I’m a big fan of all things spicy. Luckily, Chris is too. Taken together, this means I don’t have to “wuss down” any of the food I’m making so long as it’s just for the two of us. And when ordering takeout, I know that I can tell the guy on the other end of the line to “make it as spicy as you can” when placing an order for chana masala or Kung Pao chicken, and I won’t hear any shrieks from anyone on my end.
Come to think of it, this should have been one of those “checklist” items I talked about the other day.
There was a bar near our alma mater, NC State (Go Wolfpack!), that we frequented quite a bit back in the day – Sammy’s. Sammy, the owner (duh), had a signature wing sauce called “Sammy Sauce”. While Sammy clearly wasn’t the most creative person around, that sauce he made was dynamite, in more ways than one. It was loaded with pepper, so much so that you saw more black than you did sauce and chicken wing.
Man, it was good, and hot too. But you had to get there before the crowd rushed in, because only Sammy made the sauce, and when the bucket was empty, that was that until another batch was made the following day. Apparently Sammy didn’t work at night.
I thought about Sammy and his sauce (and that just sounds really gross because, yes, I am immature) the second I saw this recipe in the cookbook that I still haven’t returned to my friend. The title stood out to me, and the picture confirmed my unnaturally high hope that this recipe was exactly what it purported to be: all about the pepper.
And since I love any excuse to eat crispy tofu, I figured this recipe would be pretty close to perfect. Toss in an episode of last season’s Castle, and you have yourself a trifecta.
For those of you who aren’t into tofu, don’t worry – I am certain a pound of cubed chicken breast would work perfectly here. It won’t have that satisfyingly spongy on the inside, crispy on the outside texture that crispy tofu has, but maybe that’s just my cup o’ tea, and not yours.
Either way, if you are into hot and spicy, this could be your go-to guy, no matter what protein you prefer. After all, it’s just the medium for the peppery goodness, anyway.
Black Pepper Tofu
Adapted from Plenty; serves 4
time commitment: 45 minutes
Two notes here:
1) sweet soy sauce: only the Asian grocers seem to carry this stuff, or you can buy it online. I forgot to pick it up and made my own, but if you can find it, definitely buy the real thing. To at least mimic the sweet/salty effect, bring 1/4 c brown sugar and 1/4 c regular soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan, and reduce to 1/4 c.
2) grinding the peppercorns: I started with a mortar and pestle, but couldn’t get them to the size I wanted without breaking a sweat. so I’d suggest a spice grinder so the pieces aren’t too big. You want it coarse, but edible.
2 packages extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1″x2″ chunks
canola oil, for frying
cornflour, for dusting tofu
4 T butter
12 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 serrano chile, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T fresh ginger, minced
1 c basmati rice, for serving
6 T soy sauce
4 T sweet soy sauce
2 T sugar
5 T coarsely crushed black peppercorns
16 scallions, cut into 3″ segments
pour about 1″ of oil into a wok or large skillet and warm up over med-hi heat. Meanwhile, toss the tofu in batches into the cornflour and shake off the excess. again, in batches, add tofu to wok and fry, turning over, until golden all over. once ready, transfer to paper towel-lined plate and fry the remainder of the tofu.
remove oil from pan, and wipe any crumbs away as well. melt butter in wok. add shallots, chile, garlic and ginger. saute over low to medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until ingredients are totally soft. (start cooking rice at this point, according to package directions.) then add soy sauces and sugar and stir, then add the crushed black pepper.
add tofu back to the wok to warm it in the sauce for about a minute. lastly, stir in scallions. serve over rice.