I’ve been pretty good about sticking to the Weekday Vegetarian plan ever since issuing the official decree in our house back in October. What’s been surprising is that the girls have been great too, even though I have all sorts of plans in place (including a bag of drumsticks frozen individually in their marinade) to supplement their meals when I know they just can’t face another tofu- or bean-centric dinner. I’m convinced having a no-brainer fall-back plan is what has made this undertaking sustainable. It reminds me of the way I became a regular runner — it didn’t happen because I forced myself to run every day. That would have lasted precisely one week. Instead I deliberately set the bar low — every other day — so I could only be the hero in my own story. That was 25 years ago and here I am, still racking up the miles on Strava. Slowly, but still.
Here’s an A+ flexitarian dinner that I’ve called on a few times, loosely inspired by a sandwich I ate at Portland’s Eventide a few months ago. Three of the four of us are fine with a version where the smoky, golden-fried block of tofu gets a pickley-soy-sauce hit from the slaw. I mean, when I really think about it, it boggles my mind that anyone could not be fine with that. But what can you do? Instead of giving up on the whole thing, I just pan-fry a chicken thigh for the tofu-hater. I know it’s two separate dinners and that the meat-eater is eating a decidedly different meal from the non-meat eaters, but the front-end work is exactly the same, so it doesn’t actually feel like a defeat. And if it’s not defeat, it’s most definitely victory.
Smoky Tofu (or Chicken) Sandwiches with Nori Slaw and Spicy Mayo
Last time I made them, I served with bok choy (drizzled with ginger-scallion sauce) and skillet fried potatoes.
1 teaspoon Sriracha
3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, whisked
¼ cup flour, salted and peppered
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1 15-ounce block firm tofu, pressed and sliced horizontally and about ¼ inch thickness into 4 pieces; OR 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or any combination of the two)
2 cups Asian Slaw (I essentially made the slaw from this recipe, replacing the Napa cabbage with red, and crumbling a sheet of nori into the whole thing)
4 potato rolls
In a small bowl, mix together mayo and Sriracha. Set aside.
Prepare you dredging stations: On one plate, mix together panko, paprika, mustard powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper. On second plate, add flour, and third plate add eggs.
Add oil to a deep skillet set over medium-high heat. Dredge chicken or tofu pieces first in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs, and add to skillet. Cook until golden and crispy, about 4 minutes per side (tofu) and 5 minutes per side (chicken).
While chicken is cooking, toast buns and spread one side with spicy mayo. Add tofu or chicken to each sandwich, top with slaw and serve.