Tofu and mushrooms seem to work their way into a whole lot of vegetarian main course options. They're hearty, have a certain heft to them in terms of texture and flavor profile, and they match perfectly with a variety of herbs, spices, vinegars, sauces, etc. When I first started gravitating toward plant-based fare, I noticed that main course recipes called for both mushrooms and tofu constantly. Additionally, all of the restaurants I was finding myself at turned to these ingredients for vegetarian options.
Only one problem, really. I hated tofu and mushrooms.
I tried to like tofu. The texture was always forcing me to first chew ever so slightly, let it sit on my tongue with a sense of dread, then follow all of that up with a quick swallow to get it over with. It was not an exercise in pleasurable eating and this shamed me, completely.
The same went for mushrooms. Why were they so horribly rubbery, demanding endless chewing? Frustrated because I had never imagined myself as a picky eater, I naturally turned to the kitchen for answers.
I quickly learned that the methods and types of heat applied to these two ingredients is tremendously important. The introduction of cooking liquids proved tantamount to enjoyment as well. In simple sautés of mushrooms, I love to introduce a bit of soy sauce, some kind of vinegar and a splash of stock or wine at the end (in addition to whatever other herbs/spices/flavor agents I'm using). It brings out an umami, meaty quality that I adore. The same goes for tofu. Add as much flavor as possible and choose either a very high heat method (i.e. frying) or something a bit slower like the gentle, almost-poaching, as in the little papillote parcels in this recipe.
All of the strong flavors in these packets makes for some delicious main course fare, vegetarian or not. The rosemary lends woodsy notes, while the miso brings the salty element and the balsamic vinegar rounds it all out with a sweet-tart depth. The mushrooms and tofu bathe in that stew of flavors for a while and release the most delicious steam upon opening when you're ready to serve. Get ready for some mighty fine (and healthy) fall comfort food.
Please note, I describe the folding method of the parcels in the style of 'en papillote.' This isn't totally necessary. You could just bunch the ingredients into some sealed foil packets with similar effect.
You will need:
2 large sheets of parchment paper, cut in half; or 4 pieces of aluminum foil
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini and shiitake)
4 ounces organic firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 tsp. miso
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs of thyme (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the parchment paper: Take one sheet of parchment (about the size of a full sheet tray), fold it in half and cut out the shape of half a heart so that when you unfold the paper, the cut-out is heart-shaped. Repeat with the other pieces.
Combine the sliced mushrooms, tofu, garlic, rosemary, miso, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl and toss until mushrooms and tofu are evenly coated in the vinegar and oil.
Place one side of the heart-shaped paper on a baking sheet. Place a quarter of the mushroom and tofu mixture onto the paper, towards the crease and trying to keep it as compact as possible. Place a thyme sprig on top, if desired. Fold the edge of the paper toward you tightly, starting at the top curve of the heart. After the first fold, take the next inch or so and fold it towards you again, overlapping the previous fold a little bit. Continue this process until you’ve sealed up the whole pocket.
If you are using aluminum foil, just place a quarter of the mushroom and tofu mixture in the middle of each sheet and bring the edges up towards the middle, bunching the foil together at the top to form a seal.
Repeat the sealing process with remaining pockets/mushroom and tofu mixture. Place pockets on a baking sheet and put into the oven for 20 minutes. The packets should be quite puffed up. Snip them open with scissors carefully and serve.