Chili Beef Lettuce Wraps

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The other day I came across Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course on Amazon Prime. I happen to be a huge fan of his, so of course I watched.

I’ve already frantically written down two recipes from just the first episode, this being one of the two – Asian-inspired crispy beef and pork, served in lettuce leaves with a fabulous sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

Not surprisingly, all of his recipes on this show were lovely; there are 100 in all – “recipes to stake your life on.” A huge promise, but of course, he’s Chef Ramsay. According to Gordon, “I’m going to teach you amazing food you can cook standing on your head.”

The cookery series consists of ten episodes, originally aired in 2012. “Each episode concentrates on a different theme essential for the modern cook and is packed with useful tips and tricks to save time and money.”

And what’s truly amazing to me, is that Chef Ramsay can talk, non-stop, in his wonderful culinary prose, describing everything he’s doing, and the flavors and smells, all whilst cooking. As my family can attest, I cannot cook and talk. So that impresses me! And, he may not be everybody’s favorite chef, but darn, his passion shows!

Note: In the U.S., where I live, chile peppers cover the whole gamut of smoked, dried, and fresh peppers. They are spelled chile peppers, not chili peppers. Chili is an American meat dish.

However, in other countries like England, chile peppers are spelled chili peppers, and sometimes chilli peppers, or chilis or chillies. Until you know this, you may be confused!

So I’m honoring Chef Ramsay’s recipe name of Chili Beef Lettuce Wraps, named for the little red chile peppers he uses in the recipe!

Chili Beef Lettuce Wraps with Dipping Sauce
Printable recipe below

Olive oil, for frying
200g lean minced beef
200g minced pork
Toasted sesame oil, for frying
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1–2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
Zest of 1 lime, juice of 1/3 lime
3 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 little gem lettuces, separated into leaves, to serve

Heat a large frying pan and add a little oil. Mix the minced beef and pork together. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to ensure the seasoning is evenly distributed. Fry the mince in the hot pan for 5–7 minutes until crisp and brown and broken down to a fine consistency. Drain the crisped mince in a sieve – this will help it stay crispy. Set aside.

Wipe out the pan and add a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry with a pinch of salt and the sugar for 2 minutes. Add the drained mince and stir to mix. Add the fish sauce and heat through. Stir in the lime zest and juice, then add the spring onions, stirring for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste.

To serve, spoon some of the mince mixture into the lettuce leaves, drizzle with a little dressing and serve.

Or, if you couldn’t find Little Gem lettuce and had to substitute butter lettuce, and it doesn’t work well for roll-ups, gently slice the lettuce, place on a platter, and cover with the beef mixture

I poured the remaining sauce over the top, and it was wonderful as a salad of sorts!

Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1-2 chillies, thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Chopped cilantro

Mix all of the ingredients together well. Pour into a small bowl and serve with the lettuce wraps.

 

 

Tinto de Verano

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One day during quarantine when it was too hot to be outside, I happened upon a show called Amy Schumer Learns to Cook. Now I do like Amy Schumer, but this cooking show, where she partners with chef-husband Chris Fischer, shows Amy from a totally different perspective.

I had to google Chris Fischer, and he’s no line cook at Applebees. From Martha’s Vineyard originally, he inherited the family farm, and started the Beetlebung Farmer’s Market, which includes a restaurant. Oh, and he is a James Beard award winner for the Beetlebung Farm Cookbook. The name Beetlebung kind of gives insight into the humor that bonds the two of them.

So, the guy know his chops. And for the show, he attempts to teach his wife basic cooking during their quarantine. Great concept. They’re really cute together, lower left pic. This drink requires a red vermouth called Noilly Prat, pictured below right.

This refreshing drink is reminiscent of sangria, but simpler, and not as alcoholic. It translates to “red wine of summer.”

I estimated the amounts by watching Ms. Schumer pour the first three ingredients into her pitcher. Feel free to adjust according to your taste. I don’t know what it’s “supposed” to taste like!

Tinto de Verano

1 bottle of Spanish red, chilled
2 cans Fresca, chilled
1 cup Noilly Prat rouge, chilled
Juice of 1 lemon
2 oranges, one juiced, one sliced

Pour the wine and Noilly Prat into a large pitcher.

Add the juiced lemon and orange and stir well. Toss in the sliced oranges, and save some for the glasses.

Add the fresca at the last minute. You want the tinto de verona nice and bubbly.

I added ice to two glasses instead of adding ice to the pitcher. I didn’t want it watered down, and it was hot hot hot outside.

The verdict? A perfect ratio of wine, bubbly, and sweet vermouth. I like the citrus flavors as well.

