We ate at “Shu” in West Hartford, CT last week. It was mind-blowingly delicious and nary a fortune cookie in sight. This is real Sichuan cooking. No gloppy sauces, just complex flavors and heat. They like to use a good amount of chiles and Sichuan (Szechuan or Szechwan) peppercorns, which works for me! They offer Sichuan “tapas”. In other words, small plates of appetizers. One of the options was French fries with this great little seasoning. Hot, but not too hot, salty and just well-seasoned. After looking into it a bit, apparently this is street food. Of course! That’s why it’s so delicious! But, it’s just me here and I didn’t want to pull our the oil and mess around deep-frying, so I “translated” it into Sichuan Roasted Potatoes. I was not disappointed.
I cut the baby Yukon gold potatoes in half lengthwise, put them on a foil-lined cookie sheet, drizzle with a goodly amount of oil, toss them and place them cut side down on the sheet. The cut-side will be nicely browned and the potatoes will be meltingly tender.
While the potatoes roasted, I combined the seasoning ingredients together in a large bowl. You want the bowl to be large enough to thoroughly toss the potatoes without them flying out of the pan. We don’t want that, whether there’s a five-minute rule or not. These babies are hot when they come out of the oven and they hold the heat…be forewarned or you’ll blister the roof of your mouth! Anyway, I remove about half of the seasoning mixture and set it aside. I’m going to pour it over the hot potatoes, so I have seasoning on both the top and bottom. The fresh cilantro, and you want to use only fresh cilantro for this. Then, I toss them together, just flipping them around. The heat from the potatoes, and the oil on them, sort of “cook” the cilantro and allow it to bloom. See that steam…these babies are hot! Pour them into a serving dish and dig in as soon while they’re still hot (but not too hot!).
Earlier I dedicated a post to Sichuan peppercorns, which aren’t true peppercorns and who cares! They have an interesting flavor—hints of citrus and pine. They have an interesting effect, too—they cause a pleasant numbness of your lips and tongue. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary. You can find Sichuan peppercorns at The Spice Mill or on-line, too. I toast them before I used them and I then I grind them in my spice grinder (okay, so it’s an old coffee grinder, but it works). Cool them completely before you grind them, though. There is a Chinese Pepper Salt, which is simply ground Sichuan peppercorns and kosher salt, about a 1:2 ratio. I always have some hanging around. It’s great on a fried egg or rice.
Spicy Sichuan Roasted Potatoes
- 12-16 baby potatoes, halved lengthwise (I like Yukon Gold)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2-1 teaspoon ground, toasted Sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2-1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Very finely snipped fresh chives or garlic chives
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a cookie sheet with foil; set aside. Throw the potatoes on the cookie sheet. Drizzle with the oil; toss until they are completely coated (I use my hands for this). Arrange the potatoes, cut-side down on the cookie sheet. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes.
While the potatoes roast, combine the remaining ingredients in the bowl. Remove 1/2 and reserve. When the potatoes are fully cooked, remove the pan from the oven; immediately loosen the potatoes and drop them into the bowl on top of the seasoning. Sprinkle with the reserved seasoning; toss and mix until each potato is coated with the seasoning. Serve immediately but, be careful because they hold the heat like crazy.
NOTE: I didn’t turn the potatoes over, but you may, if you want them to be crispier.
Spicy Sichuan Roasted Potatoes Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
I used about 3/4 teaspoon of the ground Sichuan peppercorns, but only 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I might opt for more pepper, but I thought the salt was about right for me…again, this is up to you and your buds! Feel free to use fresh, very finely minced garlic, if you want. It would be terrific. I rarely use garlic powder, but for this I do like it.
These would be an excellent appetizer to serve with a good cold beer or a glass of wine. I think these would make a hamburger jump right off the plate!