Friday, July 1, 2011

Memphis-Style Dry-Rub BBQ Tofu

Memphis BBQ (including BBQ tofu) is unique for a myriad of reasons; chief among them is the dry rub we apply before the stuff makes its way to the grill. The concept seems strange, but think of it as just a dry marinade. The dry rub punches up the flavor, and for us vegetarians, keeps the tofu from sticking to the grill grates.

Making a dry rub is easy -- and there's no real rhyme or reason to it. I've been told stories of people emptying the contents of their spice cabinet into a large jar to create their "signature" rub. It sounds crazy, but I guess that works as well as any other method. My own spicy dry rub usually contains a few key ingredients in equal measure: chipotle powder, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, salt, cumin, and also some warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, brown sugar, and oregano. You should try your own mix and see what happens. I promise you that if you try it once, you will never BBQ without a dry rub again. Next thing you know, I reckon you'll be speaking in a mighty fine Southern accent, y'all!

Anyway, this is an easy recipe to make for a crowd. Just plan for one block of tofu to feed two people; you can adjust the recipe accordingly. This is wonderful and easy to eat served as a sandwich, but you can also thread 4-5 slices of tofu onto a few bamboo skewers and create fun-to-eat "ribs" that everyone will love.

BBQ Tofu:
2 blocks extra-firm tofu (drained and dried)
4 tablespoons dry rub
1-2 cups BBQ sauce*
6-8 slices smoked gouda
6-8 whole wheat buns
olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
(+ foil for grilling method)
Tofu can be tricky to grill because it sticks to the grill. A well-oiled grill plus the dry rub will help keep the tofu intact. Cut each block into 8 equal pieces and lay them flat on a sheet pan. Generously sprinkle the dry rub, salt, and pepper over the tofu slices. Turn slices over and repeat. Turn your gas grill on high; allow it to preheat for 10-15 minutes. (This is imperative. If the grill is not hot, your tofu will stick.) Using a folded paper towel and tongs, oil the grill grates just before placing the tofu on the grill. Place the tofu on the grill and leave it alone for 4 minutes. Turn the tofu using your tongs, and allow it to cook another 4 minutes. Remove tofu from the direct heat and onto the upper rack of your grill, which you have lined with foil. Reduce the heat to medium. Using a basting brush, brush both sides of tofu with BBQ sauce. Add sauce every 10 minutes of so until you are ready to serve.
Assemble the sandwiches by placing two (or three) tofu squares on a bun along with a slice of smoked gouda cheese. Top that with some purple cabbage slaw.

Smoky BBQ Sauce:
1/2 stick butter
1 large sweet onion (coarsely chopped)
6 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 large dried anaheim pepper (stem & seeds removed)
4 chipotle peppers
1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
2 ounces of mustard
2 ounces Jack Daniels whiskey
a few dashes of vegetarian worcestershire sauce
a few dashes of vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoky paprika
12 ounces of water
Melt butter in a pot and add the onion. Cook over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and the peppers and cook for a few minutes to marry the flavors. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend until mixture is smooth and return the pot to the stovetop. Simmer uncovered for an hour or until the mixture has reduced by 1/4. This will keep for a week in your fridge -- or just freeze it. Make this recipe your own by adding ripe peaches or espresso powder or chocolate to deepen the flavor -- I really never make mine the same way twice.

Purple Cabbage Slaw:
1 head of red cabbage (finely shredded)
2 carrots (finely shredded)
3 scallions (chopped)
1/2 lemon (juiced)
1/4 cup vegan mayo
1 tablespoon of olive oil
squeeze of honey
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. If you like it a little sour, add more lemon. If you like it sweet, add more honey.


Lauren said...

Thank you for the grilling tips! I made a similar dry-rub last weekend but it was my first time grilling tofu - let's just say my belly was sad to see so many tofu casualties. I can't wait to try it your way!

Unknown said...

I have tried many many times to make this type of barbecued tofu and it never seems to work. Your tips and recipe are a much needed help. Can't wait to try this out.

Jesse @ Happy Go Lucky Vegan said...

Now that's an awesome recipe! It's great for summer - and I can't wait to bring my BBQ dry rubbed tofu to the next family picnic. Sa-weet!

Deere Driver said...

Well it took me all this time, but we just got a gas grill(a hand me down no less) and this was the first recipe I tried. Just the tofu part with the dry rub, following your grilling instructions all the way. I let three slices go un-sauced and just did soy on them. Loved that too.