All You Wanted to Know about Szechuan Peppercorns
Peppercorns are a super interesting breed. A tiny berry that is dried and provides that perfect balance of spice for all our food. Is that awesome or what?
Here’s one you probably haven’t met yet: the Szechuan peppercorn. While there isn’t a lot of Szechuan (you may also see it spelled Sichuan) food available in good ole kosher land, this peppercorn doesn’t even need a hechsher (kosher certification) which means that you can just go ahead and make your own recipes with it.
What makes this peppercorn so special? Well, it has this mouth-tingly effect that makes your tongue go kind of numb when you eat it. Kind of like a mild electric shock. But not as shocky. It’s a super cool sensation that ups the multisensory experience you’re getting from your food. What that does is confuse your senses and set the stage for some real spicy food.
You may be using this without realizing it. I’ve got some hiding in my Chinese five-spice that I sprinkle over squash before roasting it. While you don’t want to be using this in obscene amounts, a little is electric and makes for a new and exciting way to “spice up” food you need a new twist on.
Steak and black pepper. Its pretty much a classic pairing where you know you can’t go wrong. Though this recipe has just a little more pizzazz than your classic pepper crusted fillet, it’s still super easy and comes out amazing. It also takes only five minutes of hands-on time, which is a super bonus! I like to take the extra step of toasting the peppercorns before marinating because I feel like this “waked them up a bit.” If you’re pressed for time, just skip it.
· 2 1-lb. rib-eye steaks (about 1/2 inch thick)
· 3 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns
· 3 tablespoons good-quality honey (raw preferred)
· 1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and grated
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
· 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan
· thyme leaves, if desired
· finishing salt, if desired
- In a large, dry heavy-bottom skillet, heat the peppercorns over low–medium heat shaking occasionally, until they begin to smell fragrant, about two to three minutes. Allow to cool.
- In a large zip-top bag, add the steaks, the cooled peppercorns, honey, garlic, salt, and oil. Shake the bag to ensure the entire steak is marinating. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes (and up to eight hours).
- In the same pan used to toast the peppercorns, heat the pan over medium-high heat until you are unable to hold your hand two inches above it without pulling away. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
- Lay one steak away from you in to the pan and do not move the steak for one and a half minutes so that you create a nice crust. Once this crust forms, flip the steak over to the other side and cook for another one and a half minutes or until a nice crust forms.
- Remove the steak from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before sprinkling with finishing salt and thyme leaves and serving.
Where can I find it?
Try Asian markets or Amazon.com.
How would you use it?
- Put it in your pepper grinder (you do have a pepper grinder, right?) and use it on dishes that could use some zing!
- Popcorn topping with some grated fresh parmesan
- Two words: Chicken wings
- Use it in a rub for a brisket or to spice a burger
- Mix it with honey oil cardamom and garlic with a little salt and roast some carrots or any veggie really!
- On top of crispy tofu
- On top of a crispy egg
- Put it in a brownie – gosh, I want to see this happen so badly!