The Washington Post

Mapo Mac and Cheese

- Recipe tested by Jim Webster; email questions to food@washpost.com

2 to 4 servings (makes 3 1/ cups)

2

The Chinese-american canon has been largely unchanged for a generation, but chef Lucas Sin’s mapo mac innovates on two fronts: an embrace of nostalgia for a childhood American classic and a foray into quick-and-easy whimsy in a cuisine that has sometimes been intimidati­ng for its technique and cultural specificit­y. Here is a meet-you-whereyou-are dish whose mac and cheese roots let you start this recipe halfway to the finish line.

Chinese sausage, Sichuan peppercorn­s, doubanjian­g (fermented chile and bean paste), soybean paste and tofu puffs can be found at Asian markets and online.

Total time: 35 mins

Leftovers can be refrigerat­ed for up to 2 days. You may need to loosen with a little water when reheating or reheat in a nonstick skillet with a slick of oil over medium heat until crisped up in places and hot.

Adapted from chef Lucas Sin of Nice Day in New York.

Ingredient­s

4 dried shiitake mushrooms Boiling water

Fine sea salt or table salt

1 cup (about 41/2 ounces) uncooked elbow macaroni

1/4 cup vegetable oil or another neutral oil

1/2 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn­s

1 scallion, white and green parts divided and chopped separately

11/2 tablespoon­s minced or finely grated fresh ginger

11/2 tablespoon­s minced or finely grated garlic

1/2 Chinese sausage (1 ounce), thinly sliced

1 tablespoon doubanjian­g (Sichuan fermented bean paste)

11/2 teaspoons soybean paste

2 cups unsalted chicken broth or water

4 slices American cheese

13/4 ounces tofu puffs, diced (about 1 cup)

1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 tablespoon cold water

1 to 2 tablespoon­s chile oil

Steps

Place the shiitakes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for about 10 minutes, then drain and slice the mushrooms.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the macaroni according to package instructio­ns or until al dente, stirring occasional­ly to prevent sticking. Drain, toss in the 1 tablespoon of the oil and let cool.

In a wok or skillet over mediumhigh heat, heat the remaining 3 tablespoon­s of oil until shimmering. Add the peppercorn­s, scallion whites, ginger, garlic, sausage and mushrooms and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the doubanjian­g and soy bean paste, stir to combine and fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for at least 5 minutes.

Add the macaroni to the pot. The liquid should barely cover the macaroni. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Add the cheese and mix until it melts, then add the tofu puffs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with cold water until they form a slurry. Add the slurry to the pot and stir until the sauce coats the macaroni like traditiona­l macaroni and cheese.

Remove from the heat and divide the pasta between shallow bowls. Top with the scallion greens, drizzle with the chile oil to taste and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving (1 scant cup), based on 4: 449 calories, 17 g protein, 31 g carbohydra­tes, 32 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 32 mg cholestero­l, 843 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

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