Mu Shu PorkWhat made me try this? The calm recipe language for the “Mu Shu Pork,” from the March/April 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), convinced me that I could handle Mandarin pancakes. Oh boy…

Mu Shu Pork
Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2015
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (7 1/2 oz.)
3/4 cup boiling water
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. white pepper
12 oz. pork tenderloin, trimmed, halved horizontally, and sliced thin against grain
2 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced thin on bias
8 oz. can bamboo shoots, rinsed and sliced into matchsticks
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1. FOR THE PANCAKES: Using wooden spoon, mix flour and boiling water in bowl to form rough dough. When cool, transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead until it forms ball that is tacky but no longer sticky, about 4 minutes (dough will not be perfectly smooth). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
2. Roll dough into 12-inch-long log on lightly floured surface and cut into 12 equal pieces. Turn each piece cut side up and pat into rough 3-inch disk. Brush one side of 6 disks with sesame oil; top each oiled side with unoiled disk and press lightly to form 6 pairs. Roll disks into 7-inch rounds, lightly flouring work surface as needed.
3. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Using paper towels, carefully wipe out oil. Place pancake in skillet and cook without moving it until air pockets begin to form between the layers and underside is dry, 40 to 60 seconds. Flip pancake and cook until few light brown spots appear on second side, 40 to 60 seconds. Transfer to plate and, when cool enough to handle, peel apart into 2 pancakes. Stack pancakes moist side up and cover loosely with plastic. Repeat with remaining pancakes. Cover pancakes tightly and keep warm. Wipe out skillet with paper towel. (Pancakes can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw wrapped pancakes at room temperature. Unwrap and place on plate. Invert second plate over pancakes and microwave until warm and soft, 60 to 90 seconds.)
4. FOR THE STIR-FRY: Microwave 1 cup water and mushrooms in covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms through fine-mesh strainer and reserve 1/3 cup liquid. Discard mushroom stems and slice caps thin.
5. Combine 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sherry, sugar, ginger, and pepper in large bowl. Add pork and toss to combine. Whisk together the reserved mushroom liquid, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sherry, and cornstarch; setting aside.
6. Heat 2 tsp. oil in now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add eggs and scramble quickly until set but not until dry, about 15 seconds. Transfer to bowl and break eggs into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high  and heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil until shimmering. Add scallion whites and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add pork mixture. Spread into even layer and cook without moving until browned on 1 side, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until all pork is opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggs.
7. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat and heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil until shimmering. Whisk mushroom liquid mixture to recombine. Add mushrooms and bamboo shoots to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, all but 2 Tbsp. scallion greens, and mushroom liquid mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until liquid has evaporated and cabbage is wilted but retains some crunch, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pork and eggs and stir to combine. Transfer to platter and top with scallion greens.
8. Spread about 1/2 tsp. hoisin in center of each warm pancake. Spoon stir-fry over hoisin and serve.

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The recipe tells us to make the pancakes first, but I knew better. Instead, I cooked my stir-fry first, this way I could address my pancake anxiety by itself, with complete concentration. However, I did freak out a bit with the pancakes. Dave had to help me roll and peel the pancakes, while I dry-fried them. Together, we managed to create “elastic but tender and paper-thin” pancakes. Whew.

The stir fry was a good mix of salty ginger pork, bamboo shoots, cabbage, mushrooms. This was certainly a messy combo to place on a pancake and eat. Serve this meal only to people who can handle all this mess.

I also made the “Indian Cumin Fried Rice with Spinach,” from the March 2015 Food & Wine. A fine side dish, which needs you to just cook the rice, then throw it together with the other ingredients. You enjoy lots of spinach and the chickpeas are nice too.

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms (1 oz.) = $3.53
Pork Tenderloin (12 oz.) = $5.54
Canned Bamboo Shoots (8 oz.) = .92¢
Shallot (1) = .16¢
Canned Chickpeas (14.5 oz.) = $1.88

PREP TIMES: set aside at least 90 minutes to form and rest the pancake dough and prep all the stir-fry ingredients, then frying each pancake pair takes time; cook basmati rice in 35 minutes or so, then mix with other stuff
salty ginger stir fry with sweet hoisin; rice + cumin + chickpeas + spinach = ample flavor

To continue with my love/lust relationship with Cook’s Illustrated, next time I will make the “Cuban Braised Shredded Beef,” from that same March/April 2015 issue (recipe below). Come back to my site next week, to see how fork-shredding changes things.

Cuban Braised Shredded Beef (Ropa Vieja)
Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2015
Serves 6 to 8

1 (2-lb.) beef brisket
, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
Salt and pepper
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 onions, halved and sliced thin
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry, and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped coarse
3/4 tsp. white wine vinegar, plus extra for seasoning

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Cut brisket against grain into 2-inch-wide strips. Cut any strips longer than 5 inches in half crosswise. Season beef on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown beef on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes; transfer to a large plate and set aside. Add and bell peppers and cook until softened and pan bottom develops fond, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer vegetables to bowl and set aside. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to now-empty pot, then add anchovies, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, tomato sauce, and bay leaves. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pot and bring up to simmer over high heat. Transfer to oven and cook, covered, until beef is just tender, for 2 to 2-1/4 hours, flipping meat halfway through cooking.

2. Transfer beef to cutting board; when cool enough to handle, shred into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Meanwhile, add olives and reserved vegetables to pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; simmer until thickened and measures 4 cups, 5  to 7 minutes. Stir in beef. Add vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and extra vinegar to taste; serve.