Friday, June 19, 2009

Slobs, then snobs

Last week we ate a meal that made Brian and I first feel like slobs and then like snobs. I'm not overly concerned with creating unified menus for our mid-week meals and we often have strange juxtapositions--Middle Eastern red lentil soup served with quesadillas and a side of sauteed cabbage with caraway seeds? Why not?--but usually my meals aren't quite as schizophrenic as this one was.

We started with my strategy to use up some of the vast quantity of lovely lettuce from the farm share by treating the lettuce
as a containment device, a sort of substitute for tortillas, or egg roll wrappers or pita in the enclosing of fillings. I had planned on a chicken filling with Chinese flavors but then went out on my deck, saw my herbs threatening to overrun their pots and thought a little thinning was in order. With handfuls of mint, basil and cilantro, a goodly splash of fish sauce, some chopped up peanuts and a lime-garlic dipping sauce the flavor profile veered towards something more South East Asian in origin.
I also made some steamed short grain rice to round out the filling. The wraps were very messy and very fun to eat.
Then Brian and I convinced the critters to at least pretend to go to bed (they go in their rooms, we leave the lights on and pretend that we don't hear the bumps and thumps. Denial! It works!)

We cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned up our messy selves (in my case, a change of T-shirt was necessary since I was still wearing my dinner, kind of like a toddler.) Then we settled down on the couch, popped in the latest Netflix offering and treated ourselves to a dessert that was a complete juxtaposition to our dinner: honey drizzled strawberries with honey lavender panna cotta. Other than drizzling honey over the berries about an hour ahead of time to mix with the berry juices and make a syrup, I followed this recipe to a T.
Oh my this was a lovely dessert. It was cool and fragrant and made me feel just a bit elegant eating it. And elegant is usually the last thing I feel after a messy dinner, critter wrangling and the evening house clean up.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with SE Asian Flavors

1 T canola or peanut oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 T chopped ginger
1 T chopped garlic
1 lb ground chicken or finely chopped chicken thighs
2 T fish sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
4 scallions, whites and greens sliced
1 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
1 carrot, grated coarsely
1/3 C roasted peanuts (unsalted or low salt preferable), chopped
handful of basil (Thai if you have it, regular if you don't), picked off the stems
handful of mint, picked off the stems
handful of cilantro, picked off the stems
two heads of broad leafed lettuce--Boston or butter lettuce is great, but leaf lettuce is good too--washed and dried; try to keep the leaves as intact as possible

cooked short grain sticky rice (about 1/2 C or so per person)

dipping sauce:
1/4 c sugar
juice of one lime
2 T fish sauce
2 T water
1 T soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 T rice wine vinegar
a source of heat: either a small chopped chili, a 1/2 t of dried chili flakes, or a good squirt of sriracha hot sauce

Heat oil in a skillet and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly, until fragrant. Add the ground chicken to the pan and break up into smallish pieces. Brown the chicken then add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, scallions, water chestnuts and carrot. Stir fry briefly until carrot is softened. Before serving stir in the peanuts and the fresh herbs. Or you can serve the herbs alongside the lettuce on a plate and let people add the herbs to their rice/chicken/lettuce bundles as they like. Serve with the dipping sauce (just mix together all ingredients for the sauce and divide into smaller bowls so everyone has one to dip from) and plenty of napkins.

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