Stir-Fried Asparagus with Tofu, Soy Sauce, Maple Syrup, and Scallions

This dish was a great balance of sweet and salty.  The flavors melded really well, and I feel like our technique for getting crispy tofu is almost perfect.  Also, we served this over rice.  This recipe comes from a modification of some Cook’s Illustrated recipes.  Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

Stir-Fry

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon water

2 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut on the bias into 1 1/2-inch pieces

3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press

2 medium scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin on the bias

Crispy Tofu

2 (14 ounce) blocks medium-firm or soft tofu (We used soft!) diced into 1-inch pieces

1 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup cornmeal

Salt and ground black pepper

3/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil

Directions

For the tofu:

  1. Spread the tofu out over several layers of paper towels and let sit to drain slightly, about 20 minutes.  Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a paper towl-lined platter on the rack, and heat the oven to 200 degrees F.  
  2. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and set aside.  Toss the cornstarch and cornmeal together in a shallow dish.  Season the tofu with salt and pepper.  Working with a few pieces of tofu at a time, coat them thoroughly with the cornstarch mixture, pressing on the coating to adhere, then transfer to the wire rack.  
  3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Carefully lay half of the tofu in the skillet and cook, turning with a spatula until crisp and golden on all sides, about 4 minutes.  (This movement is similar to stirring/folding gently, not individually crisping each side by picking it up and turning it over.)  Using a spatula, gently lift the tofu from the oil, letting any excess oil drip back into the skillet, and transfer to the prepared platter in the oven.  
  4. Repeat with the remaining tofu pieces and let them drain briefly on the prepared platter.  Keep warm in the oven.  

For the stir-fry:

  1. Mix the soy sauce, maple syrup, and water together in a small bowl.  
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, nonstick heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until almost smoking.  Add the asparagus and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Clear a space in the center of the pan , add the garlic, and drizzle with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then mix with the asparagus.  Add the appropriate amount of warmed tofu from the oven into the skillet and mix.  
  4. Add the soy sauce mixture and toss to coat the asparagus and tofu.  Cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 30 seconds.  Sprinkle with the scallions and serve immediately, over rice, if desired.