Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hui Guo Rou (Stir-fried Pork Belly with Chinese Chives)

Sliced cooked pork with other ingredients

Paste, black bean sauce and sweet bean sauce in hong you.

Hui Guo Rou

A couple of months ago (September 3, 2013) I posted a piece about Hong You, or Sichuan Red Chile Oil.  While spicy, it isn’t really a condiment by itself.  Rather, it is a key ingredient in many Sichuan dishes like Lu Rou (Triple-Cooked Spareribs with Chiles) and Mapo Tofu (Sichuan Tofu and Ground Beef in Red Chile Sauce).  You are probably familiar with Mapo Tofu as it is a staple in most Chinese restaurants.  The question is, do they use Hong You? 
I decided to make the following dish because spicy crispy pork belly sounded divine!  I also had an extra slab of pork belly from when I made bacon.  This is adapted from a recipe in Saveur (March 2013).
Hui Guo Rou (Stir-fried Pork Belly with Chinese Chives)
Ingredients:       1 ½ lbs skin-on pork belly
                                2 cups cooking oil
                                1/3 cup hong you (Sichuan red chile oil)
                                2 tablespoons douban jiang (Chinese red chile bean paste)
                                2 tablespoons dou chi (Chinese fermented black soybeans)
                                4 teaspoons tian mian jiang (Chinese sweet bean paste)
                                1 teaspoon sugar
                                10 suan miao (Chinese chives, blossoms discarded) or scallions, sliced into 1”  pieces
1.        Bring pork and 12 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan over high heat.  Reduce to medium-low heat and cover.  Cook until pork is tender when pierced with a fork, 1 – 1 ½ hours.  Transfer pork to an ice bath.  Drain and dry completely with paper towels.  Slice very thinly crosswise into ¼” pieces and set aside. 
2.       Heat cooking oil in a wok or large pot.  The same 6-qt. sauce pan may be used.  When temperature reaches 350°F, add pork slices.  Be ready with the saucepan cover as oil will splatter.  Cook the pork until slightly crisp, 5-10 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork to a bowl lined with a paper towel.  Set aside.
3.       Discard cooking oil.  Add red chile oil to wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add paste, beans, sauce and sugar.  Be ready with the pan lid as oil will splatter.  Cook, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.  Add reserved pork and chives.  Cook, stirring constantly until chives have wilted, about 3 minutes.  Serve with rice.
I cooked the pork up to step 1 then froze it as I didn’t have the other ingredients on hand.  When I finally got everything together, I thawed the pork and dried each slice with a paper towel.  Then I started cooking the rice.  The house smelled heavenly as the pork was frying!  I almost couldn’t wait.  Then the smell became pungent when I added the paste, beans and sauce.  The moment was fast approaching!  In went the pork and chives.  It only took a couple of minutes for the chives to wilt and the pork to be coated with the spicy mixture.  The rice was already waiting expectantly on the plate.  While I was turning off the heat with one hand, my other hand was spooning several pork slices onto the rice.  Then oooohhhh, mmmmm, yummmmm! 
The pork provided a satisfying crunch, the sauce was piquant, salty and a little sweet, while the rice was the perfect vehicle for the whole taste experience.   Remember what I wrote last time about Sichuan peppercorns which are present in most Sichuan food?  Compounds in Sichuan peppercorns activate the nerves in our mouth and produce a tingling sensation.  That is the ma effect.  The capsaicin in chiles then kicks in with the spiciness which is the la effect.  Thus Sichuan dishes have that one-two punch. 
Although this dish had a lot of heat I was seeking, I found it a little on the salty side.  So for those of you who are a bit sensitive to salt, cut the bean paste and fermented soy beans to 1 ½ tablespoons each.  And do keep that saucepan lid handy.  You don’t have to clamp the lid down, just lay it on the pan slightly askew.  Otherwise you’re going to have oil all over the place.  You’re going to want to eat this as soon as it is cooked, not be cleaning up a greasy mess. 
I thought it was so good I had it 2 meals in a row!  While the rest of my family was eating pork chops and mac ‘n cheese, I was savoring my Hui GuoRou!
So what is one of the most anticipated dishes you ever made?


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Steak Au Poivre

Steaks coated with ground pepper

Steaks sauteeing in butter

Flambeeing with Cognac
Steak Au Poivre

Steak au Poivre
 4 7-oz fillet steaks
2 tablespoons oil
6 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
1 ½ oz butter
3 tablespoons Cognac
¼ cup white wine
½ cup heavy cream
1.        Rub steaks on both sides with the oil and press the crushed peppercorns into the meat.  Melt the butter in a large frying pan and cook the steaks for 2-4 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness.
2.       Add the Cognac and flambé by lighting the pan with a match.  Stand back when you do this and have a pan lid in case of a flare up.  Put the steaks on a hot plate.  Add the wine to the pan and boil, stirring, for 1 minute to deglaze the pan.  Add the cream and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Season and pour over the steaks.
In 1983 my parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by taking our entire family to a fancy restaurant for dinner.  As I was enamored with the French language at the time I decided to practice by ordering the Steak au Poivre.  I don’t know whether it was the waiter’s ignorance or the background chatter going on but what I got wasn’t Steak au Poivre.  So when I saw this recipe I had to make it.  I’ve waited 30 years to taste this dish!
I thought that the steaks were merely coated with crushed/ground pepper.  I was surprised to read that they are fried in butter and flambéed.  Oh goody, another chance to flambé something!! 
Oh, it was delicious!  Frying crushed peppercorns on the meat mellowed out its spicy bite.  The steaks were tender, and the creamy sauce was velvety.  Definitely something to have again!