The Food Mill Saved My Ass
I thought I would experiment with our dinner. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes bad.
Recently while reading Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook by Ellen Shrecker, we decided that we should try Szechwan pepper corns.
Actually, it’s try again. Years ago we bought some but didn’t use them much: Didn’t like them? Forgot about them? I can’t really remember.
In any case last night I braised some pork butt chops with as many vegetables as we had in the fridge; tomatoes, peppers, onion, fennel bulb, mushrooms, garlic and then added fennel seed and thyme for seasoning. Salt and pepper of course. The idea was that I was going to use our new food mill for the first time to make a smooth suace. When it was all braised up and ready to go it tasted pretty good too. Until….
Until I thought I’d bump it up and try a little of something new.
Following Mrs. Chiang instructions for Szechwan pepper, I roasted a small amount, then pounded it all in a pestle and mortar and added to the braise. I tasted it. Euch! Mistake! It didn’t work. Not at all. The Szechwan pepper took over what was a really nice delicate flavour. My ass is grass!
Okay what now?
I had always planned on using the food mill anyway so I turned to it for help and milled the braise using the medium mill. Panic! Didn’t work!
Last ditch! This time I used the fine mill which catches more of the solids in the braise. You know what? It really worked. Tasting again I found very little of the strong taste of the Szechwan pepper.
Relief! Saved my ass. Sauce was rich, smooth and velvety and really good. Food mill heaven.
About Szechwan pepper. I’ll definitely try them again in something more traditional. I love Szechwan food but I’ve never noticed the pepper in anything I’ve tasted in restaurants. Next time I make one of our favorite recipes; pork and peanuts, I’ll remember to use some. Mrs. Chiang says that because they numb the tongue (they really do) they enhance the hot and fiery flavours of many Szechwan recipes.
Next time we decided to make pork and peanuts, I really want to switch and try
the Grand Duke’s Chicken With Peanuts (gongbao jiding) in Mrs. Chiang’s CookBook. Mrs. Chiang calls for fresh peanuts and is quite adamant about it:
The peanuts for this dish must be fresh; neither roasted nor salted ones will do.
We’ve always used salted roasted peanuts in our pork and peanuts and felt certain that there could be zero improvement. But my sister is as adamant as Ellen Schrecker and Mrs. Chiang and says that we MUST use raw peanuts.
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