Inspired by the bloodbath that is today’s pop-culture Sichuan cuisine, in which everything is baptized in a flaming red pool of chile oil, I thought, why not cheese, too? This is its bare-bones version, which is a sinful delight on its own, but feel free to kick it up if you have any other cheeses of your fancy, or top with leftover shredded braised meats, roast chicken, or whatnot. It can’t go wrong. It can’t.
A note on My Ultimate Chile Oil: I once thought about bottling this stuff and selling it as my ticket to an early retirement in a grand château in the French countryside. It is that good. During my chile oil–sodden years in New York, Beijing, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, swimming through countless commercial brands and the versions offered in restaurants, I could always find legitimate reasons that this recipe is comparably more versatile and better tasting. And that’s saying a lot.
Excerpted with permission by William Morrow Cookbooks from The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy Lee, 2019.
—Mandy @ Lady and pups
1 1/2 tablespoons
My Ultimate Chile Oil (recipe below), or your favorite chile oil
(68 g) shredded Pepper Jack cheese
(68 g) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
freshly ground black pepper
finely chopped herbs and aromatics, such as mint, parsley, and scallions
crusty bread, for serving
My Ultimate Chile Oil
garlic cloves, grated
(50 g) Sichuan (spicier) or Korean (milder) chile flakes (I don’t recommend using any other kind)
Add the chile oil to a small, heavy skillet (7 to 8 inches/18 to 20 cm; best to use a skillet in a material that retains heat well, like cast iron) and swirl to spread it around. Scatter the cheeses on top and make a small well in the middle, then crack the egg into the well. Place over medium-low heat with the lid on and cook until the cheeses are melted and the egg is just cooked, with the yolk still runny. You can peek a couple of times during the process; it’s fine.
Crack some fresh black pepper on top and sprinkle with whatever fresh greens and herbs you have on hand, such as scallions, mint, or parsley. Serve immediately with crusty bread.
My Ultimate Chile Oil
Mix the soy sauce and grated garlic together. Set aside.
Using a spice grinder, grind the chile flakes, star anise pod, coriander, cumin, and curry powder into a fine powder. In a large saucepan at least 6 inches (15 cm) deep, combine the spice powder with the oil, sesame seeds, and bay leaves. Set it over medium heat and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the chile flakes have turned maroon in color (but not black!).
When the chile flakes have turned to the desired color, turn off the heat immediately, then add the ground Sichuan peppercorns. Stir and let fry in the residual heat for about 30 seconds, then add the soy sauce/garlic mixture. The oil will boil up a little due to the added moisture (which is why we’re using a deep pot). Just keep stirring until the sizzling has died down.
Let the chile oil sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours (or best overnight) before using. Keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to 3 months.