Spicy Hunan Cauliflower
The Guajillo (wha-hee-oh) chile is the most common dried chile in Mexico after the Ancho. The flavor of the Guajillo is distinct, slightly fruity with a strong piney, berry under taste. Guajillo flavors dished easily so a little goes a long way. This chile is between a 2-4 on the heat scale of 1-10. Guajillo, combined with the Passilla and Ancho, form the holy trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces.
1 medium cauliflower crown, broken into florets
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
For the Sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
4-6 dried chile peppers, cut into thirds (remove the seeds for a milder sauce)
1 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Chinese cooking wine
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 star anise
1 bell pepper, any color (I used half of a red and half of a green)
3 tablespoons chilled water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 scallions, chopped
Toasted sesame seeds
Red pepper flakes, for extra heat (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Place the cauliflower into a large bag with the oil and cornstarch. Toss to coat. Arrange the cauliflower florets in an even layer in a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until cauliflower is tender and lightly browned, flipping once about halfway through.
While the cauliflower bakes, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, ginger, and dried chile peppers. Sauté until very fragrant and the chile peppers darken, about 1 minute. Add the water, soy sauce, sherry, vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, black pepper, and star anise. Raise heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by about a third, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bell pepper and allow to simmer about 5 minutes more, until the pepper is tender.
In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water, then add it to the sauce. Allow the sauce to continue simmering for a minute or two, just until it thickens up.
Once the cauliflower is finished baking, remove it from the oven and pour the sauce over top. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
Divide onto plates and serve with rice.