The Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate aired an All American-themed episode the other night, which included Chef Michael Symon, among other chefs, describing some of their favorite dishes in this category. Chef Symon talked about a concoction created by his stepson, which was a hotdog laced with chunky peanut butter, sriracha and a jalepeno pickle relish. As he was describing the dish, I thought about how these components could translate into a balanced sauce and came up with the recipe below. For this dish, I froze, defrosted and pressed the tofu before marinating it in peanut oil. If you haven't tried freezing tofu before, it's a great method to try out, although it's a little time consuming. Freezing and defrosting tofu gives it a unique dense and chewy texture and, in this recipe, perfectly compliments this viscous, spicy and nutty sauce.
for the marinade:
1/3 cup peanut oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB grated ginger
for the sauce:
1/2 cup mirin
1 TB rice vinegar
2 TB sriracha
1/2 TB sesame oil
1/2 TB agave
1 TB chunky peanut butter
1/4 tsp xantham gum or 1 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 2 TB water
for the dish:
1 block tofu
6 oz. bella mushrooms, quartered
2 shallots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, crushed
3 scallions, green portion only, cut on the bias
Cut the tofu into 4 slabs, then cut each slab in half twice to create dice-sized tofu cubes. Line in a single layer in a glass pyrex dish and place into the freezer for at least 4 hours. Remove it from the freezer, tipping it over to gently remove the tofu. Let it defrost slighty for about a half an hour and then press it for an hour.
In the same pyrex dish, whisk the peanut oil with the soy sauce and ginger. Place the tofu into the marinade, flipping over as needed to ensure coverage. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours.
To make the sauce, place the first four marinade ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it begins to slightly bubble, add the agave and peanut butter and whisk until well combined. Whisk in the xantham gum or cornstarch slurry. Turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally.
Heat some of the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and saute on each side for about two minutes, or until well-browned. Remove from the skillet and place aside in a bowl. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, using a bit more peanut oil as needed until slightly browned, about 7 minutes. Remove from the skillet and add it to the bowl with the tofu. Lower the heat to medium and saute the shallots in a small amount of peanut oil for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic to the skillet and saute for a minute more. Remove from the skillet.
Throw the peanuts into the skillet (don't add any extra oil at this point) and toast for about two minutes, making sure they do not scorch. Remove from the skillet into separate small bowl.
To serve, add all of the skillet components into serving bowls. Top with the sauce, toasted peanuts, sesame seeds and scallion tops.