Tag Archives: Chiles

Authentic Mapo Dofu (Tofu) Recipe, a Szechuan delight!

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Authentic Mapo Dofu (Tofu) Recipe, a Szechuan delight!

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One of my favorite Szechuan foods is Mapo Dofu. It is a peasant dish with tons of flavor and textures.It is spicy, slightly crunchy and yet cooling and smooth at the same time.  I make mine with ground pork, but you can also use beef. If you get all of your ingredients together mise en place, this cooks quickly. Start the rice cooker before you do anything. Note, there is one ingredient that you may have a hard time finding, it is fermented broad bean sauce. It is available on Amazon.com. 

There are several stories about the naming of  Mapo Tofu, but the commonly accepted myth is that this dish was created by a pock-faced old woman. She was cast out of the Sichuan capital of Chengdu due to her disfigurement. One day, a weary trader happened upon her shack and she was so delighted by the company that she scraped together her meager provisions to create this dish.

broad bean

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, divided
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 1/2 pounds silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound ground lean pork
  • 6 garlic cloves grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
  • 2 tablespoons fermented broad bean paste
  • 4 tablespoons Xiaoxing wine or sherry
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken  or beef stock
  • 1/4 cup roasted chili oil 
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallion greens
Mise en place

Mise en place

Method

  1. Heat half of sichuan peppercorns in a large wok over high heat until lightly smoking. Transfer to a mortar and pestle. Pound until finely ground and set aside.

  2. Add remaining sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil to wok. Heat over medium high heat until lightly sizzling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pick up peppercorns with a wire mesh skimmer and discard, leaving oil in pan.

  3. Combine corn starch and cold water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogenous. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add tofu. Cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander, being careful not to break up the tofu.
  4. Heat oil in wok over high heat until smoking. Add beef and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add chili-bean paste, wine, soy sauce, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Pour in corn starch mixture and cook for 30 seconds until thickened. Add tofu and carefully fold in, being careful not to break it up too much. Stir in chili oil and half of scallions and simmer for 30 seconds longer. Transfer immediately to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining scallions and toasted ground Sichuan pepper. Serve immediately with white rice.

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Big Daddy Does Pho

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Big Daddy makes a few cooking attempts to ease my busy schedule. Last night he hit a homerun. Pho (pronounced FA), the simple (yet complex) Vietnamese Street food charmed him when we lived in Hawaii. He is not one for exotic flavors, so this surprised me a bit. Since then we have been to several restaurants here in Charleston that serve Pho. He decided to make it and it was an astounding winner. We paired it with a Belgian Ale and that was a fantastic match too. We had some leftover rare beef (tri-tip) so he froze it and sliced it thinly. I usually ask for my meat on the side when ordering Pho in restaurants, I don’t like it over cooked. We have enough broth for at least two more meals.

ready for soup

Pho 

INGREDIENTS:

Soup
4 quarts beef stock (homemade is best)
1 large onion, sliced into rings
6 slices fresh ginger root or galangal if you can get it
2 small stalks of fresh lemon grass tied in a knot
1 pound sirloin tip, cut into thin slices
1 (8 ounce) packages dried rice noodles
 
Garnishes and Sauces
1/2 pound bean sprouts
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
3 fresh jalapeno peppers, sliced into thin rings
2 limes, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha (Rooster) sauce
Fish sauce
METHOD :
1. In a large soup pot, combine broth, onion, ginger, lemon grass, star anise, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
2. Arrange bean sprouts, mint, basil, and cilantro on a platter with chilies and lime.
3. Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into large soup bowls, and place raw beef on top. Ladle hot broth over noodles and top with beef. Pass garnishes and sauces.

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Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Golden Beets and Corn)

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Empanadas de Betabel 

I love roasted beets. When I was doing research for an Oaxacan Dinner Party I had on Saturday, I found saw a recipe in Susana Trilling’s great Oaxacan cookbook Seasons of My Heart.  Her recipe for Empanadas de Betabel (Empanadas with Beets) stood out to me. The recipe also incorporated fresh corn which I had also planned to use for the party. Her method was to boil the beets  I roasted mine. In her recipe the empanadas were cooked on a camal. I did them on a camal for the dinner party, but last night I had some oil in a pan because I was making enchiladas, so I fried them and I think they actually came out better fried. On the night of the party I also paired them with home made Mole Verde, last night I just squiggled on a little crema and tossed on some cilantro. I used golden beets because that is what was available grown locally. I am sure red beets would change the color of the filling significantly. These can be made with or without cheese… but I really love cheese. I added a few things to her original inspiration and lessened the cooking time for the filling.

For the filling:

 1 pound of fresh beets (I used golden because that is what was locally available)

1 medium white onion, finely chopped (I like to use red onions, but white onions are used in Mexico most of the time)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons garlic finely minced

Corn cut from 3 fresh ears of corn, about 2 cups (In a pinch you could use frozen)

¼ cup fresh roasted green chiles diced (you could use canned, but fresh is so much better)

1 teaspoon smoked salt (sea salt is fine, I make smoked salt and love the flavor)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ cup fresh epazote leaves chopped (you can substitute cilantro or parsley if you cannot find fresh epazote, but the flavor will be different)

12 ounces quesillo shredded (if you cannot find quesillo, any good white melting cheese works, such as Jack, Gouda or Manchego)

For the masa:

3 cups masa harina

2 cups chicken stock

¼ teaspoon of salt

A pinch of chili powder

METHOD FOR THE FILLING:

Wrap the beets in heavy duty foil with a few garlic cloves and drizzle on some olive oil and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, pull or cut off the skin. Then dice into ¼ inch pieces and set aside.

In an 8 inch frying pan over medium heat, fry the onions in the oil and butter till translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more. Add the corn kernels & chiles and cook for another 3-5 minutes more.  Add the seasonings, beets, salt, pepper and epazote. Cook for a few minutes just to blend flavors. Put the filling in a bowl and cool slightly till you can put the mixture in your hands.

Have the shredded cheese available in a second bowl.

METHOD FOR THE MASA:

Pre-heat a comal or griddle over medium heat

Mix the stock and seasonings into the masa. You want a soft slightly wet dough, wetter than for tortillas. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into 10 balls, slightly larger than a golf ball. Using a tortilla press, put a piece of a plastic shopping bag on the bottom of the press and then place the ball of dough and top with a second piece of plastic. Press down wiggling the handle a bit to flatten the dough. Pick the circle (looks just like a tortilla at this point) up in your hand and while cradling it fill it with about 3 tablespoons of cheese, then 2 tablespoons of the beet and corn filling. Seal the edges with water and pinch all the way around.

To cook the empanadas; place on a hot comal and allow to brown on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Serve immediately or keep warm in a warming oven. I served these with green mole and crema.


Alternative;  have about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan at medium heat and fry the empanadas, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve immediately with a drizzle of crema and fresh chopped cilantro.