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What do you use star anise in? Fuchsia Dunlop to the rescue! Other ideas?

I may have already posted this, but in response to jhinwa's search for things to use recently-scored star anise mentioned on another thread, here is a delicious and very easy recipe for braised beef, based on a recipe in Fuchsia Dunlop's "Land of Plenty":

This is the easiest Chinese dish I know.

3 lb chuck with most of the fat cut off, in 2" cubes
6 tb Sichuan hot bean sauce ("la dou ban jiang", I like Kimlan brand but any one will do)
2 (or more) scallions, trimmed, whole
1 2" piece of ginger, smashed with a cleaver or just sliced in 2 longitudinally
1 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 star anise
2 tsp dark soy
1/4 c rice wine, dry Sherry, or Scotch
1 qt beef stock (I used water + 2 Knorr beef cubes)

She has you blanch the beef in boiling water, I don't bother.
Heat the bean paste until sizzling (she says to add additional oil, no need).
Add all the other stuff, stir up, bring to a simmer.
Bang it in the oven at around 325-350 deg F.
Let cook for about 3 hours (longer doesn't hurt, but reduce temp at the 3 hour point, to 300 or less).

The meat should be as soft as marrow when done.
Delicious as is, also delicious heated up and on noodles.
Can add chestnuts, daikon radish, that sort of thing at the midway point.

What other lovely dishes do you use it in?

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  1. Throw a couple of whole ones in your next beef or pork pot roast.

    It adds a great flavor note that will have your guests scratching their heads wondering...

    1. Chinese beef and noodle soup.

      1. If you don't Sichuan hot, star anise belongs in any Chinese (Cantonese) 'red-cooked' dish (chicken, beef, tongue, pork).

        A recently aired episode of Ming on CreateTV paired star anise and cranberries

        is his red-cooked pork with star anise and cranberries

        5 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          love it with cranberries. in fact, i love it with many different fruit preparations, compote, chutney, poached pears, macerated berries, applesauce...

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I like it with fruit too, ghg. And I had a cocktail at a resto in DC a few years ago that was made up of fresh lemon, tarragon-infused vodka & lillet blanc with star anise that was so delicious I re-created it at home.

            1. re: lynnlato

              Lynn - shaken or stirred, served up in a stem glass? (I never use the word martini unless, well...) not to take this OT but which place? at PX, PS7, other? there weren't that many crafty cocktail places a few years back

              'cause that sounds good, although I might sub rosemary for the tarragon.

              1. re: hill food

                hf, It was served up in a martini glass. I think they used a lemon-infused simple syrup (which is nice just w/ lillet blanc on the rocks and a splash of club soda). I think rosemary would be just as nice - I love rosemary and lemon together. Oh, and they just floated the star anise in the glass.

                I cannot recall the name of the restaurant. We went there for cocktails only and it was in a complex with other restaurants and folks eating outside at the different places. They had an interesting artisinal cocktail menu. Afterwards we went to Poste for dinner (and had steak tartare and a really great rabbit bolognese that I still remember vividly - yum). :)

          2. ooooh...love the STAR ANISE...here's one of our "hall of famers" from Epicurious, Chicken Braised with Mushrooms and Star Anise" --your entire home will have the aroma of anise wafting throughout, so very magical!.....

            2 Replies
            1. re: Val

              Boyoboy does that sound good!!! The Beast would love that.

              1. how about burying it in some sugar for a while, and then using it in any number of cookies/desserts/sauces?

                1. It pairs well with Cherries but you a restrained hand.
                  Many South Indian recipes call for Star Anise. One of my favorites is Andhra Dum Biryani. It is also a big player in Andhra style Kurma, a peanut and vegetable curry.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chefj

                    chef, maybe i asked you this before, but is that maranon?

                    also, is it star anise and not fennel seed in the andhra korma? i ask because we recently noticed what i thought was a distinct fennel flavor in a korma at a local sri lankan restnt.

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      Maranon is the fruit of the Cashew tree also called "cashew apple". You did ask this before and i think that I posted a picture with my reply. In Goa this fruit is used to distill Feni.
                      The Andra and Keralan Kurmas I have had are definitely star anise. I imagine that that may not always be the case. There are many family and local variations as with almost all Indian foods.
                      If you are eating at a Sri Lankan food I would be surpised that they would be serving a South Indian Kurma.

