Author Notes:This recipe is inspired by a cold Sichuan appetizer that I enjoy in New York City Sichuan restaurants. The NYC version of this dish features thinly shaved pieces of beef and honeycomb tripe. The meat is slick with chili oil, and garnished with cilantro and crushed peanuts. I love the flavor combination of chili oil, cilantro, and peanuts so much that I decided to adapt the recipe and replace the beef with mixed mushrooms. The texture of mixed mushrooms can mimic that of beef and tripe, making this a compelling opportunity for vegetarians and/or tripe skeptics to enjoy a combination of flavors that I often crave.
2cups vegetable stock
3/4teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
3tablespoons peanut oil (substitute canola oil or grapeseed oil if you need to)
1pound mixed mushrooms (see note)
1/4cup shaoxing rice wine (substitute sake or manzanilla sherry if you need to)
2teaspoons soy sauce
2tablespoons finely cut cilantro stems
1/4cup finely diced celery
2tablespoons chili oil
1teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1handful toasted salted peanuts, crushed
1handful roughly chopped cilantro leaves
Add the vegetable stock to a small pot set over high heat. Reduce the stock until there's 1/2 cup of liquid remaining. When the stock is reduced, set it aside.
While the stock is reducing, prepare your spices by toasting the fennel seeds and Sichuan peppercorns in a dry skillet set over medium heat. When you can smell the spices in the hot skillet, remove them to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Add the cinnamon and grind the spices until everything looks crushed and mixed together. Set the spice mixture aside.
When the stock is finished reducing, set a large pot or dutch oven over high heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms. Stir regularly, and when the mushrooms begin to soften, season them with salt and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 additional minutes, then add the wine, sugar, soy sauce, and the spice mixture that you prepared earlier. Cook until the wine has nearly fully evaporated.
When the wine has nearly fully evaporated, add the 1/2 cup of reduced vegetable stock. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the amount of liquid at the bottom of the pot looks like an appropriate amount of sauce for the mushrooms (think about the sauce ratio that you enjoy when eating pasta, and aim for that).
Remove the pot from the heat and add the cilantro stems, celery, chili oil, and toasted sesame oil. Stir to combine. When the mushrooms have cooled to room temperature, store them in the refrigerator and allow them to marinate for at least 2 hours (but preferably overnight). The mushrooms can be served cold or at room temperature. Moments before serving, toss the mushrooms with the crushed peanuts and cilantro leaves. Enjoy.