Today I am craving ‘normal’. I am half way around the world enjoying a glass of wine in a lovely street cafe and yet I am craving homemade food and all that is normal about it. Too much travel this last month has left more eager than usual to return home and embrace everything ‘normal’ about it. I am not sure what normal really is but I am absolutely hungry for t.
Frequent work travel has given me my fill of hotel burger dinners and Starbuck’s breakfasts. And while it is also true that I have had some very lovely dinners in some fantastic restaurants with some very fantastic people the truth is that I have had my fill of those too. At least until I get some normal again.
Yes, I am being somewhat dramatic and could actually suffer here in London some more if I had to. I’m sure nobody is yet feelings sorry for me as they read this. I am just sorely missing my family and the serenity that comes from being around them daily and experiencing their normal as well. Some of them are experiencing abnormal things in their lives but still, me being there with them at those times seems normal and I am now missing out on that too.
I am missing normal food. And by normal food I mean the stuff that I make myself and not the kind that I unwrap or order off a menu.
I’m craving Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps. For me it does not get more normal than this. I first made them years ago after not quite enjoying the over-salted versions which became so popluar at those chain Asian restaurants. I stumbled on this version on an episode of America’s Test Kitchen (a show ripe for lampooning on Saturday Night Live if you ask me) and the dish quickly turned into one of my favorite, normal dishes.
They are healthy, easy to make and um, normal. I’m sure if to try these you will know why I am now craving them.
Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
This is what you will need:
- 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of skin and fat, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon white rice
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 medium shallots , peeled and sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons juice from 2 limes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 head Bibb lettuce , washed and dried, leaves separated and left whole
This is how you make it:
- Place pork chunks on large plate in single layer.
- Freeze meat until firm and starting to harden around edges but still pliable, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Place half of meat in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped, 5 to six 1-second pulses.
- Transfer ground meat to medium bowl and repeat with remaining chunks.
- Stir 1 tablespoon fish sauce into ground meat and marinate, refrigerated, 15 minutes.
- Heat rice in small skillet over medium-high heat; cook, stirring constantly, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to small bowl and cool 5 minutes.
- Grind rice with spice grinder, mini food processor, or mortar and pestle until it resembles fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds (you should have about 1 tablespoon rice powder).
- Bring broth to simmer in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add pork and cook, stirring frequently, until about half of pork is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over pork; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until remaining pork is no longer pink, 1 to 1½ minutes longer.
- Transfer pork to large bowl; let cool 10 minutes.
- Add remaining 1½ tablespoons fish sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint, and cilantro to pork; toss to combine.
- Serve with lettuce leaves.