                  2. I like to soak a few in water and toss on the coals for the smoke when grilling.

                    1. Outside of myriad Asian applications, I like it crushed with some friendly spices (cloves, cinnamon, etc.) and added to a few glugs of port and some smashed garlic cloves for braised pork belly or lamb shanks. It's also really nice in a rib dry rub and---in small amounts---in chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and similar dishes.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                        That sounds great. I think that's what I'll do w/the pork belly I bought recently.

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          Cool. Lemme know how it turns out. I'd give a recipe but I don't really have one. I cook it in the oven, covered, in a Le Creuset that holds the belly pretty snugly. Last time I reduced the pan juices with a little rosemary or tarragon (can't remember which) and worked in a bit of butter at the very end. That was nice.

                          Only warning? If you are of the school that blasts the meat a bit at the end to create some nice brown crispiness, keep a really close eye on this one. The sugars from the port will blacken faster than you can wash a spoon. Not that I speak from experience or anything. ;-)

                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            Just reading this EIP, and I 'm waiting for cooler weather before braising anything, but re: the pork belly--do you crisp it at the end? do you have a method for crisping that will lessen the chance of burning?

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Hey there! Hope your belly hasn't been sitting in the fridge all this time!

                              At the start, I gently brown, just a bit, in some flavorful fat on the stove--the fatty, well-scored side down---to help render some fat. Then, yeah, I do indeed crisp the meat at the end while making a pan sauce. The only cure I've found is careful attention---it's not a big deal so long as you're not simultaneously wrapping up lots of other prep work. I've read somewhere that people successfully brown longer and lower, just at 450 or so, but I haven't tried it yet and am wary about losing any succulence.

                              Let me know how it goes or if you have any other questions...

                              1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                It's residing safely in the freezer; I'm waiting for cooler temps, but I love the sound of your treatment of it, and will definitely report once it's done. It will be my first time actually cooking pork belly, which I've loved in various iterations on rest. menus in the past few years. TY.

                                1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                  <Let me know how it goes or if you have any other questions...>

                                  I do, I do! Not about the crisping, but the braise itself. Could you sketch out your recipe? I've got a pork belly in the freezer from the Asian market, and a bottle of mediocre port to use...would love to combine into something delicious.

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason

                                    Hey, in the car on the way to camp, but will check for notes at home later this weekend. Sorry...

                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                      I'm not sure I can be much help, Christina. I seem to have failed to take any notes on this dish, and pork belly is the one cut of meat for which I've never used a recipe. Here goes...sorry for a lack of better instruction...

                                      Score the fat in a diamond pattern and season the whole piece well with a mixture of salt, cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, white pepper, and star anise (or something similar---I'm sure I've never used the same blend twice).

                                      Melt a knob of butter or homemade lard in a pan with 7 or 8 smashed garlic cloves, a twig or two of fresh rosemary, and half a fresh bay leaf (more if you're using true bay).

                                      Gently brown the belly, fat side down, to render some of the fat. Carefully turn it over, add enough port to come more or less halfway up the belly, bring to a slow simmer, spoon some liquid over the top, cover, and move to a 275 degree oven.

                                      Baste every 30 to 45 minutes or so. Braise until a table knife meets very little resistance, I think usually 3.5 to 4.5 hours. If it's not feeling close at 3.5, sometimes I drop the heat to 250 for another 60 to 90 minutes. Some dried sour cherries and fresh rosemary added in the last half hour or so are nice.

                                      Finishing depends on whether I'm going for cheffy or rustic (and whether I've got my act together or am feeling lazy). I'll either just drizzle the pan juices as is or separate most of the fat (refrigerating overnight makes this especially easy of course), and make a reduction with some more spices and some freshly minced herb the next day. (Any leftover fat makes is killer for sautéing---herby, boozy, porkalicious.)

                                      If your eaters are into the whole fat thing that's so trendy right now, plating big jiggly cubes is fun. If not, serving like thick-cut bacon goes over very well. Sometimes I'll do both, a small cube and couple slices.

