Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fish Sauce...who knew?

I haven’t written lately…it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading or cooking, it just means I haven’t taken the time to write about what I’m reading or cooking. It also means that when I’m cooking, I’m not taking pictures of what I’m cooking.

I’m bad.

But I’d like to re-enter the blog-o-sphere with an entry about Martha Stewart’s Lemon Grass Beef Skewers. I was a little intimidated because this was my first venture into cooking with fish sauce. The smell is a bit off-putting. Not to mention its pungent taste when sampled on it’s own. But the combination of fish sauce with brown sugar, lemon grass and garlic creates that familiar Thai seasoning that blends perfectly with peanuts, crisp lettuce and juicy beef.

I’ve made the beef three times now, and served it along side Martha’s rice noodles with scallions and herbs. For lack of a grill pan, I’ve cooked the beef on my Foreman Grill (with detachable plates, mind you!) and been extremely happy with the texture.

You remember Aladdin? The part where Jasmine is flying through the air on a magic carpet, singing “A Whole New World?” Well this dish opened a whole new world for me. I’m happy to report that fish sauce is now my friend!

Serves 4
3 lemongrass stalks, bottom 4 inches only, minced
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light-brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound boneless sirloin, trimmed of excess fat
1/4 cup roasted salted peanuts (about 1 ounce), crushed
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal (optional)
Fresh mint and basil sprigs, for serving
Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves, for serving
Lime wedges, for squeezing
Soak 8 bamboo skewers in cold water for 30 minutes.
Whisk together lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and oil. Slice beef very thinly against the grain. Add to marinade, and toss. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Thread beef onto skewers. Grill until browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Sprinkle with peanuts. Serve with the remaining ingredients on the side, bundling the meat, cucumber, and herbs inside the lettuce leaves if desired.

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