Course 1: Tofu misozuke cured 80 days, Maldon

After watching Enrique Olvera make 800-day mole at Pujol on Chef's Table, I was inspired to serve a dish that required a very long period of time to prepare, which I think presents an additional degree of "wow" factor normally associated with restaurant dining. I asked around online and was pointed to tofu misozuke, which is a very unusual "fermented" tofu preparation. Essentially, a block of tofu is cured in a miso mixture for many weeks until it softens considerably to a spreadable cheese-like texture, and picks up a nice flavor from the cure. The folks at Rau Om have kindly published a recipe online distilled from 18th-century manuscripts and other less accessible sources. I added red pepper flakes to my curing mixture to try and impart some extra flavor, and served it on a small cheese board with crackers and some Maldon salt for guests to serve themselves; it makes for a fun play on crackers and cheese to start the meal.

I've served this twice; the first aged a month and a half, and the second aged just under three months. I found there's a magical inflection point somewhere in between those two times; after a month and a half the tofu can be spread and has a pleasant subtle flavor, but the three-month tofu takes on a much, much creamier texture and deeper flavor. I recommend aging at least two months, but in fact you may be able to go for much longer periods without any significant food safety risks. Make sure to keep the container very dry, change the paper towels often, and use your sight, smell, and good judgement when evaluating food safety!

Ingredients

1 16-oz package firm tofu

1 cup white miso

2 Tbsp sake

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp red pepper flakes

Cheesecloth

Directions

  1. Depending on how long you want to cure the tofu, begin prep one to three months before you plan to serve. The tofu will become more creamy and flavorful the longer you cure it.
  2. Wrap the tofu block in paper towels and press it between weighed-down sheet pans for 1 hour to expel excess moisture.
  3. Combine all ingredients except tofu in a mixing bowl and stir well to make the miso mixture.
  4. Cut the tofu block in half, and wrap each half tightly in a double layer of cheesecloth.
  5. Evenly divide and spread the miso mixture on all sides of the tofu blocks.
  6. Line a tupperware with a double layer of paper towels, and place the tofu blocks on top.
  7. Let the tofu cure in your fridge for at least 4 weeks and up to 8 weeks or more, changing the paper towels at least once a week. Carefully monitor for signs of mold and excess moisture - the paper towels will be wet when you change them, but the tofu block should not appear wet or give off any strong odors. When changing the paper towels, make sure the container is very dry before re-packing the tofu.
  8. After the curing period has elapsed, unwrap the tofu and remove any trace cheesecloth fibers or curing mixture.
  9. Serve like a cheese with crackers and a small pinch of Maldon salt or other flake salt - the salt will add a nice hint of crunch and really bring out the flavors.

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