Jerk Tofu Sliders with Grilled Mango-Habanero Salsa
So now that I've ventured to the dark side and brought the likes of tofu to these hallowed grounds—and surprisingly didn't hate it—I'm digging in and going deeper. It's not that I'm in a position that I'd choose the tofu over almost anything else, but it is a new medium for me, and with a growing number of friends who apparently have never heard of the food chain, tofu provides a blank slate that I can apply past successes to. In a way, tofu is a lot like chicken in that respect, and so it's apt that my first recipe was for "barbecue" tofu, and now my second is for jerk tofu.
I've actually had a hankering to make a jerk marinade recently—it was one of the earlier recipes I worked on and haven't made it in years. The sauce is a complex mixture of herbs and spices with as many habanero peppers thrown in as you can handle. Also, while it is ingredient heavy, it's also quick to put together since everything just gets tossed into a blender and puréed.
Luckily my first go-round cooking tofu led to some great results, so I was confident that if I just duplicated the process, I'd be on the path to a good recipe. It started with picking the correct tofu, of which, the extra-firm variety is ideally suited in texture to withstand the abuse from the high heat of the grill. I did cut my tofu up into smaller pieces this time though to account for using slider rolls instead of full-size hamburger buns. Out of the package, the tofu has a fair amount of water packed into it, so to help ensure the exterior got ideally crisp, I squeezed the tofu dry with paper towels as a first step.
I then placed all of the prepped slices into a Ziploc bag and poured in the jerk marinade. The porous tofu felt like it had the potential to pick up more of the flavor from the marinade than meat does, so I let mine sit in the fridge overnight in hopes that might make a difference in the end. The jerk marinade is so flavor packed though that I bet just an hour would be sufficient.
I decide to also revive another past recipe in these sliders as well, pairing the spicy jerk tofu with a bright and fresh grilled mango salsa. To make this, I grilled mango slices, red onions, and a habanero until all were nicely charred.
I then diced those up and added them to a bowl with tomatoes, red bell pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. This created a fruity salsa that had a nice hit of heat and contrasting crisp and tender bits and along with a background grilled flavor that made it really delicious and unique.
Next I started grilling the tofu over indirect high heat—where all the charcoal is on one side of the grill and the food is placed on the opposite side. This let the tofu cook more gently, but still provided enough heat to dry out and get the exterior a little crunchy.
Once lightly brown, I moved the tofu over to the hot side of the grill, where it picked up attractive grill marks and that light crunch gained a little extra crispness. In the last minute of cooking, I spooned on some additional marinade to add some fresh jerk flavor to the cooked tofu.
Once the tofu was done, I then quickly toasted the rolls, which I also think adds a nice touch to the finished product that's worth the extra minute or two of work.
So I know this is the "Meatwave," and trying to convince you all a second time to try the tofu may be pushing it, but really, you need to try this. The nondescript palette that is tofu made the earthy, herbal, and spicy flavors of the jerk marinade really shine. Add on top of that the mango salsa that complimented the jerk sauce really well, and this was one tasty bite I can endorse. I do feel like that I can't keep going on this tofu trend because it's so formulaic—take a recipe I previously did and sub tofu for meat—and also repetitive to the non-meat eaters who deserve my full creativity. So while the will probably equate to not seeing another tofu recipe for awhile, do expect more exciting and delicious items that make no qualms or compromises for being devoid of animal.
Jerk Tofu Sliders with Grilled Mango-Habanero Salsa
- Yield 6-8 servings
- Prep 40 Minutes
- Inactive 1 Hour
- Cook 20 Minutes
- Total 2 Hours
- For the Tofu
- 4 to 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, stemmed and seeded
- 4 scallions, white and green parts, lightly chopped
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 6 medium cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1 tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, rinsed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick 2-inch squares
- For the Salsa
- 1 almost ripe mango, peeled and cored
- 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch rounds and skewered horizontally
- 1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
- 2 roma tomatoes, cored and finely diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, cored and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 16 slider rolls
- To make the tofu: Place peppers, scallions, dark dark brown sugar, ginger, thyme, garlic, oil, lime juice, soy sauce, lime zest, allspice, black pepper, and nutmeg is the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until smooth.
- Line a work surface or sheet pan with paper towels. Lay tofu slices in a single layer on paper towel and lay another layer of paper on top. Press gently on tofu to squeeze out excess moisture. Transfer tofu to a Ziploc bag, pour in marinade, and toss to distribute. Place bag in refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour to overnight.
- To make the salsa: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place mango, onions, and pepper on the grill. Cook mango until grill marks develop, 2-3 minutes per side. Cook onions until charred and slightly softened, 4-5 minutes per side. Cook pepper until lightly blistered and charred all over, 3-5 minutes total. Remove all to cutting board and let sit until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes. Finely dice mango and onions and transfer to a medium bowl. Stem, seed, and finely diced pepper and transfer to bowl with mango and onion. Add in tomatoes, red pepper, cilantro, and lime juice and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.
- Place tofu on cool side of grill, cover, and cook for 7 minutes. Reserve marinade. Flip tofu, cover, and continue cooking until tofu has lightly browned, about 7 minutes more. Move tofu to hot side of grill and cook until lightly charred and crisp, 1-2 minutes per side. Brush tofu with reserved marinade and transfer to a cutting board or plate.
- Place rolls on grill, cut side down, and cook until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Transfer rolls to a serving platter, place 1 tofu slice in each bun, top with mango salsa, and serve immediately.