Szechwan Salt and Pepper
In a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, grind dried chiles to a fine powder. Transfer to a small bowl. Place peppercorns and coriander, cumin and fennel seeds in grinder and grind to a fine powder. Add to ground chiles along with salt and five-spice powder. Mix well. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and store for up to one month.
Place potatoes in a large saucepan and add boiling water to barely cover. Add salt, cover loosely and return to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, taking care not to cook the potatoes all the way through. Drain and set aside to cool.
Place 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) oil in a large, heavy pot (see Tips, left). Heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 375°F (190°C). (If you're using a deep fryer, follow the manufacturer's instructions.)
Divide potatoes into three batches. Pat the first batch dry, then carefully add to hot oil. Fry for just under 2 minutes (if potatoes are very small, 11/2 minutes should do it), until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and keep warm in preheated oven. Let oil return to 375°F (190°C) before adding next batch. Repeat until all potatoes are cooked.
When all the potatoes have been fried, transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with Szechwan Salt and Pepper and cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately.
This makes a large quantity (about 1 cup/250 mL) of Szechwan Salt and Pepper, but this spice mixture is great to have on hand for many things. Try it rubbed into shrimp or sprinkled over whole chicken or pork ribs. Look for Szechwan peppercorns in Asian supermarkets or specialty food shops.
If you prefer, parboil the potatoes (Step 2) up to one day ahead. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Excerpted from 300 Best Potato Recipes: A Complete Cook's Guide by Kathleen Sloan-McIntosh © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with permission.