Jerk tofu wrapped in collard leaves

The method of cooking fish in banana leaves inspired this recipe. Banana leaves play the dual role of imparting a floral, sweet, and grassy flavor to the fish as well as keeping it moist. In this recipe, I am more interested in highlighting the slightly bitter-earthy taste and the chewy texture of the collard leaves themselves, along with the tofu that has been soaked in a Jamaican-inspired marinade. Check the technique: After removing the fibrous stems from the collards, I blanch the leaves to soften them a bit. After that, I wrap the leaves around the marinated tofu, adding a sprinkle of crispy garlic before closing it up. Next, I sear the collard packets in a little peanut oil, then serve them over cilantro sauce with a garnish of cilantro leaves and crushed peanuts. If you are having any doubts about the awesomeness of this dish, I will share a quote from Kate Williams, the recipe tester for this book: “My tofu-hating husband loved this, so that’s really saying something!” Use a quality extra-firm tofu like Nasoya. This dish is best eaten with a fork and knife.

Ingredients:

2 (14- to 16-ounce) blocks extra-firm tofu, pressed and patted dry

2 cups Jerk Marinade

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more as needed

16 large collard leaves, tough part of the stem removed

1 cup arrowroot powder

Peanut oil, for frying

¼ cup Garlic Chips

Cilantro Sauce

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Crushed peanuts, for garnish

Directions

Place one block of the tofu on a cutting board. Cut it in half horizontally, then cut vertically down the center to yield four pieces. Repeat with the second block of tofu.

Pour the marinade into a large baking dish, adding just enough water to ensure that it is runny, if necessary. Place the tofu in the marinade in one even layer. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight, flipping the tofu every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours. Remove the tofu from the marinade, scrape off any excess, and transfer to a large plate. Strain the marinade through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 2 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Blanch the collard leaves, one at a time, for 30 seconds each, then lay them flat on clean kitchen towels to dry.

Combine the arrowroot and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt in a pie plate. Mix well. Coat each side of the tofu pieces with the arrowroot, shake off any excess arrowroot, and transfer them to a second large plate.

Lightly coat the bottom of a large cast-iron skillet with peanut oil and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half the tofu and fry until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently flip each piece with a spatula and fry until golden brown on the second side. Lightly sprinkle both sides of the tofu with salt and transfer to a rack. Repeat to fry the remaining tofu. Wipe the skillet clean.

On a clean work surface, arrange two collard leaves lengthwise, overlapping each other by an inch or so, and place one piece of tofu in the center of the leaves. Smear 2 heaping tablespoons of the reserved marinade on top of the tofu, sprinkle a heaping teaspoon of garlic chips on top of the tofu, then fold the leaves around the tofu to create a packet. Repeat with the remaining collard leaves and tofu.

In the same skillet, warm 2 tablespoons peanut oil over medium-high heat, tilting the pan to coat it evenly with the oil. Place the packets in the skillet, folded-side up, and cook for about 1 minute. Gently flip each packet with a spatula, cover the skillet with a lid or some aluminum foil, and cook for about 5 minutes to warm through.

To serve, spread some cilantro sauce over four plates and place two of the tofu packets on each plate. Garnish with cilantro leaves and peanuts and serve.