Tofu and Onions in Caramel Sauce

This came from a recent New York Times food section. It was good, but not as great as the story about it had lead me to expect. A perfectly serviceable tofu recipe, though, as long as one is patient with melting sugar. Mine seized after I added the soy sauce, so I added a tablespoon or two of water and brought the heat up. It eventually melted.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup nam pla (Asian fish sauce) or soy sauce (obviously, I used soy sauce)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 pound firm tofu, cut into chunks of 3/8 inch to 1 inch
1 tablespoon butter, optional
1 tablespoon lime juice or vinegar, or to taste
Salt if necessary
White rice for serving.

1. Put sugar and a tablespoon of water in a 10- or 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until sugar melts and browns a bit. Turn off heat, and carefully add nam pla or soy sauce. Turn heat to low, and add onion. Cook, stirring, 5 to 10 minutes, until onion is very tender. Add pepper and tofu.

2. Gently simmer, turning tofu once or twice in sauce so it is glazed and heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in butter, along with lime juice or vinegar. Taste, and add salt, more pepper or lime juice or vinegar if you like. Serve immediately over rice.

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