crispy tofu nuggets coated in a sweet, spicy, sticky sauce
My fourth anniversary working at Marley Spoon is coming up in just a few days, and it has evolved greatly since I first started there in December 2018. I was hired as a recipe developer, and spent most of my time researching recipe ideas, then writing and test cooking them. It started as a dream job, overlooking the Hudson River, working in Martha Stewart’s old test kitchen space in the Starrett-Lehigh building that made the six-hour round trip commute worthwhile. I’ve many fond memories of that kitchen, and every morning I walked in, I mentally pinched myself.
Of course it’s not a very glamorous job working as a recipe developer, contrary to what you may see of people living their best lives on social media. Yes, it’s fun and the energy of being in the kitchen with other people feeds the soul, but long days feel even longer when you’re standing over a hot stove or oven, cooking through recipe after recipe before it’s time to hang up your apron and commute back home.
I knew as I grew older, and considered career advancement, my day job would eventually take me out of the kitchen. It’s one of the reasons I love being here in this space still. Writing and developing recipes here nourishes my soul and keeps me connected to the real reason I started writing about food almost 25 years ago. The joy I feel when mixing up a batter, cooking a pot of beans, or making something more intricate like my panettone which is a days-long affair, is I think the best way to inspire people to cook.
My job has recently undergone another iteration, removing me further from the recipe process, and I find myself diving deeper back into development at home. It’s a good balance, using my brain for the higher level budgeting and planning aspects my work at Marley Spoon requires, juxtaposed with the creativity sparked by getting back to developing recipes purely for the sake of a great recipe and not one that needs to fit within a specific number of ingredients or defined character count of a recipe card.
Some months ago I came across a recipe for firecracker chicken, and I’d been thinking about wanting to create a tofu version. I finally got around to doing it a few weeks ago, and loved it so much I ended up making it three times in one week. It involves frying which can feel fussy especially when working with tofu since it tends to splatter.
A quick coating of cornstarch reduces oil sputtering significantly. The cornstarch acts as a barrier against tofu’s moisture, while also ensuring crispy nuggets of goodness. I love the fried tofu on its own before the sauce is even added, and usually leave a few plain for nibbling before adding the sauce to the skillet.
For the sauce, I opted to use maple syrup instead of sugar. You can probably use honey, too, though I’ve never tried it that way. Also, it may seem like a lot of hot sauce but that really gets tempered by the syrup. I haven’t figured out dinner plans for tonight yet, but do have two packages of tofu in the fridge, so maybe it’s time to make this dish again.
Hope the week is off to a peaceful start for everyone. Be well, and remember to be kind. –xo, j.
p.s. If you’re new here, and looking from some holiday baking inspiration, you’ll find my Christmas Cookie ebook here. It’s included, along with access to all recipes and all of my digital cookbooks, as a benefit for paid subscribers. Sign up as a paid subscriber before December 2nd, and save 20% on annual memberships for the lifetime of your subscription.