I think I might enjoy this a little bit more than traditional sangria, but I’ll continue to test…

The only negative, is that Amy Schumer Learns to Cook is only four episodes. I want more!

Paloma Margarita

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Yes, one more margarita recipe! This is a recipe I had hand-written on a recipe card many years ago, but then recently discovered it online when I was researching the source of the name “Paloma.” The same margarita is on the Food Network Website. It’s a different kind of margarita recipe in that it contains grapefruit juice.

But first I have to brag about my recent purchase, a Breville 800CPXL Die-Cast Stainless-Steel Motorized Citrus Press from Amazon. It’s not inexpensive, but so worth the expense if you love margaritas and your hands can’t handle squeezing 30 limes at a time.

This appliance works with any size citrus fruit, from limes to grapefruits.

What is also really nice is that with little effort, more juice is removed than any kind of manual squeezing in my experience.

In fact, it’s so “fun” to use, I’ve been keeping a bottle of lime juice in my fridge, and it’s more handy than I even expected! Need lime juice for a quick lime dressing? Done! How about some lime juice for guacamole, or even for a quick limeade! Done! It’s very handy and stays fresh in a lidded bottle.

But the Paloma margarita story doesn’t end here. (I never did figure out why the name Paloma…) My daughter and her family were visiting for a pool party kind of day, and I thought I’d serve the Paloma margaritas to the big people; it was a perfect opportunity to test the recipe.

Well, my daughter and I made them, and we hated them. So my more bartender-talented daughter stepped in and created the following recipe. (She’s always saved my sangrias in the past as well!)

There’s still grapefruit juice in this cocktail, but it’s also definitely a margarita.

Paloma Margarita
Makes 2 drinks

4 ounces tequila
4 ounces grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
Juice of 1/2 small lime
5 drops of Stevia
Fresca, chilled

Prepare two glasses with a salt rim, and fill the glasses with ice.

Combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and stevia in a cocktail shaker. Add a little ice and shake to cool the margarita.

Strain the ice and divide the margarita between the two glasses. Top each drink with about 2 ounces of Fresca.

Ta da! You’ve got one of the most enjoyable margaritas ever. If you enjoy grapefruit juice.

Make sure to use good, ruby-red grapefruit for maximum sweetness.

If you don’t like salty rims, add a pinch of salt into each cocktail. It really adds something special.

You can adjust the amount of stevia used as well, or substitute a teaspoon of simple syrup.

I thought this margarita was spectacular. There’s something about tequila, grapefruit juice, lime, and salt….

Hawaiian Poke

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The only times in my life, until recently, that I have enjoyed poke were the three times my husband and I attended luaus in Hawaii.

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Luaus were something we resisted – not because of the traditional food and entertainment, but because there’s always a maniacal M.C. who narrates the luau festivities, and will pull people out of the crowd to participate. Like these poor guys who had to wear coconut bras and perform the hula.

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But after going to Hawaii many times, beginning with getting married there in 1982, we decided we needed to attend a luau for cultural reasons. Sort of like eating haggis in Scotland. You just have to do it.

I, of course, tried all of the authentic luau culinary offerings. I tasted poi and didn’t like it, but I ate everything else, and especially loved the poke, pronounced poe-kay – essentially a marinated chopped ahi salad.

Fast forward some years, and we took our daughters to Hawaii, and decided they needed the luau experience. The entertainment really is impressive, but even my daughters spent the whole time rolling their eyeballs because of the obnoxious M.C. Still a unique and I think necessary experience for all when you visit Hawaii. And the poke is really good.

Then, during their college years, we took our daughters and two girlfriends to Hawaii. We felt the friends needed the cultural luau experience as well, so for the third and last time, we subjected ourselves to a luau. We all drank overly sweet Mai Tais and I enjoyed a plate of poke as the bulk of my luau meal.

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Our recent vacation to Kauai was my husband’s destination choice for his 60th birthday. I mostly looked forward to the array of fresh fish and seafood that of course I can’t purchase where I live. We practically ate fish until it was swimming out of our ears!!!

Which brings me to poke. In the four years since our last visit to Kauai, something happened with poke. It became popular. Actually more of a trend. I’m not typically fond of trends, but, well, it’s poke. The modernized version is marinated chopped ahi, served over a bed of rice, over a layer of avocado, shown below.

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Here’s a photo of one I had that was topped with eel. It was incredible.

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After returning home, I searched for poke recipes online and found NONE. So I’m creating my own. I’m sure there’s supposed to be seaweed/furikake in it, but that’s not something I can get my hands on. Here’s what I did.

