Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ma Po Doufo

This Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market you can look forward to the following offerings from Sweetwater Farm and Fair Valley Farm:
  • lots of peppers both sweet (Anthohi Romanian, Carmen, Italia, Numex Joe Parker, and anaheim) and spicy (long red cayenne, Czech black, jalapeno, serrano)
  • peaches and plums (bake a plum cake)
  • many kinds of tomatoes, including plenty of romas (cook up tomato sauce)
  • lettuce and lots of greens (top with salmon cakes in honor of Julia's birthday)
  • eggplants, zucchini, and summer squash (make ratatouille)
  • green and yellow beans (make a school spirit salad
  • cucumbers (garnish a rice noodle salad)
  • a variety of new potatoes (fry potato wedges)
  • fennel and fresh herbs, including basil and parsley
  • beets, carrots, and cabbage (make a crunchy slaw)
  • broccoli, cauliflower, and possibly sweet corn
  • garlic, scallions, onions, and possibly ginger 
  • tomato sauce and pesto
  • homemade jams
  • fresh eggs
  • Scottish oats (try this oatmeal with teff and flaxseeds)
  • a selection of dried beans and grains from Camas Country Mill
  • pastured chicken
  • pastured pork: bacon, ground pork, pork chops, shoulder roasts, ham roasts, spare ribs, and the best sausage for hash
  • pastured lamb: ground, stew meat, leg roast, rib chops, loin chops

This week past we feasted on Fair Valley Farm's fresh ground pork and Sweetwater Farm's hot peppers, fresh garlic, and scallions in my husband's specialty dish Ma po doufu. I've asked Eric to do another guest post to share his recipe.

This is Eric again, with one of my favorite dishes. Ma po doufu (or "pock-marked Grandma's tofu") is easy to make, and yet is a delight of contrasting textures and tastes. It is also remarkably resilient to subtractions and additions, so go for it even if you lack some of the ingredients. The only key is sichuan peppercorns, which impart the numbing heat that gives this its defining flavor. 

Ma Po Doufo
1 pound ground pork (the more authentic style would be less than 1/2 pound but since we had a pound of this tasty pork, I used it all)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (coat the bottom of pan or wok, swirl)
2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorn, ground with mortar and pestle (also can be found in stores as dried prickly ash)
3 cloves garlic, chopped 
1-2 inch cube of ginger, chopped
1 hot pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1 block soft tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I'm a stickler for soft tofu, as regular or firm tofu doesn't give the same contrast in texture)
2 scallions, green part chopped

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon low salt soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup rice wine
2 teaspoons low salt soy sauce
2 teaspoons black bean chili sauce (also fermented black bean, broad bean chili sauce, red bean sauce are good to include)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon corn starch to thicken if desired

Cooking ma po doufu can go quickly, but the overall strategy is to bring the heat up to very high and then reduce the heat as you add the different parts. 15 minutes later it is all done!

1. Marinate the pork in a bowl while you chop and prepare the other ingredients.

2. Then, heat a large wok or pan (I often use a large paella pan). As it is heating, toast some Sichuan peppercorns in the pan until they start to smoke.

3. Remove most (but not all) of the peppercorn, and add oil. The oil will get infused with the leftover peppercorn. When the oil is hot, put in the ground pork. I usually let it sit for a minute to get the crispy edges of pork that provide a nice contrast to the soft tofu. Once the bottom side is browned, start breaking up the pork and stirring it around so it cooks through. Once the pork starts cooking, it is time to start rice going so it will be cooked when the ma po doufo is done.

4. When most of the pork is cooked and a noticeable fraction has browned, crispy edges, add the garlic, ginger and hot pepper. Stir. Once I start stirring I reduce the heat to medium so the garlic doesn't burn and the pork doesn't overcook.

5. Once the garlic starts to soften, add rice wine, soy sauce, chili bean sauce and/or paste, a little sesame oil and most of the toasted sichuan peppercorn. The sauce should start to gently simmer, at which point reduce the heat a bit more.

6. Add the soft tofu. You want to retain the integrity of the tofu, but also give it a chance to soak up all the flavors in the dish, so stir it and coat it with sauce gently with a motion similar to folding in egg whites. Simmer for a few minutes. Sometimes I'll push aside the ingredients and stir in (slowly) a teaspoon of corn starch to thicken the sauce.

7. As it simmers, add the sliced green onion greens. Serve over rice and sprinkle extra sichuan peppercorn as desired. Eat with a strong IPA to drink.

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