Photos by Emily Caruso
Sometimes, your least favorite food turns out to be your favorite recipe ingredient. For me, that would be beer. Okay, beer isn’t a food, but you know what I’m saying. I just never managed to acquire a taste for it. I guess that’s why it took me forever to start cooking with beer. If I don’t like drinking the stuff, why on earth would I like eating it?
Surprisingly, I love cooking with beer. Once the alcohol cooks off, the bitterness transforms into a mild yeasty flavor that mingles beautifully with sweet and savory. Luckily, this beer-based recipe includes both of those elements.
While cooking with beer is relatively new to me, beer battering is brand new. Oh, I’ve eaten plenty of beer-battered fries in my life. I’m not sure why didn’t it occur to me that if beer-battered fries are delicious, other beer food must be as well. Anyhow, I’ve always avoided beer battering at home, thinking it would require deep frying, which is not an idea that appeals to me. Fat content aside, I think deep frying conjures up traumatic memories of my eight grade home ec teacher’s warnings of the dangers of grease fires. So deep frying is scary business for me. I’m happy to say I’ve successfully avoided it with this recipe. No, it’s not deep frying. Let’s call it…shallow frying.
A very generous coating of oil is what you need to take these tofu strips to crispy perfection. It’s not that much oil, even for a very special beer-battered tofu taco night, which warrants a little splurging if you ask me. The other key is slicing the tofu into thin strips, so you can get both sides nice and crispy without having to submerge them. The result is as crispy and delicious as any deep fried goodie I’ve ever tasted. Oh, and I did mention a sweet element to this recipe. That would be the mango red pepper salsa, which adds some refreshing tang from lime juice and fresh cilantro, as well as a nice red pepper crunch.
For the Mango Salsa:
- 1 ripe mango finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 scallions chopped
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or agave nectar
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Beer-Battered Tofu:
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu drained and pressed for at least 30 minutes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup ale
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup canola oil or another neutral flavor high heat vegetable oil
- 4 to 6 8-inch flour tortillas
- 1 avocado sliced
To Make the Mango Salsa:
- Toss all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
To Make the Beer-Battered Tofu:
- Slice the tofu block into 4 slabs, width-wise. Then turn each slab on its side, and slice each one into 4 thin strips. You should end up with 16 strips that are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick.
- Whisk the flour, ale and salt together in a medium bowl.
- Very generously coat the inside of a large flat-bottomed skillet with oil. The oil should be at least 1/8-inch deep. Place the skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, dip the tofu strips into the batter to coat all sides, then arrange the tofu in the skillet, leaving at least 1-inch between strips. Cook until the tofu is browned and crispy on the bottom, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until browned and crispy on the opposite side, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil. Repeat until all of the tofu strips are cooked, adding oil to the skillet as needed between batches.
To Make the Tacos:
- Place 3 or 4 tofu strips in the center of each tortilla. Top with avocado slices and salsa.