Tips for Flavorful Tofu Turkey

While we're used to seeing tofu in blocks and cubes, come Thanksgiving, it often takes on a distinctly birdlike shape.

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Even before 1863, when President Lincoln made it official, Americans gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving [source: Tsai]. Even then, they ate and ate. And even then, they ate turkey.

Few people are immune to the draw of centuries-old tradition. This particular one, though, poses a bit of a problem for a growing segment of the population: What's a vegetarian to do with a tradition that's a bird?

Some just start a new one. Thanksgiving corn salad and squash casserole certainly works. Others, though, are loathe to stray so far from their mother's centerpiece dish, opting instead for the next best thing: tofu, shaped sort of like a turkey.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when tofu turkey is your centerpiece is this: Tofu is not turkey. It doesn't taste like turkey, feel like turkey or smell like turkey. About the only thing the two have in common is what all foods have in common: They taste best when prepared in accordance with their particular culinary traits.

When preparing a tofu "turkey," the goal is not to imitate the bird. This will fail. The goal is to produce a vegetarian dish that is just as flavorful, tender and satisfying as turkey. And this, you can do.

Cooking great tofu is cooking great tofu, so your "turkey" will proceed through some familiar steps. Assuming your tofu came turkey-shaped, it has already been pressed, so you can skip that. Instead, you'll begin by taking advantage of one of tofu's greatest assets, the trait that makes it as versatile as it is healthy ...