Jerk is Jamaican barbecue, and like American barbecue, it is both a dish and a method of cooking. Typically done with chicken or pork that is marinated in an incendiary paste of Scotch bonnet peppers and a litany of spices, it is a way of life in Jamaica, sold in fine restaurants as well as at roadside stands from one end of the island to the other. Here, it is slathered on tofu. The initial step of pressing water from the tofu before it is marinated is essential; if skipped, the sodium in the jerk paste will draw the moisture out of the tofu, which will dilute the paste and soften its punch.

TIMING
Soak wood chips: 1 hour
Prep and press: 30 minutes (plus 15 minutes for paste)
Marinate: 2 to 6 hours
Grill: 30 minutes.

BBQ TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
- 1 cup wood chips, preferably hickory or oak, if using a gas or charcoal grill
- Smoker box or foil packet, if using a gas grill
- Long-handled spatula
- Long-handled basting brush.

GETTING CREATIVE
- Use chicken parts or pork chops instead of the tofu. Smoke as directed, and then brown over the heated part of the grill until the juices run almost clear and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F for chicken or 155°F for pork.
- For a more traditional smoke aroma, use allspice wood (called pimento in Jamaica) instead of hickory or oak for the fire. A fruit wood such as apple also works well.

KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS
What Is Tofu?
The process of making tofu is similar to that of making soft cheese. But the “milk” comes from soybeans instead of from cows. First, soybeans are soaked, ground, boiled, and mashed to extract their milky liquid. A coagulant (usually calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride) is added to separate the soymilk into curds and whey. Then the curds are drained and pressed into blocks of tofu, also known as bean curd or Chinese tofu.
Depending on how much whey is pressed out, tofu can be made into soft, firm, or extra-firm textures. Extra-firm tofu works best on the grill because it doesn’t fall apart on the grill grates. Look for extra-firm tofu packed in tubs of water in grocery store produce sections.
It might seem odd to grill something akin to cheese, but cooks in Asia have been grilling tofu for centuries. The porous texture of tofu makes it especially good at absorbing flavorful marinades and smoky aromas from burning wood. For the best texture, use the firmest tofu you can find, press out the excess water under a heavy weight, and then marinate or rub it with a spice mixture. It also helps to smoke the tofu for 15 to 20 minutes over indirect heat to draw out excess moisture and infuse the aroma of smoke into the tofu. Then move the tofu over direct heat and baste with a sauce as it cooks. The flavor of tofu is very mild, so bring on the bold-flavored marinades, and sauces.
You might also see another type of tofu packaged in a small aseptic box. Known as silken tofu or Japanese tofu, this creamy-textured tofu is made by using thicker soymilk that is carefully strained but not pressed as densely as regular tofu. Silken tofu can be used like yogurt or sour cream to make creamy soups, dips, sauces, and dressings. But its soft texture doesn’t hold up well on the grill. For live-fire cooking, stick with extra-firm tofu.

THE GRILL
Gas: Indirect heat, medium-high (375° to 400°F)
Clean, oiled grate on lowest setting
Charcoal:
Indirect heat, light ash
Split charcoal bed (about 2 dozen coals per side)
Clean, oiled grate on lowest setting
Wood:
Indirect heat, light ash
Split bed of coals (1 inch deep per side)
Clean, oiled grate set 3 inches above the fire.

INGREDIENTS (MAKES 4 SERVINGS)
2 pounds extra-firm tofu
2 cups Jerk Wet Paste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil.

DIRECTIONS
1. Cut each 1-pound block of tofu in half through the side to make 2 thick slabs (for a total of 4 slabs). Press the slabs under a heavy weight for 30 minutes.
2. Spread a layer of the jerk paste over the bottom of a shallow 4-quart baking dish. Put the tofu over the paste and spread the remaining paste evenly over the top and sides. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours.
3. Soak the wood chips in cold water for 1 hour.
4. Heat the grill as directed. If using a gas grill, put the wood chips in the smoker box or in a perforated foil packet.
5. When ready to grill, if using a gas grill, turn off the middle burner(s). If your gas grill has only 2 burners, turn off one side. If using a charcoal grill, drain the wood chips and scatter them over the coals. If using a wood grill, spread the coals to opposite sides of the grill for indirect heat.
6. Put the tofu over the unheated part of the grill. Cover and smoke for 20 minutes.
7. Using a basting brush, mix the oil into the jerk paste remaining in the baking dish.
8. Move the tofu over the heated part of the grill and cook until the underside is nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip with a spatula and baste the top side with the jerk paste. Cook until nicely browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes.
9. Cut each slab on the diagonal into 2 triangles per serving. Serve warm.

   

This entry was posted on Friday, November 2nd, 2012 at 4:12 pm and is filed under Mastering Vegetables And Other Sides BBQ And Grilling Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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