Thursday, February 28, 2008

Happy Birthday, PPN!!!: Lemongrass-Barbecued Pork with Rice-Vermicelli Salad

Do you think Ruth had any idea how popular her Presto Pasta Nights would become? Do you think she knew we'd be able to celebrate 52 weeks - a full year (and a Leap Day, to boot!) with her? I know she puts a lot of effort and a lot of heart into her round-ups, and I couldn't be happier for her!! You rock, Ruth!

For this momentous of an event, I wanted to make something different and special. I rarely use lemongrass, even though I love it... and I even more rarely use rice vermicelli, so this recipe fit the bill nicely. I will admit it, I tensed up a little at the ingredient list... I get a little squidgy if I see more than 10 things listed... but once I actually read it and saw that some ingredients repeat themselves... I exhaled the breath I'd been holding.

You're probably used to me by now, telling how I deviated from the directions... I didn't use a mortar and pestle (the one I have is too small and dainty to actually use), so I used my mini-chopper (besides, I think I'd have to be really really buff to do any serious damage to lemongrass with a pestle)... and I don't have a grill, so I used my trusty grill pan... O right, and no pickled anythings to go-with... You'll have to let me know how it turns out if you make this and have the pickled stuff...

This dinner was so light and fresh and magical on the tongue. I really need to use mint more often. And I certainly have to find more dinners that include pulverized lemongrass. The dressing on the rice noodles was fantastic, and nicely offset by the crisp cucumbers. As glowing this recommendation is, my favorite part were the noodles... the way they were too long to eat neatly and they'd end up slapping me in the face... cracked me up!!!

I love noodles, you love noodles, Ruth loves noodles. Check in to her blog, Once Upon a Feast, tomorrow for her Week 52 Roundup!!

Lemongrass-Barbecued Pork with Rice-Vermicelli Salad
c/o Food & Wine Magazine, May 2006

Mai My Lin, one of the chefs Kiesel met at the Nha Trang night market, prepares an aromatic and pungent marinade for grilled pork with two quintessential Vietnamese ingredients—lemongrass and fish sauce. The real surprise here is Mai's zesty Carrot and Daikon Pickles, which are amazing with the smoky grilled meat.

4 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
3 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, sliced crosswise
2 large shallots, thickly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/2 pound rice vermicelli
4 medium garlic cloves, quartered
3 Thai chiles or 1 large jalapeño, thickly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped mint
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
2 large cucumbers—peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise

PREPARE THE PORK: In a food processor, finely chop the garlic, lemongrass and shallots. Add the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, vegetable oil and soy sauce and process to a paste. In a large shallow dish, coat the pork with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 11/2 hours.

MAKE THE RICE-VERMICELLI SALAD: In a large bowl, cover the rice vermicelli with cold water and let soak until pliable, about 20 minutes.

In a large mortar, using a pestle, pound the garlic cloves to a paste with the chiles and sugar. Stir in the fish sauce, cilantro, mint, lime juice and water.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Drain the rice vermicelli. Add it to the boiling water and cook, stirring, until barely tender, about 1 minute. Drain the vermicelli. Rinse the vermicelli in cold water and drain them thoroughly. Transfer the vermicelli to a large bowl, add the cilantro-and-mint dressing and toss well. Scatter the sliced cucumbers over the rice-vermicelli salad.

Light a grill. Lift the pork slices from the marinade, leaving on some of the flavorings. Grill the pork over a hot fire until nicely charred, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to plates and serve with the rice-vermicelli salad.


Ruth Daniels said...

You are too sweet, and might even make me cry ;-)

It is amazing how Presto Pasta Nights has developed a life of its own. And we couldn't have done it without you.

This dinner has me drooling. Thanks for sharing.

KC said...

Your recipe sounds great. I'm going to make it this weekend!

tigerfish said...

Love lemongrass. Oh, will that BBQ pork and rice vermicelli...can I have some?