Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mandarin Pork with Brandy-Infused Hoisin Sauce


A few posts back, I mentioned that I used to like Susanna Foo's restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. What I did not describe was how much I had to beg and plead to get The Gastronomer to go there with me. When she finally agreed to take me for my 22nd birthday, I eagerly anticipated a wonderful meal prepared by one of America's foremost Chinese chefs. However, as we dug into our appetizers, The Gastronomer couldn't resist raining on my parade with snide comments about "Chinese food for white people" that was five times more expensive but no more delicious than food from her favorite Chinatown haunts. She apologized immediately--she had no intention of tarnishing my birthday meal, but her feelings about how wrong it all was were simply too strong to be denied.

It was fortunate, then, that we ordered the moo shu pork as one of our entrees. When its subtle, perfectly balanced flavors hit our tongues, it was clear that we were experiencing something special--a serious step up from $6 Chinese food. It was truly one of the best dishes I'd ever tasted.

Thus, when I stumbled upon the following recipe in my Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine cookbook and realized that it was essentially the same as her moo shu pork, I knew I absolutely had to give it a try. As expected, it was amazing. I served it with Susanna's scallion crepes for wrapping. A few months later, The Gastronomer and I made the recipe again using mock meat instead of pork, and it was once again excellent.

Recipe by Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine

Brandy-Infused Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups (16-ounce jar) hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken, pork, or beef stock
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over high heat, stirring, until it is golden, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.

Add the hoisin sauce and the sesame oil and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium, add the brandy and vinegar, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to keep the sauce from sticking to the pan. Add the stock and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, until the sauce is well blended and thickened.

Cool the sauce and pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. This sauce will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 month.

Mandarin Pork
  • 1/2 pound lean boneless pork loin
  • 1 small leek
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, julienned gingerroot
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and julienned
  • 3 tablespoons Brandy-Infused Hoision Sauce
  • 1 cup finely julienned jicama
  • 1/4 cup chicken or pork stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Cover the pork with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes; the semi-frozen meat will be easier to slice and julienne.

Cut off the root end of the leek, and peel off and discard the tough outer green leaves. Cut the leek into 2-inch sections. Cut each section in half lengthwise, the julienne. Wash well in cold water to remove any dirt. Drain and set aside.

Remove the pork from the freezer, cut into 1/8 inch slices, then julienne. Place the julienned pork in a shallow dish.

Combine the brandy and soy sauce in a small bowl. Pour over the pork and mix well. Sprinkle with the cornstarch, and using a fork or chopsticks, mix well to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the oil until it is hot in a large skillet or a wok. Add the pork, along with any marinade, and the gingerroot, and cook over high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and jalapeno peppers and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the hoisin sauce and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to coat the meat. Add the leek and the jicama.

Pour the stock into the skillet and cook, stirring, over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until all the ingredients are heated through and the pork is cooked. Mix in the tarragon and serve.

Yield: 4 servings
Estimated Start-to-Finish Time: Not given
Actual Start-to-Finish Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Substitutions: Susanna recommends using homemade chicken or pork stock, but it didn't seem worth it to me for this dish, so I just used store-brought chicken broth. Her dishes are labor-intensive enough as it is...

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