Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dan Dan Mian

An easy, delicious Sichuan noodle dish. The base recipe came from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, but I've modified it pretty heavily.

~ 1/3 of a pound of dried Chinese flour noodles
1 T vegetable oil
handful of dried chiles, broken in half and seeds discarded
3-4 T Ya cai or Tianjin Preserved vegetable (typically found in a ceramic pot), well rinsed to reduce salt if using Tianjin preserved vegetable
1/4 lb ground beef
2 t soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 c mild pickled vegetables (optional, I use some that's a mix of mustard, day lily and cow pea greens)

Sauce
1.5 t freshly roasted and ground Sichuan pepper
4 T chile oil (preferably homemade, with chile flakes for more heat), substitute part of the chile oil out for vegetable oil for less heat
2.5-3 T tahini or Chinese sesame paste
2 T soy sauce
2 T dark soy sauce
salt to taste

Heat the oil and sear the chiles, then add in the Tianjin preserved vegetable and the pickled vegetables and saute till fragrant. Add in the ground beef and soy sauce and brown. When the beef is browned, add the green onion.

While that's browning, mix the sauce ingredients together; the sesame paste should emulsify the soy sauce and the chile oil together. Boil the noodles according to the package instructions.

When the noodles and the beef are done, drain the noodles and add to the beef in the wok, then apply the sauce. You may not need all of the sauce, so add some and toss the noodles, then taste before adding more. For the noodles I use I typically use most or all of the sauce.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pastirma

It's getting cooler, which means this is the time to start curing meat, and this one is a rich, spicy, delicious cured beef common among many of the countries that made up the Ottoman empire. It originated in Armenia and is very common in Turkey though I was originally introduced to it by an Egyptian roommate in undergrad. It can also be called basturma or any one of a number of others depending on country.

A roughly 2 lb piece of beef like inside round. You want it to be fairly lean and with the grain of the meat running along the axis of the meat; you could use something like tenderloin if you want to shell out the money, but you don't want something thin like brisket. See note 1.
Salt for curing, you're looking for about a ten to one mix of kosher salt to pink salt* (see note 2)

Seasoning:
4 T red pepper powder (a mix of paprika and cayenne to taste)
1/2 t salt
1-2 t black pepper, ground
1/2 T cumin
3 T methi (fenugreek) seeds, ground
1 t allspice, ground
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

Note one: this is a piece of meat that's going to hang at close to room temperature for a month, and likely won't be cooked, so get the good stuff. Don't just get stuff from the supermarket, but find yourself a good butcher and get to know them so you know you're getting quality meat.

Note two: You'll occasionally hear stuff about how nitrites aren't safe (and pink
salt is 6.25% sodium nitrite), but in small quantities it's just fine and occurs naturally in food we eat. More importantly, it inhibits the growth of botulism. I don't do any curing outside of short cures in the fridge without nitrite, and I wouldn't do any multi-month cures without nitrate.

* Trim the meat, then thoroughly coat the meat with the curing salt. Put in a dish and cover with plastic wrap before weighting down and refrigerating for 3-4 days. Turn the meat once a day, and when the time is up it should be fairly solid to the touch.
* When done, rinse the meat, soak it for 20-30 minutes, then thoroughly dry it.
* Run a piece of string through a corner of the meat, then hang it up to dry in a cool place (60 F, ~60% humidity) for two weeks. Check it regularly, and if any white or green mold is starting, scrub the whole time down with white vinegar. If black mold forms, or if the mold recurs, pitch the whole thing. Some recipes call for wrapping in cheese cloth, but that's just asking for mold.
* After those two weeks, mix the seasoning together with enough water to make a thick paste, then rub it all over the meat. Hang it to dry for another two weeks.
* At this point you're ready to eat, just slice it thinly and chow down (yeah, the dried seasoning mix will crumble off, but it's imparted its flavor); alternatively, sauteing some up in a skillet then scrambling some eggs with it would be a traditional use.