                                      Anyhow, hope this helps.

                                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                        I am re-reading as I am going to shoot for this weekend on trying your pork belly treatment. How do you serve it? I was thinking of tacos, but maybe you have a better suggestion. (I had a P[ork]B[elly]LT at a local bistro last week, and I wasn't crazy about it; the problem wasn't the pork belly, per se.)

                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                          Tacos would probably be delicious, either chopped into carnitas-like chunks or shredded as for barbacoa.

                                          As for me, as mentioned above I usually serve alone as a cut of meat, thickly sliced or in a big cube, with plenty of cherry-laden rosemary port sauce on top either way. Sides are best kept simple, obviously. I stick with polenta or mashed potatoes with a little roasted garlic---maybe a half-potato, half-celeriac mash. A salad of just lettuce with some bite or something like baby mustard or collard greens and a nice homemade dijon vinaigrette counters the richness well.

                                            1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                                              Not yet, but it is still at the top of my list--just that other things keep nudging it out of the way. But you'll be steering on my maiden voyage.
                                              I'll definitely report when I get it done.

                              2. A perennial fave - pho. :)

                                1. - combined with tamarind, ginger, garlic & palm sugar in a soy- (or tamari) based glaze for roast pork, chicken or duck
                                  - carrot-ginger soup
                                  - poached pears or apricots, spiced peaches or plums
                                  - vanilla ice cream or creme brulée
                                  - spiced chai mousse or panna cotta

                                  and i adore it with dark chocolate.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    ghg,you continue to impress me with your taste and know how! We CHs are so lucky to have you posting .

                                  2. Awww, buttertart, you are so kind! Thank you so much for this thread! I have been away from my computer most of the day and when I just logged in it was such a nice surprise to see this!!

                                    Thank you for the recipe, and thanks to everyone else for the great suggestions! I was so excited when I saw the star anise (and it was only $1.39 for a cellophane bag with maybe 15-20 pieces)! I just had no idea what to do with it. I also got cane sugar at the same time/place...two big hunks for the same $1.39 price.

                                    I am going to be experimenting this weekend...woo hoo! There are a number of very appealing ideas here that I know my family will love.

                                    You guys are the best!

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                      My pleasure. All in the service of good eating and spreading the word of one of my culinary goddesses, jhinwa!

                                      1. re: jlhinwa

                                        15-20 pieces? That would be barely enough for a couple of pots of phở, if that, when I make it.

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          Really? Wow. That's a lot more than I use. Well, I guess it depends on how much broth you're making! :)

                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                            Normally I use 7-8 lbs (or more) of good bones - not counting any oxtail that I might also use, plus tendon & tripe etc according to my mood. After the parboiling & washing of the bones I usually start the stock proper with water to cover + a bit - usually around 5-6 quarts or more. 6-8 hr simmer minimum, etc. I usually end up with about 3-4 quarts or more of final filtered stock. I have in fact used 15-20 whole stars [easily!] in total for a single large-ish (by home standards) pot of stock. [plus the usual charred onion, ginger, cloves, cinnamon sticks, fish sauce, rock sugar, sea salt, etc etc.]

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              I love oxtail pho.

                                              I go a little lighter on the anise, but your broth recipe/method sounds delicious!

                                              1. re: inaplasticcup


                                                As our conversation illustrates, there is no single 'perfect' way to make phở. It will vary according to the cook/chef, place, region, personal taste, personal mood(s), the phase of the moon. There ARE certain constants but the variability is appreciable and the arguments wide and varied.

                                                Here's a recipe that uses even more star anise (IMO) than what I "usually" do: http://www.spicelines.com/2006/02/bre...

                                                1. re: huiray

                                                  Agreed. No single, perfect way to make anything, I think! :)

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    This is great info and perspective...thanks! I am a little ashamed to admit I haven't even tried Pho to eat, much less cook. How sad is that? No reason or aversion...just haven't gotten around to it. I understand that there are some great places to get Pho where I live, so I am going to get started eating it, then maybe venture on to cooking. It sounds like something my family would love.