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Hawaiian Poke
Serves 2

1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
Snipped chives
2 – 4 ounce frozen tuna/ahi steaks*
Cooked white rice, approximately 2 cups
Ume plum vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
2 ripe medium avocados
Juice from 1/2 lime
Salt
Chives
Cayenne pepper flakes
Sushi ginger
Caviar

First prepare the marinade. Place the first 5 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and stir well.

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Make sure the tuna is dry; I use paper towels for this purpose. Finely chop the tuna steaks. My cubes were about 1/3″ inch and I think they could have been even smaller to be more manageable.

Place the tuna in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Bring the tuna close to room temperature before serving.

Add some vinegar to the cooked and cooled rice, about 2 teaspoons, and fluff; set aside.

Blend the avocado with the lime juice. Season with a little salta do set aside.

If you want a drizzle, first remove the tuna from the marinade and place the remaining marinade in a small pot. Reduce. I chose not to do this.

When you’re ready to plate and serve, begin by forming a layer of avocado on the plate inside a circular mold. Top with the rice, trying not to push it down too firmly.

Then top with the marinated tuna. Carefully remove the mold and add a little more tuna if necessary.

I could tell that I perhaps used too much of the marinade while placing the tuna on top of the rice. It’s not as pretty, but it definitely still tastes good!

Sprinkle with some snipped chives, add a slice or two of sushi ginger, top with caviar if you have some and a few cayenne pepper flakes for some optional heat. I now remember sesame seeds as well in poke that I ordered.

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None of these garnishes are necessary to me. What’s important is the avocado, rice, and tuna!!!

This was seriously a fabulous, re-created treat for me, even though it was 38 degrees outside. And I honestly can’t think of how I’d change this recipe!

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note: For the rice, I used an Italian risotto rice. I didn’t have sushi rice or even white rice in my pantry, and I wanted something that would stick together.

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* I don’t live near an ocean, so the only fish or seafood I can cook is previously frozen. It’s not ideal, but it’s my only option.

Summer Sea Bass

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I actually went to the store to purchase salmon, because I promised Stefan, from the blog Stefan Gourmet, that I would sous vide salmon. I’ve used my beloved sous vide demi for a variety of meats, but never fish. When I met Stefan in person, he made me promise I’d try salmon.

But, they had no salmon. Not really surprising. I kind of live in the middle of nowhere. We’re landlocked here, so seafood is always a challenging purchase. But I also remember going to the store in this town many years ago with two different grocery lists. If I was having company, I planned two different menus, because most likely a significant ingredient was not available. Like, green beans or cilantro. Or pork.

Fortunately, grocery shopping has improved from those days, but honestly, I shouldn’t have high expectations from the seafood department.

So, no salmon. But I spotted a beautiful filet of sea bass. I always remember Julia Child suggesting that you ask the guy who works seafood who doesn’t really care about seafood fish monger to smell the fish you want to buy, to make sure that it is fresh. Great advice, but I’ve never been brave enough to do this. Fortunately the bass smelled really good when I got a piece of the filet home.

It’s a truly beautiful white fish. I got Stefan’s recommendation for sous vide’ing the filet. After all, he is the King of Sous Vide. Water temperature 118 degrees Farenheit, for 20 minutes. One end of the filet was quite thick, otherwise 10-15 minutes will do it.

It’s quite simple. You set the temperature, vacuum seal the fish, and watch the time.

Afterwards, pat the fish filet with paper towels.

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Meanwhile, make a topping for the fish. This really isn’t a salsa, or even Southwestern, in my mind, mostly because I didn’t use hot sauce or chile peppers. To me, I wanted the flavors of summer to shine with the sea bass.

I mixed together purple onion, avocado, freshly cooked corn, tomatoes, and cilantro. Plus a squeeze of lime. Simple. Mango or peach would have worked with the other ingredients, but I hadn’t planned ahead when I purchased the sea bass. Stir the ingredients well and set aside.

To prepare the fish to serve, only a slight bit or searing is necessary, since the sous vide does the cooking. The searing just adds a little color. You can sear as much as you wish; I went for a modest sear.

I love fish cooked in butter, but because of the summer-inspired topping, I decided on olive oil. Simply add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet and turn on the heat to its maximum. You might want to turn on your ventilation system as well.

Add the fish, which I cut into four pieces to make things easier, to the skillet. Stefan suggested only searing on the skin side, but I did both. The fish flesh was very firm, so I knew it wouldn’t fall apart from being flipped over in the skillet.

Serve the sea bass immediately along with the summer-inspired topping.

I paired the meal with a Tecate, which is one of my favorite beers. A crisp Riesling or Pinot Blanc would be wonderful as well.

As you can see, the fish is glistening. It’s perfectly cooked – tender and moist.

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This was so successful and impressive. I will definitely use my sous vide machine for more fish experiments. After all, we must eat!!!