, brown basmati rice, toasted walnuts, onions, garlic, ginger, fresh sage and lots of baby bella mushrooms, all cooked to perfection in my trusty wok. Once the stuffing was made and cooled, the cheesecloth over the top of the tofu was pulled aside, and tofu was scooped out, leaving a rim of 1 to 2 inches. The resulting hole was filled with stuffing, and the tofu I had removed was smoothed over the top, forming a solid covering. (Still in the colander.) The next part was a little scary, but it worked perfectly.

To cook, the stuffed tofu was inverted onto a baking pan, and the cheesecloth-covered blob miraculously fell out without breaking. I carefully removed the cheesecloth and basted the mound, placed it into the oven, and removed and basted many times until it was done. In the end, I had to turn the oven up to 450˚F for about 20 minutes to crisp it up.

Voila! It emerged looking quite nice. I had planned to surround it with roasted veggies but miscalculated the amount of space it would take up on the serving platter, so settled for some parsley and a few tomatoes.

Here's a view of the inside. The recipe said it served six, but I knew that couldn't be right since five pieces of tofu were involved. In fact, we had lots of leftovers to send home with guests, and even though we ate it again last night, we STILL have leftovers. Next year: smaller tofu turkey or more guests!

In my next post, I'll show you what we actually had for our meal. Hope everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving, had a lovely time.

*Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner is the author of Japanese Cooking: Contemporary and Traditional, which I reviewed here. She is also the author of The New Now and Zen Epicure: Gourmet Vegan Recipes for the Enlightened Palate, and she writes a cooking blog called, The Vegan Manifesto.


  1. I have never seen anything quite like that Andrea. It looks great!

  2. Wow, that's so impressive! It looks great, too. 5 packages of tofu really is a lot but I guess Thanksgiving usually means go big, eh? The stuffing sounds great too. Can't wait for part II!!

  3. That looks so delicious, and much lighter than a big heavy hunk o' seitan. And, hey, if you don't want to eat the leftovers as is, they would be perfect to just mash up and make into "meatballs" and freeze for another day ;-) But somehow I doubt you'll have to resort to that. I'm relieved your camera's working again!

  4. Jacqueline,
    I've never seen anything quite like this, either. It was pretty good, but I'm not sure if it will appear again next year or not. :)

    I think there is only so much tofu one can eat in a meal. We ate it again tonight, and there's still some left. It just won't go away. That and the pumpkin pie, which actually tasted much better today than on Thursday.

    I'm not sure I'd call it light, but it was good. I'd like to try making it with a yuba crust. Thanks for the meatball suggestion — maybe I'll do that tomorrow, 'cause yes, there's still some left. The camera's good — just had to replace the battery in my brain.

  5. This is incredible; you made your very own roast (cruelty-free) beast!

  6. Wow, that's impressive! I'll bet it was really tasty! We missed you at our house....maybe another year...

  7. I have been eying that recipe for the tofu turkey for a while--I am glad to know it turns out well. Maybe I will actually give it a try now!


  8. Abby,
    That's one way to look at it, though I didn't try to make it look like a beast. It was round. Maybe next year I'll try rolled up eggplant!

    Missed you, too. I hope we can have TG together some time. Maybe you can come visit!

    Nice to see your name again! I liked the tofu but didn't LOVE it. I have to think a bit about how to season it to make it more interesting. Maybe you can improve upon it. It looked very impressive, though!

  9. What a beautiful tofu turkey! (And so glad it's "tofu turkey" and not "tofurkey"). And if you're looking for extra guests to help polish it off. . ahem! Meee! Meeeee! :D

  10. wow that looks nice, something I think omnivores (who appreciate tofu) would even like. I may have to try it although I don't eat tofu much. it looks gluten-free from what you posted too!

  11. Ricky,
    You know you're always welcome at our table!

    We had one omnivore at our table and she liked it more than I did! Can't speak for omnivore tofu-haters, though. :) It was gluten-free. In fact, everything I made except one thing was gluten-free.

  12. Your smoothie sounds perfect to get started with.
    The tofu turkey sounds great! I'm going to have to make this next year. I think I'll try to half the recipe though since I'm sure I'll be the only one eating it. :o) It sounds and looks so good. I may just have to try this before next year. ;)

  13. This was the first time I've tried cranberries in a smoothie, but I think they are going to be a regular addition. As for the tofu turkey, I'm already beginning to think up variations and improvements — all theoretical at this point.

  14. Ok Andrea, now I really need your pickler. If I can make awesome tofu, I should be able to pickle so that I can make the perfect banh mi. What brand is yours?

  15. I have no idea — it's so old it probably doesn't exist anymore. In fact, I'm kind of worried it has bad things in the plastic, and I've considered replacing it, but none of the ones I've seen say anything about what's not in the plastic. It may be #4 which is OK, since it has a 4 in a circle on the bottom. It says "made in Japan" but everything else is in Japanese. Any Asian market will have one. But why not just use the tofu press, it's the same thing, just smaller. At least try it to see if you like making pickles. If you end up with a block of pickles the size of a block of tofu, that should be enough for several sandwiches.

  16. Gotcha! Banh mis await...


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