                                                    I always end up doubling things like cinnamon, cloves, etc. in my cooking so I am guessing that I might extend to star anise as well? I need to get started and find out!

                                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                                      Be a little careful, I'd use what the recipe recommended first - you taste it in the Sichuan beef even with only one. Pretty potent stuff.

                                                      1. re: jlhinwa

                                                        Even if you really love cinnamon, I would suggest going easy with it in your first batch. One stick goes a long way, and the flavor steeps very quickly when in a simmer.

                                                        1. re: jlhinwa

                                                          Thanks for the warning. I definitely have ruined things before by overdoing the flavors and it is not fun to try and have to multiply a batch of something to try and get the flavors balanced.

                                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                                            Yes, be circumspect esp with your first batch. If it is phở that you are making, one does NOT want cinnamon (or cloves) to become the predominant taste.

                                              1. Ice cream
                                                Soup or stock
                                                Pickled veggies
                                                Braised meats
                                                Poaching liquid
                                                Chocolate Cake
                                                Banana bread

                                                ... and probably about 100 other things I can't remember right now.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit


                                                  It's also used extensively in so much of SE Asian and East Asian/different forms of Chinese cooking, as others have commented on. Almost any kind of braised meat preparation in a SE/E Asian style can be done with star anise added (not as the only spice/seasoning, of course). I wonder if it could be that folks who have difficulty imagining what to do with it don't usually cook (if at all) those kinds of food?

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    All the more reason to have this discussion and bring the delights of these cuisines, star anised or not, to more people's attention and dinner tables.

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      Not really the case with the OP, as she cooks Chinese cuisine quite extensively.

                                                      1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                        Yes, I'm aware of that, thanks. However, I was really replying to ipse (who also cooks Chinese cuisine too, I believe) and was merely pointing out, in a general sense for others who are reading, that this ingredient is used in such a way. :-)

                                                  2. Pickled red onions from the Zuni cookbook.

                                                    1. This recipe looks fantastic. It's now on my to-do list I did buy "LOP" at your suggestion, BT (aka "the Enabler," But so far I haven't had time to dig in. I'm looking forward to the Fall when I plan to master some of the dishes in that book.

                                                        1. Star anise is key in my chai masala. I also use crushed star anise in pickling spice (more for fruits, less for veg).

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: JungMann

                                                            Hmmmm, that leads me to wonder how it would work out in pickled grapes? I have made the smitten kitchen recipe and love it but also like to punch it up a bit with more peppercorns and cinnamon. Maybe a bit of star anise?

                                                            1. re: jlhinwa

                                                              WHY NOT?! i'm not yelling at you i just like the idea.

                                                              1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                Whole anise works great with pickled grapes, and it looks very exotic when you see these dense, black orbs sitting in brine with fragrant brown stars floating around them. It also works well with stone fruit like peaches and plums.

                                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                                  But not too much with peaches, I find, I ruined a batch of pickled ones with a heavy hand on the star anise.

                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                    Good advice. I am always conservative with star anise. I only use two or three stars for my 1/2 gal of master stock. When I make chai, I use one and take it out halfway through steeping. It's a very strong flavor that can go from a hint of anise to disgusting black licoricey very quickly.

                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                      I love black licorice but peaches shouldn't taste like it! Just a little whiff of something.

                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                        re: fruit, are you "pickling" with alcohol?

                                                                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                          The pickled grapes recipe I use is just a brine with vinegar, spices, etc. No alcohol, though that could make it quite delightful.

                                                                          1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                            The only pickling I do with alcohol involves me and gin. I use a spiced vinegar brine to pickle fruits.

                                                                  2. re: jlhinwa

                                                                    LOL at hill food! :-) I love those pickled grapes and am making them for a bridal shower that I'm hosting in August. I think I need to make a trial run with the star anise, don't ya think?

                                                                2. I am so excited to get cooking after reading all these wonderful suggestions. I am pretty new to CH...lurking since the first of the year, posting on a few threads for the past few months and finally posted my first thread this week.

                                                                  I cannot believe how helpful, gracious, and ridiculously generous all you guys have been with suggestions, ideas, and encouragement.

                                                                  Thank you so very much!

