Wow, it’s been a while since I did a cooking post. Not because I haven’t been cooking; I cook almost every day. It’s just not stuff I feel is worth sharing. This dish, though, is different. It’s a vegetarian version of steak au poivre, or steak with pepper, and it’s delicious. Start with a block of extra firm tofu. and slice it in half through the middle so that you have two thin squares. If it’s really moist and soft, put it between some paper towels and put a weight on it to press out as much moisture as possible. This little extra step with make a big difference when it comes time to cook.
When the tofu is nice and dry, sprinkle on a liberal dose of kosher salt and lots of black pepper. Make sure you get both side, and pat the seasoning in to make sure it really sticks to the tofu. A bunch of it will come off in the cooking, but don’t worry too much about that. Heat up a mixture of olive oil and butter in a non-stick pan, and wait until it gets really hot. Place the tofu into it; it should be so hot you hear it sizzle when it hits the oil. Let it sit for a while, and it will develop a nice crust on the bottom. When it’s good and crusty you can flip it over.
Here’s the tricky part. As it cooks on the second side, use a spoon to lift some of the oil/butter onto the cooked side. This will help it continue to cook and develop an even better crust. There’s a fancy French word for this technique but I can’t remember what it is. When the second side is cooked, remove the tofu from the pan. Add a little bit more butter, and some creme fraiche (if you’ve got it). Let that melt down and you’ve got a sauce.
For a side dish I would highly recommend this simple kale and crispy mushroom dish. Start with chopped mushrooms — I used shiitake, but you can use anything you like. Fry them in olive oil with salt and pepper until they are brown and crispy. This might take a while, but let them go until they are really crisp. Then add a few handfuls of chopped kale. Season the kale, and let it cook for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it all together. Add a dash of red or white wine vinegar, let that cook for a minute, then add a little water and let that cook for a minute. That last bit of water is just to help the kale soften a bit. Anyway, when there’s no more liquid left at the bottom of the pan the kale is ready to serve (though you should check it for seasoning, just in case).
As you can see, I sliced the tofu and draped it attractively over the kale, then topped it with the sauce. The acidity of the vinegar in the kale is a nice foil to the richness of the butter on the tofu. It’s a great combination, especially when a bit of the sauce drips down into the kale and you can eat it all together. I know it seems like a lot of steps, but if you cook both dishes simultaneously it shouldn’t take more than half an hour. I recommend two tofu steaks per person.