This fiery, bubbling broth known as soondubu is a powerhouse mixture of alliums, kimchi, gochugaru, and briny, fresh seafood. Gochugaru has a sweet, bright pepper flavor and is much less spicy than your run-of-the-mill crushed red pepper flakes, so you can use a lot.
As you’re skimming this story, I’m probably still eating the same stew that I made three nights ago—and loving every rust-hued spoonful of it. That’s just how good (and bountiful) senior food editor Andy Baraghani’s new chorizo and potato stew is.
It’s the thing I want to eat all winter when it’s bleak and already dark at 4 p.m. It hits all the right notes—spice that warms you from the inside! Rich, complex flavors! A touch of acid!—with heat from a sprinkle of cayenne and a lot of paprika, nubbins of salty Spanish-style chorizo, creamy potatoes, tangy sour cream, and a hit of fresh dill.
And it’s also the thing you cook all winter, because this recipe is a) incredibly fast to make, b) stupid simple (it’s mostly just cut, dump, and wait), and c) can easily feed a whole football team—or just you for, like, a week.
This recipe comes together in just 45 minutes, including cutting all the ingredients and cooking the stew. That’s because Andy built it from flavor bombs, like bacon and chorizo, that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you (and your stove). “The chorizo gives it a back bone and so much depth, so it doesn’t need to go on for hours and hours,” Andy says. Smart guy.
Another shortcut Andy recommends to add a lot of flavor with literally zero effort? Adding a hefty spoonful of sauerkraut and a little of the brine right to your bowl. “I really liked the idea of adding pickled veg, definitely something I got from Bar Tartine [in San Francisco],” Andy explains. “But you can add whatever you want—even white kimchi—and then eat it night after night after night.”
Smooth, sultry, and just the right balance of fiery, tangy, and sweet, it has the magical ability to turn a bag of tortilla chips into dinner. (Or, when I’m feeling a little more ambitious, morph into the best enchilada sauce.)
This salsa roja is delicious and it disappears fast, but that’s not a problem considering that the bulk of its flavor comes from three things I usually have in the kitchen: chipotles in adobo, tomato paste, and fire-roasted tomatoes, which are—believe it or not—cooked over an open flame before they’re canned to give them that charred edge. (If you don’t have fire-roasted tomatoes, do not—I repeat: do not!—attempt to flame-cook your own, Regular crushed tomatoes will do the trick, and you could add a pinch of smoked paprika to compensate.)
It also helps that the salsa takes all of fifteen minutes to make. You simply sauté onion and garlic, add the tomato paste and chipotles in adobo, cook them down so they’re darker, thicker, and richer in flavor, then add the canned tomatoes and simmer to concentrate their power. All that’s left to do is to transfer everything to a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, then stir in apple cider vinegar (sharp!) and molasses (sweet!).
If you don’t have « robust-flavored (dark) molasses, » hope is not lost: I imagine that maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar would be strong contenders (one time I used tamarind paste, and it was delicious).
Now, you—and all of my friends, family members, and whoever else stumbles in for dinner—might be wondering how practical it is to spend time making a sauce instead of making dinner. « Sarah, » you think, « what use is a fridge packed full of condiments, none of which constitute a real meal? » Well, I’d argue that smoky salsa roja makes all of the boring things I’m actually going to eat for dinner taste a hundred times more exciting. Fold salsa roja into soft scrambled eggs; use it as a dipping sauce for roasted sweet potatoes; slather it in a tortilla and top with seared shrimp and sliced avocado; mix it with yogurt, then toss with roasted potatoes; stir into sautéed chickpeas or braised white beans; or use it to coat tortilla chips and make yourself egg-topped chilaquiles. With a jar of salsa roja around, not even my saddest dinner is irredeemably doomed.
Of course there are a gazillion salsarojarecipes (« salsa roja, » after all, just means red sauce), with various fresh and dried and canned ingredients. But this is the one that comes together with what I already have lying around—no mealy, dead-of-winter tomatoes necessary. And besides, I once saw an embroidered pillow that said: When you find a salsa (or, I guess, a person) that you love, you don’t let it go.
Priya Krishna’s cookbookIndian-ish,documenting her journey of learning to make the distinct, hybridized cuisine of her chic, extremely skilled-in-the-kitchen mom, Ritu, will be out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April 2019. Follow her progress on Instagram @PKgourmet.
These days, being a vegetarian is no big deal. Restaurant menus always have a meat-free entrée. No waiter will be offended if you check that the fries weren’t cooked in beef fat.
Back in the ’90s, however, when my mom was taking bi-weekly trips to London for her job developing software for airlines, it was a cold and unfriendly world. Her requests for meatless food at restaurants and pubs were largely met with scoffs. And if there was a vegetarian option, nine times out of ten, it was a baked potato.
So my mom learned to subsist on the humble spud during her work trips. She got used to the routine of heading to the pub closest to her hotel, ordering a baked potato, and topping it with sour cream, salt, and pepper (and, if she remembered to pack it in her carry-on, a sprinkling of bottled masala). She’d eat it with a side of baked beans and a beer and be on her way.
For whatever reason, my mom never got sick of baked potatoes. In fact, at home in Dallas, she’d make baked potatoes for our family when she was feeling too lazy to put a pot of dal on the stove. It was easy, and we always had potatoes in the house, since I’m certain that no one stans potatoes like Indian vegetarians. (What’s not to like? They’re filling, they hold onto seasonings well, and they can be prepared in limitless ways.)
