It's been a little while since I first got the idea for this recipe. In fact, it was in Paris, this past May, where I thought I'd love to try to find creative uses for Peppercorn Cream Sauce. Tim and I were enjoying a classic Parisian dinner, on an evening of our trip where we were craving a simple yet stereotypically 'Paris' dining experience. Sitting on a terrace, the patterned Parisian cafe seats, and a menu that would be as current today as it would have at any point in the last century.
As we sat with our chilled glasses of white wine, I did what I always do in those situations, I thought about what inspiration I could bring home with me. As I sat with my salad and watched Tim enjoy his steak dinner, I thought about how a tasty sauce like that would go well with other things that weren't, well, steak.
Our trip this year was a very special time for me. It was the first time I'd flown in an airplane since November of 2019, and I can tell you the experience of traveling again made a profound, and much needed, positive impact on me. I almost cried with joy the minute we got to the airport, safely passed through security, to wait to board. I'll share more on just what our 2022 France trip meant to me in the coming weeks and months, but I'll start here with this recipe, inspired by Tim's classic French Steak dinner that summer night sitting in the 6th, enjoying every moment of our last few days away.
I'm pretty happy with how this combination turned out, and I've even experimented with a vegan, cashew based version too. I've included adaptation notes below, in case you'd like to try it dairy free.
If you've been around for a while, you might notice the blog here has a slightly new look. I spent a good part of my limited free time in the last 6 months of this year working side by side with my developer friend to move all my old work here, to a new site. After years of not having time or bandwidth to post, I realized that 10 years worth of work should be honoured. I spend a good portion of my creative energy making content and recipes for Flourist, but there is always a part of me sitting over on the sidelines that craves connection outside of that too.
When I hear from you, those of you who use my recipes and have incorporated them into your daily lives and weekly meal rotations, it reminds that this stuff is valuable. Looking back through ten years of blog posts is a bit of a glimpse into my life in the last ten years as well. A small, focused time capsule. It's a time capsule that feels a bit awkward at times to read (mostly for me I am sure!), but a body of work and words that reveals a truth of our existence here: humans love and need to connect with each other. I miss connecting, and I crave it more than ever. Here's to more of that in the coming year.
Tofu with Peppercorn Cream Sauce
1 block firm tofu (400g)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt for tofu
Peppercorn Cream Sauce
1/3 cup brandy
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tsp coarsely crushed whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt
Cook the tofu
Cut the tofu into ½ inch rectangular slabs (in a typical 400g block, you should get 8 slabs). Heat the cooking oil in a skillet over high heat until smoking. Add the tofu slabs, lightly salt the top of the exposed side, and cook the first side for 3-4 minutes until it has browned a little, then flip and cook the other side for 3-4 minutes, salting the other side lightly once it's flipped over. Depending on the pan you use, the tofu may need more time, so cook each side until crispy and starting to brown. Transfer the cooked slabs to a rimmed plate, and cover loosely with foil while you make the sauce.
Make the sauce
Add the brandy into the same skillet as the tofu cooked in (be sure to remove any tofu bits with a cloth or paper towel) and let it simmer rapidly, until it has mostly reduced and you can no longer smell the alcohol (about a minute or so). Add the vegetable broth, and bring it to simmer over medium-high heat. Let the mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it reduces by about half. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the cream and cracked pepper. Stir everything together and then simmer on medium heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes until it thickens (do not let it boil fully).
To serve, transfer the cooked tofu slabs to warmed serving plates. This makes a wonderful meal served with cooked spinach and mashed potatoes. Frozen peas are also great! Spoon the sauce over just the tofu, or over everything. Serve immediately. This recipe serves two with potatoes and a cooked green vegetable.
Make it vegan
To make this recipe vegan, blend 1 cup of cashews with 1 cup of water until you have a thick cream. Slowly add another /12 cup of water to the blender, while it is running, to create a light cream consistency. This will make more cashew cream than you need, and leftovers can be used in other recipes or with breakfast or smoothies. Substitute a half cup or more of this cashew cream for the heavy cream in this recipe, and be prepared for the mixture to thicken over heat. You'll also want to add more vegetable stock (start small and work your way up!) to create a thinner consistency as the sauce cooks. Since the cashew cream will thicken, it's important to keep the heat low here and stir frequently.
A note about pepper:
You will get best results with fresh black peppercorns that have been crushed in a mortar and pestle for this recipe. If you don't have that, try freshly ground pepper before using store-bought ground pepper. This is my favourite source for peppercorns here.