Sichuan peppercorns add a pleasant buzz to these blistered green beans
Memorial Day weekend is here, and if you're not already planning to grill burgers and brats, here's another suggestion from our friends (yes, friends) in California: Blistered green beans and Sichuan pork belly from a Los Angeles restaurant called Manhattan Beach Post.
Sure, Texans have plenty of favorites for summertime parties — brisket, potato salad and deviled eggs come to mind — but it's nice to try out new dishes from time to time when entertaining guests or simply cooking for yourself at home.
For this recipe, note that you'll need to salt the pork belly overnight, but then the dish comes together easily with fresh green beans and a sweet-spicy sauce that benefits from the floral heat of Sichuan peppercorns, which you can find at many supermarkets in the spice or bulk section.
They are quite different than black peppercorns and often have a slightly numbing effect on the tongue, and they'll add a lingering buzz to your holiday gathering. You could skip the pork belly and turn this dish into a side to bring to a potluck, too. Try with other vegetables, including summer squash and corn, if you're craving the heat but don't want green beans.
Blistered Green Beans and Sichuan Pork Belly
The pork needs to cure in a dry rub overnight, so plan ahead. But once the pork has been cured and cooked, you can have this on the table in less time than it takes to cook the rice, which makes it a weeknight favorite. Serve with rice and cold beer. If you happen to have access to Sichuan peppercorns, add a few to the soy-chile sauce. They lend an almost floral note that will hover mysteriously in the background.
— Aleksandra Crapanzano
8 ounces skinless pork belly
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
12 ounces green beans, trimmed
Juice from 1 lime
8 fresh Thai basil leaves
For the soy-chile sauce:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 Thai chile, minced
1 (5-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted peanuts, crushed
2 teaspoons white or black sesame seeds
Rub the pork belly on all sides with the salt and sugar. Refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 12 and up to 24 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash off the dry marinade and pat the pork dry with paper towels. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Roast for 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. The pork may be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
While the pork roasts, prepare the soy-chile sauce. In a small pot, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, Thai chile, ginger and garlic. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together the water and cornstarch in a small bowl to create a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the sauce, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cook, continuing to whisk, until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add the green beans and cook until the skin begins to blister and the beans begin to wilt. Add the roasted pork belly and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat, then add the lime juice, Thai basil, and soy-chile sauce and toss together. Garnish with radishes, crushed peanuts, and sesame seeds. Serve.
— Adapted from a recipe by Manhattan Beach Post chef David LeFevre in "EAT. COOK. L.A.: Recipes from the City of Angels" by Aleksandra Crapanzano (Ten Speed Press, $30)