But my mom didn’t top our potatoes with sour cream, salt, and pepper. Being at home meant she could get a little more creative. She’d adorn our spuds with the ingredients we regularly kept in our fridge: red onion, ginger, cilantro, green chilies (everything finely chopped), and the funky spice blend, chaat masala—plus, sour cream (she couldn’t resist).
Aside from sour cream, I grew up totally unfamiliar with traditional baked potato toppings like those artificial-tasting bacon bits, or that stiff, pre-grated cheddar cheese. My baked potatoes were sharp and spicy, with fresh ingredients and varied textures. Eventually, my mom moved beyond the standard russet and started baking baby new potatoes and serving them sliced open like flowers for an easy party appetizer.
Over the last decade, baked potatoes have fallen out of fashion in American food culture—I’m not sure why. I guess people perceive potatoes as empty carbs and starch, and if they’re going to have a potato, they might as well have it in fried form. When it comes to my mom’s Indian-ish baked potato, I respectfully disagree.
I love the way baking a potato turns its innards into silky tufts. I love watching the sour cream melt into the flesh. I love how intensely the flavors of the ginger and the chaat masala imprint themselves. I love crunching the red onions (do not fear raw onions, people!) and getting that creeping heat from the chilies.
But I love it most of all when I serve the dish in its baby potato form at parties. People look at the colorful, dainty morsels and think I spent all this time putting together a fancy appetizer plate when in reality, it’s just a baked potato.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook shallot and jalapeños, stirring often, until shallot is starting to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add cranberries, honey, and salt and increase heat to medium-high.
These crumbles are just simply… better than all that. With just the right balance of crispiness and spongy-squishiness (and I mean this in the best possible sense), plus a fiery, salty sauce, it’s the most versatile, protein-heavy side/condiment/snack in my repertoire. I’ve made it almost every month for the past two years. And I would eat them a lot more—say, alongside every single meal if I had the opportunity.
Of course it helps that the method is so easy to execute. See, in a pre-Spicy Tofu Crumbles world, I would pan-fry tofu by cutting it up first, then tend to each delicate cube in the pan with an eagle eye. I used baby tongs, a fork, or even a wee offset spatula (permission to roll your eyes granted) to flip every cube from side to side… to side, to side, making sure no piece was left pale. It was a precious and ridiculous process that consumed too much of my precious and ridiculous time. This recipe offers sweet relief! By cooking the tofu in large, thick slabs, you only have a handful of pieces to turn just once.
Once the slabs are on the browner side of golden brown, you’ll let them cool and then tear them up with your fingers. You can also use the dullest knife in your kitchen to achieve the same goal: craggy, uneven tofu crumbles with plenty of crevasses to catch and absorb all of the spicy sauce.
That sauce is made, very conveniently, from ingredients you probably already have: soy sauce, mirin, Sriracha or gochujang, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil. There are also a couple of fresh ingredients—thinly sliced Fresno chile and grated fresh ginger—both of which I’ve left out in times of need (I’ve also swapped out the Fresno for a jalapeño and a Serrano and have not been worse for the wear).
“It’s funky,” Andy Baraghani said as we cracked open a Ball jar of garlic-chile vinegar, which was around two months old at this point. “But also addictive and delicious.” We tasted spoonfuls and coughed the good cough. The Thai chile hits, and then poof! (Andy’s hand mimicked a Genie evaporating into his lamp), it disappears.
After recent trips to Vietnam and Thailand—with great flight deals, I might add—Andy knew there was a condiment we needed a recipe for. A universal garlic-chile vinegar like the Vietnamese version, dam toi, that he found on every restaurant table (and the more pickle-like prik nam som in Thailand). Use it to finish fatty cuts of meat, braises, noodle soups, and a thrown-together fried rice dinner with a shot of unapologetic heat, funk, and above all, acid. You can find variations on the ingredients (palm sugar or no sugar here, rice vinegar there), and Andy’s recipe adds some ginger for more heat, of a different style than the straight fire of a Thai chile. “It’s in the background—it rounds everything out.”
The assembly takes around five minutes: White vinegar is heated with sugar and salt until dissolved, then poured into a jar with sliced garlic, sliced ginger, and a handful of whole chiles. The recipe calls for Thai chiles, but I made mine with a few habaneros, which bring a tropical and fruity note. After it cools, it can be refrigerated for, let’s say one to two months, at user’s discretion.
“Americans don’t usually use condiments that are this assertive,” Chris Morocco chimed in, watching me and Andy go in for second spoonfuls to really wake ourselves up. “But it completely transforms the flavor of a dish, it brightens everything—it’s a secret weapon.” He pointed out the recipe for Angela Dimayuga’s succulent roast pork belly with chile vinegar, where you make the condiment right in the vinegar bottle itself, stuffing the chiles inside.
“It brings a heat that’s IN YOUR FACE, even though it disappears,” Andy said. Other than as a finishing condiment, he uses a few spoonfuls in dressings for crunchy cucumber salads, or mixed into mayo or yogurt for creamy dressings. Chris makes a version with brown sugar to spoon over this grilled snapper recipe.
After he uses up the infused vinegar, Andy likes to chop up the peppers and use them in a relish or salsa. Then it’s time to buy another head of garlic, and get the next batch going.