                                                                  1. Never tried it in savory dishes but it makes agreat tea, good for digestion. Also, anise cookies are awesome.

                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                    1. re: crowmuncher

                                                                      A lot of savory dishes from SE Asian and E Asian cuisine use star anise. Ditto cuisines form the Indian subcontinent.

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        yeah i know and from what i've read on thread so far so many of u cook with it in this way; not me unfortunately; if i crave pho i go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant; i don't even pretend to know how to make it; the only thing i've 'mastered' is the Vietnamese Spring Roll ;)

                                                                        1. re: crowmuncher

                                                                          You need someone showing you how to make Pho, it can be done nicely at home.

                                                                          1. re: RUK

                                                                            good to know- nothing like a homemade broth...

                                                                          2. re: crowmuncher

                                                                            CM, as I mentioned above, I haven't even eaten pho, how sad is that?! No excuses, either. But I love the idea of making it at home, especially for our (endless) cold, dreary fall/winter/spring/summer rainy season in the Pacific NW.

                                                                            1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                              It is truly perfect food for your oft cool and overcast days!

                                                                        2. re: crowmuncher

                                                                          It is easy to find on Mexican spice racks. However when I ask a store owner what it was used for, all she could think of were medicinal uses.

                                                                          Anise is used as a desert flavoring in Latin America (e.g. in an Ecuadorian sweet humita/tamale), but I'm not sure which seed is actually used. There are several plants that have a anise like flavor.

                                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                                            "However when I ask a store owner what it was used for, all she could think of were medicinal uses."
                                                                            Really? Interesting.

                                                                          1. Off the top of my head -
                                                                            Bak kut teh
                                                                            Braised (sliced) pork hocks
                                                                            Beef, carrots, onions, (maybe potatoes) stew

                                                                            Any braised stew with meat with or without vegetables (root or hard stemmed - e.g. celery).
                                                                            Of course, various other stuff also goes in according to the dish and the flavor profile one wants.

                                                                            For example, I just made a pot of those pork hocks I referred to above together with a lot of smashed fresh ginger (a lot), cinnamon sticks, a little smashed garlic, and generous rice vinegar. No cloves. Oh, also fu yee and bamboo shoots.

                                                                            1. Buttertart, the recipe in your original post sounds great! I have a big chuck roast that I didn't just want to turn into another stew/potroast. Nice idea.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                You won't regret it. This keeps well and reheats well too. Hope you love it!

                                                                              2. I enjoy the flavor of star anise in a fresh pitcher of Sangria. Also nice to add one in each glass.

                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                  Ooh, that's a lovely idea! Ihave been wanting to make a non-alcoholic sangria type thing for the summer days but have had precious few days where cool drinks were called for. I love how pretty those things are and they would be beautiful in a pitcher with strawberries, etc.

                                                                                  1. re: jlhinwa

                                                                                    I bet they would be very pretty as a garnish on a jack rose cocktail, too.

                                                                                  2. re: HillJ

                                                                                    Great idea. I'm going to try that.

                                                                                  3. This recipe was great! A touch salty, but very delicious. Definitely recommend a bland side like rice or pasta to balance the salty spiciness.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                      And I left out the salt she recommends! Sichuan food tends to be salty - dishes were traditionally what made the rice go down, a condiment rather than a thing on their own. Sichuan has also been a center of salt production for millennia.

                                                                                    2. Melon preserves (specifically cantaloupe) with star anise.

                                                                                      1. In addition to the fruit compote and apple butter that has already been mentioned, I will sometimes use it in baked brown sugar and butter squash but the way it's used most often in my house is being tossed into the bottom of a french press when making coffee or tea. I love both star anise and cardamon in my coffee, just toss it in with the grinds, add boiled water and press as normal. Adds a certain flavor most people can't place but I really enjoy.

                                                                                        1. For Christmas every year we make cinnamon tree ornaments (large jar of powdered cinnamon and applesauce to create a dough) and we stick a star anise in the center for both fragrance and artistic effect.

                                                                                          1. Snowy here and a nice big pot of the Sichuan beef is burbling quietly on the stove, Made shao bing to go with. Should be a nice dinner.