Monday, October 8, 2018

Chinese chili chez Huang


Whenever the husband gets into a funk, I find that a really easy way to snap him out of it is to feed him. Just about anything will do, but something homey from his childhood will actually make him bounce downstairs. Today’s recipe is one such remedy.

However, we’ve been together for an eternity by now, and so I’ve put my own stamp on his mom’s classics. Here, for example, I use good old Mexican pinto beans because I’m a California girl. And a smattering of ground chiles. And he loves it. And he loves it even more if I serve this with cornbread, which also was not ever on his mother’s To Do list.

Cross-cultural pollination at work. You’re welcome.

This is super easy to throw together if you soak the beans the night before. And you always want to soak your beans overnight because their texture is so much better that way.

In fact, if you are rather unused to cooking with dried beans, here are some suggestions for getting an incredible meal out of an ingredient that is usually pretty cheap, very nutritious, and mind-blowingly good:

Barely cooked pinto beans
First, get fresh beans. Yes, they are dried, but they can’t be old. Old beans never soften up completely, no matter how hard you try, and so end up with the wrong texture and never taste marvelous. So, buy your beans from a busy market and use them up quickly. Then, whenever you clean out your cupboards and run across some old beans, turn them into pie weights or give them to some kids to turn into an art project… anything but cook with
them.

New-crop dried beans will turn soft and creamy when
treated with care, and their cooking time will also be very short. Pinto beans are particularly silky in this dish precisely because they are so fresh, were soaked overnight, and then briefly simmered with a spoonful of baking soda, which helps to cut down on the gassiness. At least, this works for me, and I’m not going to argue about it.

Second, boil them only until they are tender, but not yet soft, for they will need to retain enough character to put up with further cooking once they join the pork, onions, and broth.

Lots of garlic
And finally, don’t add salt until the very end, when they have already achieved the right degree of tenderness, because salt will toughen them up.

If you do these three things, you’ll find that beans are a delight and will end up cooking them a whole lot more often.

Chinese chili chez Huang
Huángjiā dùn dòuzi  黃家燉豆子
Northern Chinese with a twist
Serves 6

About 1 pound | 500 g new harvest dried beans, pinto recommended
Water, as needed
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 head garlic, each clove peeled and lightly smacked
About 1 pound | 500 g ground pork, best quality you can find
½ cup | 125 ml mild rice wine (Taiwan Mijiu)
5 tablespoons regular soy sauce
1 quart | 1 liter lightly salted broth or water
1 piece of rock sugar. about the size of a ping-pong ball | 30 g
1 tablespoon ground chiles of any kind, plus more to taste
Browning adds great flavor

1. Start this at least a day before you plan to
serve this. Pick over the beans, place in a large work bowl, cover with cool
tap water, and soak overnight.

2. The next day, drain the beans, place them in a large pan (at least 1 gallon | 4 liters in size), and cover with water. You want this large size because the beans will foam up as they come to a boil, and the high walls will help keep your stove from becoming an ungodly mess. Sprinkle in the baking soda, but do not add salt. Bring the pan to a full boil, lower it to a gentle simmer, and skim off the foam if it threatens to escape. Simmer the beans only until they are tender, around 10 minutes. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander.

3. Set a wok over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the onions gently for a few minutes before adding the whole garlic cloves. Cook these only until translucent, and then make a nest in the bottom of the wok. Break the pork into this nest and fry the pork until it has lost all pink color. Toss the onions and pork together and continue to fry and toss these until they turn golden. 
A sprinkle of chile powder

4. Pour in the rice wine, and after a few minutes add
the soy sauce, stock or water, rock sugar, and ground chiles. Bring this to a full boil, and then lower the heat and simmer these together for around 30 minutes. 



5. Add the cooked beans, simmer for about 10 minutes, and then adjust the seasoning as desired. When the beans are soft and creamy, remove the wok from the heat. Let the chili sit for a couple of hours
or overnight to allow the beans to absorb the flavor. Reheat before serving. This is great over rice or with cornbread, and it freezes very well.

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