From the monthly archives:

March 2012

Sichuan numbing peppers are fun. Took awhile to find them but worth the trek.

We ate at Peter Chang’s Sichuan Asian Grill a weekend ago and had his crispy pork belly dish. It was great. No. Really great. My son would have eaten 4 more plates despite the heat and the eventual outcome. Anyway, I was slicing up some homemade bacon and the idea hit. Rip him off!

We did with an American flair. Chunks of my pecan smoked bacon replaced the raw belly. And I doubled down on the greens and added a splash soy sauce and fish sauce.

There are no pictures.  My son’s hand went into the bowl almost before I got the meat out of the oil. Then neighborhood kids hanging with Matt jumped in and at 4:00 on a Sunday afternoon, food is food.

Not as hot as I would have liked,  but it was really good. And, I must point out that this is a fantastic accompaniment to a beer. Let me also point out that I have no idea of what I am doing. I have eaten real Sichuan twice so I am just making this up.

Here is what you need:

1 Bunch green onions sliced up like 1 inch match sticks.
1 hand full cilantro coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
8 ounces good quality bacon sliced 1/4 inch thick (raw pork belly)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cayenne pepper sliced into thin rings
3 tablespoons  wild pepper corns – (This could be hard. So substitute any hot peppers that you have. Try to find the Sichuan numbing peppers, they are less hot than they just numb your mouth.)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch.


Here is what you need to do:

Heat a pan on medium and add the wild peppercorns
Keep the peppers moving in the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
Save 1/4 teaspoon.
Add them to a mortar and pestle and grind them up.
Mix the peppers with the ground cayenne, black pepper and corn starch.

Heat the oil in a wok or a high sided heavy sauce pan on medium high to about 360 degrees.
(Look here for more info about deep-frying)

Prep the vegetables and  toss with the fish sauce and soy sauce.
set aside.

Slice the bacon into 3/4 strips  so you end up with pieces that are 3/4″ x 1 1/2″  x 1/4.”
Coat them with the ground pepper mixture.

Deep fry them until they start to brown – about 4 minutes.
Add the fresh red pepper for the last-minute.

Remove to bowl with the onions and cilantro.
Add the save wild peppers.
Mix and serve.

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Just in case anyone ever wondered, I do cook from cookbooks, sometimes. I am just really bad at following directions. And  I am really bad at following directions. Did I mention that? Actually if I were not able to compartmentalize my arrogance about how to cook, I would probably have had a verbal disagreement with the cookbook. Which is a very good book. Anyway, this ability keeps me from appearing absolutely crazy. Not to mention that it has also saved my marriage on more than a few occasions.

OK, so here is my problem. The recipe is fine as a nice middle of the road dish that is as bland as possible. And if this is all you serve your children, all they will eat is in most cases, is nothing. I hear parents complain all the time that Billy won’t eat anything. Well that is because it tastes like @#$%. Or worse. Even that @#$% has a taste. And this is how you trained them.

When kids come to my house and eat it’s really confusing. For their parents. I would say that about 90% of the kids that come here  eat what they are given. Their parents are shocked!

It does taste good, but I don’t think that that is the real reason. First, my kids are really happy to eat and that really compels a great attitude in the guest kids. Second, I let them taste and try along the way. And finally the house smells good. There is nothing so compelling as smelling something great cooking and having to wait.

Kids will eat. Just give them something good.

Now back to the recipe. Here is Nigella’s version. I really like the concept and the recipe. Combined with an ending about adding and exploring with your kids, this would rock.

So to that end, instead of writing my “version,” I’ll just tell you how I changed it. As my brother always points out, making changes based upon available ingredients or whims, works out pretty well. For a veggi version, leave out the salami and dice 1/2 pound of mushroom and sauté off instead of the salami.

So, I doubled the recipe  to 1 lb. of pasta. Not sure that Matt would have left anything for us with the original recipe. I started with a very hot peppered salami. Added 1/2 onion diced and 4 cloves of garlic. Then I skipped the 1/2 can of water and added a cup of wine. I also added 1/2 a can of tomato paste. And a big sprig of fresh rosemary and 3 bay leaves.And since I am becoming a blind idiot, I added a can of chick peas instead of the white beans. Depending upon your  salami, you may need to add salt. And if you don’t have peppered salami, add 1 tablespoon pepper. Yes, ONE whole tablespoon.

One thing to know about Nigella’s recipes, they do strive to be nutritional. Pasta and beans creates the most absorbable and efficient protein. If you are trying to lose weight , food can only help within reason. Exercise is key or REALLY change your diet.  A vegetarian lifestyle, will really make a difference over a few months.

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