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mapo tofu nachos

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Total: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

Cost: $6.94 /serving

Ingredients

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Instructions

Step 1

Prepare the mapo tofu sauce: If the tofu came as a block in water, discard the water. Cut the tofu into large chunks, then use a stand blender or immersion blender to whirl the tofu into an ivory smoothie.

Step 2

In a medium (3- or 4-quart) pot over medium heat, toast the Sichuan peppercorns for 2 to 3 minutes, until super fragrant and slightly darkened. (A wisp of smoke is OK.) Let cool briefly, then pound with a mortar and pestle or pulse in a spice grinder.

Step 3

Prepare the remaining sauce ingredients and set them near the stove.

Step 4

Warm the oil in the pot over high heat. When shimmering, add the meat. Stir and mash into cooked and crumbly pieces, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons doubanjiang, the douchi (if using), ginger and red-pepper flakes (if using). Fry about 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is a rich reddish brown.

Step 5

Reduce the heat to medium-low, then stir in the soy sauce and 1 rounded teaspoon sugar. Scrape in the blended tofu. (If there’s much left in the blender jar, add 1 tablespoon water and whirl to loosen it.) Stir to combine well, partially cover and bring to simmer. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, to develop flavor throughout. Expect orange oil to appear on top.

Step 6

Taste the sauce and if needed, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon doubanjiang (for heat), or a pinch of salt (for savoriness) or sugar (to tame heat).

Step 7

Stir in the scallion, then add the cornstarch slurry and stir until thickened. Turn off the heat. Stir in half the crushed Sichuan peppercorns for a bit of zing. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to deepen flavor and color before using; a little lingering orange oil is normal. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups, which is twice the amount that you’ll need for this recipe; save the rest for spaghetti, more nachos or another use. (You can cool the sauce completely then refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)

Step 8

Prepare the nachos: Heat a toaster oven (or standard oven) to 350 degrees. Line the baking pan of the toaster oven (or a small sheet pan) with parchment or aluminum foil, leaving a little overhang on two sides so you may later easily transfer the nachos. Arrange half of the chips on the pan, laying them flat; some overlap is fine. Use a spoon to strew a heaping 1/2 cup mapo tofu sauce onto the chips. Sprinkle with half the scallions, half the cheese and half the remaining Sichuan peppercorns. Repeat with the remaining chips, a heaping 1/2 cup mapo tofu sauce, the remaining scallions, cheese and peppercorns.

Step 9

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese completely melts and there is gentle sizzling. Remove from the oven, then lift the parchment paper or foil to remove the nachos from the pan, then use a spatula to carefully usher the nachos to a platter. Top with any combination of olives, pickled jalapeños and cilantro, if desired.