Friday, March 11, 2011

Tempeh parmesan

A friend asked for some vegetarian/vegan recipes on Facebook, and I realized in responding that I had never recorded my recipe for tempeh parmesan. Unfortunately I don't have pictures, which would be really useful for this recipe since the only real innovation is how I cut the tempeh. I'll try to do it with a diagram, but maybe I'll plan on making this sometime next week and then doing an update with pics. Without further ado:

Tempeh Parmesan
  • One 8-oz. package soy tempeh1
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup (approx.) flour
  • 1/3 cup (approx.) Panko bread crumbs (or any bread crumbs)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Jarred tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbsp chopped Fresh basil (optional)
  • Freshly shredded parmesan (optional)
The key here is how you cut the tempeh in order to yield two rather convincing-looking "breasts". If you get it just right, then the appearance will be exactly like chicken parm, the texture will be exactly like chicken parm, and the other flavors will come through enough that you will barely notice it ain't chicken. If it looks complicated, that's only because I'm explaining it poorly; once you've done this one time, it should take you less than five minutes, tops, to carve the "breasts".

First, make a diagonal cut about a 1/3 of the way from each end of the tempeh to yield two identical right trapezoids, like so:

Next, place each trapezoid in turn flat on the cutting board, and make a lateral cut starting at the pointed end, about 1/4" or less from the cutting board, angled slightly up so that the cut finishes about halfway back through the "breast":

Round out the three corners to give it a less artificial look.

Finally, in a manner similar to the previous step, look for any sharp or artificial-looking edges that remain and trim just a teensy bit off where necessary to give it a nice rounded organic look. At this point, it's more art than craft: just do your best to "sculpt" it to look like what you think a chicken breast ought to look like. Discard the trimmings, or reserve them for a different use.

Place both "breasts" in a pot of boiling salted water for 15 minutes or so. Drain carefully -- don't accidentally break off the tips of your nicely carved "breast", as I have done on occasion! -- and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Obtain three shallow bowls and arrange them left to right, with your "breasts" to the left of them and your stove to the right. In the first bowl, thoroughly beat the egg. The second bowl gets the flour, and the third bowl gets the Panko bread crumbs. On the stovetop, pour vegetable oil in to a medium heavy-bottomed skillet until it is about 1/4" deep, and heat over medium-high heat.

When the oil is up to temp, take each "breast" in turn and dip it first in the egg using your left hand. Then, using your right hand, dip it in the flour and shake off any excess. Again using your right hand, dip it in the bread crumbs and again shake off any excess. Try to get as many bread crumbs to stick as possible. (The point of using separate hands is to avoid inadvertently breading your hands, which is gross and makes it hard to work) Place the "breast" in the pan and quickly repeat the process with the other "breast". If increasing the recipe, work in batches of two so as not to crowd the pan.

Fry in the oil until bottom side is golden-brown, about 1-3 minutes. Flip and continue to fry until other side is done, another 1-2 minutes. Remove to a plate with a paper towel on it to soak up excess oil.

Place "breasts" in a shallow baking pan, and pour sauce over the top until both are covered. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top. Place in oven and bake until sauce thickens and cheese starts to turn golden-brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, place each "breast" on a plate, and spoon any excess sauce from the pan on top. If using basil and/or parmesan, sprinkle over top just before serving.

Serves two, but can be easily increased.

1I strongly recommend against grain or flavored tempeh for this recipe, as the nutty flavor competes with the breading, tomato sauce, and cheese flavors, making it seem less "Italian". The more neutral flavor of soy tempeh is a much better fit.


  1. Sounds very tasty, if you don't want me to post all you had to do was ask me.

  2. Debby:

    As I told you, it's NOT POSSIBLE to block individual commenters with this blog service. I don't know what kind of technical problems you are having, but you really aren't generating any good will here. I DIDN'T BLOCK YOU and I wish you believed me!

  3. This service also doesn't let you edit other people's comments, or I'd turn that abomination of a comma into a period.

  4. Maybe it's just an issue with my browser... I thought you marked me as spam.... an abomination of a comma...ha ,,,,, and one more ,

    very nice phrase tho