I live in Nashville, the new “it” city that has always enjoyed making fun of itself. The Nashville Scene hosts a yearly contest called You are so Nashville if…
Here are some of the best ones from 2012 and a few from way back when.
You’re so Nashville if you can’t actually identify the items in your weekly delivery of organic CSA produce. —Debbie Settles (When I moved here 14 years ago, the clerk at the grocery store couldn’t identify half of my produce. Honey, that’s eggplant).
You’re so Nashville if your 52-year-old ponytail is longer than your 22-year-old girlfriend’s. —Dave Weil (And the sad thing about that is he’s probably bald in the front. BTW, the not bald Mr. ST, a Nashville native, had the longer hair when we met.)
You’re so Nashville if the characters in your church’s Nativity scene look exactly like Fleetwood Mac. —Matt North (And you’re so Nashville because you know what a Nativity scene is).
You’re so Nashville you will eat anything, edible or not, provided it is served with Bento (and, you’re so Nashville that you know bento is bacon and not an Asian lunch box.)
You’re so Nashville if you never meant to stay here this long. —Robert Jetton (The fate of 50% of us who now live here).
You’re so Nashville if towns you’ve never heard of are going to be hit by a tornado at 6:51, 6:53 and 7:01 p.m. —Rick Hagey (If you watched the weather channel the way we Nashvillian’s do, hoping the tornado siren doesn’t go off, you would get this.)
I was challenged to cook vegan. I admit, this didn’t make me happy, at first. But now I’m so glad, because I learned a lot and I’m proud of my contribution. It made me step out of my comfort zone, and stretch myself, even if I still stayed true to my cooking viewpoint.
Hot chicken is a Nashville invention and local specialty, so why not Hot Tofu
It’s a very spicy chicken typically served with a slice of white bread and pickles, first made by Andre Prince of Prince’s Hot Chicken which is legendary, including the one hour wait, as hot chicken must be prepared fresh and is spiced right as it comes out of the deep fryer.
This year’s January edition of Food and Wine Magazine did a feature called Nashville in 10 Plates, and Hot Chicken at Hattie B’s is the first bite they mention, as there are now several “hot chicken” places around town. I’ve also heard that Bolton’s is one to try.
I did a little research to see how hot chicken was made. Marinated in buttermilk, the chicken is floured and deep fried. Lard and cayenne pepper are mixed into a paste and then rubbed onto the fried chicken while it’s still hot. Some of the hot chicken served around town is so hot, men cry.
My first hot chicken experience was from the Biscuit Love Truck and I was immediately smitten. I graduated to hot fish at Puckett’s Boat House and had to go back a week later to have it again.
Whatever fancy schmancy food comes to Nashville, people will seek out folksy food with Southern roots. Although this is vegan and it’s tofu, I’m sure that the Nashville foodies would embrace it.
Vegan Hot Tofu for the Creative Cooking Crew
Instead of lard and cayenne, I chose sriracha sauce to smear onto marinated and chicken fried tofu. While deep frying is necessary for hot chicken, I’ve seen “hot” fish served either fried, blackened or grilled and you can do the same thing with the tofu.
I loved my spicy tofu. I ate every piece I made, and thought it was equally good with the pickles or kale salad, as the important thing is pairing it with something acidic. A friend sent me some homemade sweet and spicy pickles for Christmas, which were so unusual with a crispy bite and spicy hit and just spot on as an accompaniment.
How to Best Make Tofu from a Virgin Tofu Cook
It took me three tries to get this tofu dish right. I’m just lucky enough to have a great foodie friend living next store, who happens to be Asian, and just happened to have just purchased Andrea Nguyen’s cookbook, Asian Tofu. It’s a fabulous book that, while approachable for the tofu novice, holds enough meat for foodie geek that I am. After two tofu failures, I read through Andrea Nguyen’s tips and got it right.
The surprise part was in the initial seasoning of the tofu. After cutting 3/4 inch squares of extra firm tofu, it is placed in a shallow dish followed by salted boiling water which must completely cover the tofu. After 15 minutes, the tofu is then placed on a waffle cloth (or paper towels) covered and drained of moisture.
One of my failures was trying to get bread crumbs to stick to the tofu to get a crispy, crunchy crust. Andra recommends potato starch to pan fry or deep fry tofu. I used corn starch, which worked out perfectly.
In further experimentation, I fried the tofu two ways. First, I used a cast iron pot and deep fried the tofu. This works well. The corn starch sticks to the tofu and unlike flour, doesn’t burn.
In one of the other recipes in the book, tofu is pan fried in a non-stick pan. I tried this method, still marinating and using corn starch and I was happy to discover that it tasted just as crispy and good as the deep-frying method. This is how I’ll write the recipe. It’s healthy, and the only way I’ll prepare it from now on.
Nashville Hot Tofu Sliders
In searching for the white bread for the hot tofu, I found mini rolls, called silver dollars. Thus, hot tofu, Nashville style, became Hot tofu sliders.
The proof in the worthiness of this dish is my friend’s text. I delivered this basket to her and she texted back, “delicious,” and the foodie geek in her asked me a bunch of questions as to how I executed such a great snack. We agreed that in the very near future, we are headed to one of the joints in Nashville that is famous for hot chicken.
Another way to enjoy hot tofu, Southern style, is with a kale salad and apple salad and sweet potatoes.
Please tell me if you’ve had Nashville Hot Chicken, and where you had it. My favorite place so far is Hattie B’s and I wrote about it here.
Nashville Style Hot Tofu Sliders with Spicy Pickles
- 1 block of extra firm tofu
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil may use less
- 1/2 cup corn starch (might need a little more
- sriracha approximately 1 teaspoon for each slice of tofu
- mini rolls or white bread
- pickles slices
- pickles 3 per slider
- Cut tofu into 3/4 inch slices
- Season boiling water with salt and cayenne pepper.
- Place tofu in baking dish. Pour water over tofu and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Remove tofu, place on cloth (waffle towel works well) or paper towels and drain for 15 minutes. Cover tofu on both sides, making sure to gently press out the moisture.
- Using a non-stick pan, put grapeseed oil in frying pan. Using medium heat, get pan hot. Cover tofu pieces with corn starch, only right before you pan fry or tofu will get too much moisture. Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
- Remove to plate with paper towels and immediately brush with sriracha sauce on each side.Rub sriracha onto the tofu, while it is still hot. Serve immediately.
- To make sliders, use soft mini white rolls or use white bread, cut into circles or squares, no crust.
- Serve with bread and pickles.
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