I created this recipe after watching the second episode of the first season of Atlanta. I’ve never had lemon pepper wings, but when Darius and Paper Boi drooled over the light emanating from their chicken-filled box, it was clear that I needed to see what all the hype was about. After an afternoon of testing, while bumpin’ OutKast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, I landed on a marinade that combines tangy lemon juice, bright lemon zest, and pungent black pepper. Instead of creating a recipe for ranch dressing, which is typically served alongside wings, I blended the marinade with silken tofu to give it depth and creaminess. I finished the dish with a hit of earthy-floral white pepper and more lemon zest. This for all my people grinding and hustling in ATL, the Bluff City, MIA, North Cakalak, and the Big Easy. As Andre 3000 said at the Source Awards in 1995, “It’s like this though, I’m tired of them closed-minded folks. It’s like we got a demo tape but don’t nobody want to hear it, but it’s like this: the South got something to say! That’s all I got to say.”
1 cup silken tofu
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed
Freshly ground white pepper
In a blender, combine the tofu, 1 tablespoon of the lemon zest, the olive oil, water, rice vinegar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the black pepper and puree until smooth, adding more lemon juice if necessary until the mixture is runny. Pour into a shallow dish, using a rubber spatula to scrape out all the sauce. Set aside.
Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons salt and the asparagus and blanch for 30 seconds to brighten the color. Using tongs, remove the asparagus from the pot and quickly plunge it into the ice water. Let cool for 5 minutes. Drain the asparagus, pat dry with a clean kitchen towel, and transfer to the shallow dish with the dressing. Toss well and set aside for 1 hour.
Heat a grill to high.
Grill the asparagus, turning with tongs to ensure even cooking, until tender and blistered in spots, 3 to 5 minutes.
To serve, place the asparagus on a serving plate, drizzle with the lemon-pepper sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Season with salt and white pepper to taste, then serve.