At South Beauty, a chain of modern, high-design Sichuan restaurants in Beijing, cooks simmer beef tableside in pots of boiling oil that have been lavishly seasoned with dried hot red peppers and fresh Sichuan peppercorns. The beef becomes exquisitely tender, fragrant and spicy. Susanna Foo's lovely version of the dish calls for just a fraction of the oil, which is more in keeping with American tastes.
Affordable Meat Recipes
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
10 dried red chiles
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and chopped
3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 1/2 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
How to Make It
Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and cook over moderate heat until darkened, about 4 minutes. Strain the oil into a small bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the strained oil in the saucepan. Add the chiles, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, over moderate heat until the chiles darken, about 3 minutes. Add the black beans and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining strained oil until shimmering. Season the meat with salt. Add half of the meat in a single layer and cook over high heat until browned and medium-rare, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a platter and repeat with the remaining meat. Reheat the sauce and add the scallions. Pour the sauce over the meat, scatter the cilantro leaves on top and serve.
Spicy Sichuan dishes like this one pair beautifully with Mourvèdre, a rustic Mediterranean grape with a spicy edge. Mourvèdre does surprisingly well when grown on sandy soils in some parts of California, such as Contra Costa County and the hills near Oakley.
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