Monday, February 3, 2014

Twice-Cooked Pork with Bean Curd Sheets

When I first smelled the rich, slightly sweet aroma of the Black Garlic I received from The Spice House, I was instantly reminded of a rich beef dish my mother used to make. It had chunks of slowly braised, tender beef and luscious bundles of bean curd sheets, all enveloped in a dark, silky sauce, with hints of five-spice and soy sauce. While my mother didn't use Black Garlic, I felt that this umami-packed ingredient would enhance this flavorful and delicious dish quite well. Bean curd sheets are soybean-based “sticks” actually lifted from the surface of heated soy milk, and dried. They have a wonderfully meaty quality and toothsome texture. The sheets absorb the flavors of whatever it is cooked with, so it is a perfect ingredient for soups and braises. Here, I chose pork shoulder as the meat, and created a bracing liquid in which to braise the meat and bean curd. While one could easily eat this dish after the initial braising, I chose to pan fry the meat and bean curd sheets afterwards, adding another dimension of browned, rich flavor and texture. Reducing the braising liquid further intensifies its flavor, and the finishing pat of butter solidifies a truly decadent, delicious sauce.

Twice-Cooked Pork with Bean Curd Sheets
by Gary

1 package (6-ounce size) dried bean curd sheets or sticks
Water to cover
2 pounds bone-in pork country style ribs, or thick bone-in pork loin steaks
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
2 teaspoons cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon Szechwan peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 piece (1/2-inch size) fresh ginger, peeled
2 whole Chile de Arbol, broken in half
3 cloves The Spice House Black Garlic, mashed
Vegetable oil
4 white or shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 pat unsalted butter
3 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Prepare bean curd sheets by carefully breaking into 4-6” segments. Soak in enough water to cover, from two to four hours, until sheets are re-hydrated and pliable.

Season pork with salt and pepper to taste. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat. Brown pork evenly, turning as needed. Add chicken stock, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, five spice powder, peppercorns, pepper, ginger, chiles, and black garlic. Return to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, meat should be barely tender. Skim most of the fat from surface. Drain bean curd sheets. Add drained sheets to pot, turning gently to combine. Cover and continue to simmer gently until pork and bean curd sheets are tender, about 45 minutes to one hour. Do not overcook; sheets should still retain their shape and not be falling apart.

Carefully drain and remove bean curd sheets and pork from pot to a platter. Strain cooking liquid, discarding solids (including bones). Defat cooking liquid if necessary, and return to pot. Simmer over medium heat until reduced slightly and thickened. Check seasonings.

In a large nonstick skillet or pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Carefully add a single layer of pork and bean curd sheets to the pan. Scatter mushrooms around pan. Pan fry until browned on one side, then turn over. Be careful not to tear the bean curd sheets; they will release when browned. Repeat, adding more oil as needed, until pork and bean curd sheets are all pan fried and nicely browned, and mushrooms are cooked through. Remove all to a platter.

To serve: Swirl butter into sauce just before serving. Stir until melted. Spoon sauce over pork and bean curd sheets; garnish with chopped green onions. Serve at once with rice and a fresh green vegetable.

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