Chile Crunch - ala Walt
We haven't been the best at keeping up our blog during the pandemic 🤦♀️ but as of April 2021 we're back at it sharing recipes and musings from Sonoma County's wine country as life slowly returns to some semblance of normalcy. We hope you'll enjoy them and maybe even make a few of the recipes.
My dad always had a giant vegetable garden. When I was a kid, I remember shoving my hands in the dirt, planting plants, watering by hand and harvesting – the best part. Well, maybe not the best part, as hanging out with my dad was the greatest. Now, one would think with all of these home grown, organic vegetables that we probably ate like lords. But alas, cooking the food was not a strong point.
Despite some unforgiveable food, it must have struck a chord somewhere as I now love to tend my own giant vegetable garden. And, thankfully, years working in the wine business and the opportunity to taste fantastic food ignited a passion for cooking too. I am very thankful to live in a place where those two things converge so beautifully.
Over the years, I have gone from planting every vegetable I like to only those that taste a million times better when they are home grown. Think tomatoes, fava beans and, yes, celery. Right now, the fava beans are nearly a foot tall, and my kohlrabi is starting to look like something other than a weed. The herbs are booming with the spring sun and the blueberries are forming.
In the next few weeks, I will start my tomatoes and my beloved peppers. I always grow a small “hedge” of chile d’arbol. I rarely use them fresh, except for the occasional fresh salsa, but I do dry them and use them all year. Anytime I sauté onions, I throw a few in for an added dimension of flavor, I add some to the boiling water when I steam corn and I love using them in winter soups, especially my kale and white bean soup.
Then last Christmas, my dear friend Kyle sent me a lovely box from Momofuku. In it were a couple of nice salt mixtures, but the real prize was the chile crunch. My first instinct was to put some in a breakfast sandwich. Perfection! My second instinct, or rather the discovery that it was sold out and I could not order more, was to make my own version. After several trial versions, I have now settled on my preferred method/blend. And we have it on breakfast sandwiches nearly every Sunday. I wish my dad were here to have one with us. He would appreciate the home grown effort.
Chile Crunch (Inspired by Momofuku)
2+ cups neutral oil (I use sunflower, but grapeseed works too)
10 small shallots, minced
4 heads of garlic, peeled and minced
4 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise
½ cup crushed red pepper
2 large handfuls (or more for extra spicy) of dried chile d’arbol
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1 pack (1 oz) of roasted and salted seaweed snacks
4 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
1 piece of ginger (about four inches), peeled and grated
Add oil to saucepan, then add shallots, garlic, cinnamon and star anise. Add more oil to cover if not covered already. Bring to simmer, then cook on low (bubbling, but not boiling) until shallots and garlic are golden brown. This will take about 30 minutes depending on your stove.
Meanwhile remove stems from chile d’arbol and add to food processor. Add seaweed. Cover and blitz until everything is in small pieces. Add to large heatproof mixing bowl, then add all remaining ingredients.
When shallot/garlic mixture is finished, strain hot oil mixture over mixing bowl holding other ingredients and let cool. Once cool, remove the cinnamon sticks and star anise pieces. Add shallot/garlic into other ingredients and stir to combine.
Let sit for a day or two to let flavors combine. Should mostly fill a large (32oz) jar
Add to eggs, soups, pasta, noodles…..anything! Our current fave is the Sunday Egg Muffin Sandwich mmmm...