Sometimes I get stuck. I season and cook my dishes the same way every night, which, lets face it, leads to boredom. When it’s dark and cold outside on our long winter nights, boredom is a very bad thing. Enter, Sichuan, specifically hot, spicy, mouth numbing awesomeness that is hot chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. I have a real fondness for this combination, particularly when used in comfort food as it keeps me both soothed and engaged, like reading a fantastic thriller novel on a Saturday afternoon.
Don’t freakout when you see the amount of chilis and peppercorns. The result is spicy, but not a punch in the face. If you must tone down the kick, use half the chilis and Sichuan peppercorns. (But my way is better! No judgement.) Sichuan peppercorns are usually available in upscale retailers, co-op spice sections and online, like at Penzeys, where I ordered mine. So are the Tien Tsin Chinese chilis, which have a clean, bright, sharp flavor that exits quickly (unlike other slow-burn chilis.) But any medium heat chili will do here.
The rest of this stew is fairly straightforward, nothing you haven’t done before. The grass-fed beef (here sourced from a local farmer) works very well here, adding a more beef-forward flavor and mineral quality to the meat. Most of the work is upfront, followed by a long, slow braise. Serve this with rice, noodles and a heaping serving of crunchy salad fixings, like fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, cabbage and other shredded veggies.