A month or so ago, Red and I were at a hipster-ish restaurant-bar here in town. It’s the kind of place you go for the atmosphere, I guess, if the atmosphere you’re after is waiting an hour for your food and being ignored by ironically bearded waiters and waitresses who don’t brush their hair. There’s a massive moose head hung on one wall, and no matter where I sit, I can still see it. Kitschy Western stuff is everywhere and the menus are made from old record sleeves. They do have vegan food, though. And garlic fries that are pretty much the only reason we go there at all.
Anyway, we were there for some friends’ going-away party. Here’s where it gets interesting: sometime during the course of the evening, someone ordered the Buffalo Tofu appetizer.
I was skeptical, as I don’t really go for super-spicy things. But my non-veg friends raved about it and practically forced a piece into my mouth. After which I said:
“Sweet fancy Moses, I must learn how to make that!”
So, this past weekend, that’s what I did. Armed with a 19-oz block of Trader Joe’s extra firm tofu and this recipe from All Hail Seitan!, I got to work. The tofu had been frozen, so it had a chewier, spongier texture that maybe helped it soak up more of the batter. At any rate, the batter was the easy part. I’m iffy about deep-frying or even semi-deep-frying things, as it’s pretty terrible for you and all that oil is just a disaster waiting to happen. (Come see the Jesus-shaped olive oil stain on our carpet if you don’t believe me.) But, when in the land of greasy, buffalo-sauce-coated party food….
The frying commenced. All was going well, too—the tofu bites were crisping up nicely, and I set them on a wire baking rack to drain onto paper towels. La di dah. Then, I tried to flip a cube of tofu, it stuck to another cube, scalding oil flew everywhere, and I dashed for the sink to run my arm under cold water. I don’t even think I had time to yelp, it happened so quickly. Now, anyone who’s ever done any cooking has been burned at least a little by spitting oil. It just happens. It’s not a big deal. This was, to quote Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal.
I didn’t think it was a problem at first. I washed my hand and arm off, figured out pretty quickly where the oil had landed, then enlisted Red to help finish frying the tofu. Once it was drained, we didn’t bother with All Hail Seitan!’s fancy buffalo sauce recipe—we just doused the tofu in Frank’s Buffalo Sauce and chowed down. Let me tell you, it was good. A little vinegary for me, but that can easily be fixed next time. Red declared it definitely as good as buffalo chicken wings. See for yourself:
What was not good was the way my hand looked. I had three small burns across my knuckles, but they hurt like holy hell and I was afraid they’d blister. Oil had also gotten on my thumb and forearm, but not as badly. We had to go to the grocery store anyway (I love MOM’s! have I told you that?!), so I pitifully presented myself and my sore hand to the coolest health-and-body-care department manager ever, Ellie. I told you about Ellie here, but she is so nice and always helps me find what I need. I told her I thought I needed arnica gel, but she gently corrected me and hooked me up with calendula gel instead. I slathered that stuff on the second it was paid for. It felt even better after an hour in the fridge, you better believe it. Once we were home and the groceries safely stowed away from Lucy, I took a nap. (What, you’re surprised?) It took me a few minutes to find a sleeping position that was comfortable for my hand, but I did it.
Long story short, my hand is on the mend. It did blister, which was kind of gross, so I wrapped it up for a couple days. This proved to be a great sympathy-getter from my coworkers, at least until I told them I had the stigmata. It looks rather like I’ve been in a bare-knuckle fight. It’s slowly progressing from hurting to itching, which is a good sign. The burn on my thumb is almost completely gone, and the ones on my arm didn’t even blister. I think I’ll live. I also think I’ll let Red do the frying next time.