Sunday, August 9, 2009

Am I as Obsessive as Christopher Kimball? (Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps)

Oh, this man.

David is in Australia again and I am my usual basket case. If you've been reading for a few months, you already know what happened the last time David went to Australia without us.

Well, he's gone again for the week and I'm back to checking the rooms to make sure the ironing board in the closet that looks like it could be a serial killer is actually an ironing board. (This kind of thoroughness takes time and energy) I also have to check the door to make sure it's locked 30 times before I go to bed (kid you not) and I'm pretty busy fantasizing that every little noise in the night is actually a ghost, and that any minute the bed will shoot straight up to the ceiling and whirl around and around, and the cupboard doors will start opening and shutting by themselves.

I've also been watching the cats a lot lately because I hear that if they act squirrely it's because there is something poltergeisty in the house. They are my barometer. If they look calm, I'm calm. If they chase a piece of fuzz across the floor, I'm calling 911.

So, this post will be short because all this looking out for things that could hurt us is exhausting. I am much too busy worrying that the airline mechanics haven't had a proper nights sleep and they will screw up the mechanical inspection of my husband's plane. I check CNN on my phone all day to make sure there haven't been any plane crashes. Even as I write this I feel that even joking about it could send a negative vibe into the air and change the course of the future, so let's stop talking about plane crashes now, okay?...The plane will be fine.

Good plane. High flying plane. Plane of sturdy, well-maintained parts and excellent staying-in-the-air power. Breathe, Kim. Breathe

But there's more...Once this trip, I even had this elaborate fantasy trying to imagine how the girls and I would ever be able to live without David should he survive a plane crash, but come out of it with amnesia and not recognize us and by the end of the fantasy, after we had worked through our deep sadness, I had figured out like 20 different ways I would work selflessly, toiling like Mother Theresa to help him remember our faces and reclaim his life. Seriously, this all played out in my head.

See? Busy, busy.

So, I'm going to leave you the meal David requested for his last meal before he left for Australia. And even now, I hate calling it the "last meal" because well, bad vibes and all (and that made me remember that I haven't even had time to write you my theories about terrorist attacks and what could definitely happen with that), so I'm calling it, "The Get-Your-Butt-Home-in-One-Piece Thai Pork Lettuce Cups". That covers it all, doesn't it?

Now, these are from the most recent issue of "Cook's Illustrated" and I love them and so, I'm giving you their complete recipe here because they, too, are obsessive compulsive and since I did not try this recipe with 24 different cuts of pork, who am I to challenge Christopher Kimball on his own brand of crazy? Although his sounds ways more fun than mine.

I will concede that I made a few changes only because I made this on the fly and we live in Harlem and finding a head of bibb lettuce in Harlem is impossible. I used a beautiful leafy red lettuce and did the best I could. It all went down the same.

Leftovers & Next Day Lunch

Also, I suggest grinding up extra pork loin and keeping it uncooked for the next day and making extra rice. That way you can make pork fried rice for lunch. Splash a little fish sauce on the pork and mix a little shredded ginger in there with your hands. Throw some chopped onions and garlic in the wok when the oil is glistening hot. Add the pork breaking it into little pieces as you go. Get it nearly cooked through and add leftover cooked rice. Mix it all in together and scramble an egg scrambled in there. Salt, pepper, a handful of cilantro. Awesome Chinese lunch.

Another thing, about Cook's Illustrated - I suggest not buying the magazine and buying the online subscription. It is hard to remember which magazine in your den has the perfect pot roast recipe and holding onto old magazines is a space-swallower. But their website is great. It's $30-ish a year but you can search for recipes, product reviews and cooking methods as you need them. It's really a terrific site.

Here's the recipe. David loved these so much, he took what was left with him on the plane. Enjoy!

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps (Or "The Get-Your-Butt-Home-in-One-Piece Thai Pork Lettuce Cups"

Serve 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course. Published September 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.

From Cook's Illustrated: We prefer natural pork in this recipe. If using enhanced pork, skip the marinating in step 2 and reduce the amount of fish sauce to 2 tablespoons, adding it all in step 5. Don’t skip the toasted rice; it’s integral to the texture and flavor of the dish. Any style of white rice can be used. Toasted rice powder (kao kua) can also be found in many Asian markets. This dish can be served with sticky rice and steamed vegetables as an entrĂ©e. To save time, prepare the other ingredients while the pork is in the freezer.


1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of silver skin and fat, cut into 1-inch chunks (see note)
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon white rice (see note)
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
2 teaspoons 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


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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).

4. 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.

5. 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.

(Photo: I didn't take this picture and have no idea who did, otherwise I would've credited it. My wraps were horsed down before I could snap a picture. Sorry, total slacker this week.)



ntsc said...

We have several food magazines going back 30 years in the case of Bon Appetite, Gourmet almost as long. My wife has them cross indexed.

The down side is I can't read her handwriting and I can't convince her to do the work on a computer.

Of course then I would have to write the database.

Having worked for 30 years across the street from the building cleaned up in Ghostbusters, you can't be too careful.

Cheryl Arkison said...

I love Christopher Kimball - love him! I buy the annual America's Test Kitchen best of and leave it at that.

PS My Hubby is constantly going out of town and I do things like that ALL the time. How the hell do military wives do it when their partners are actually in danger?

cooknkate said...

I used to love reading CI, then I started blogging and reading food blogs and then I started seeing all these posts about food bloggers who posted recipes from CI and who got raked over the coals by the CI police because apparently you cannot reprint a CI recipe. Ever. Period.

I'm just warning you.....they can be extremely sticky about it.

CI does a great service in helping people be smarter cooks, not better, just smarter. But they don't like to share. It's the equivalent of being the kid at the park with the coolest ball, or best game, and hogging it all to themselves while everyone else can only stand around watching the fun. And they are the only food mag I know who charges for BOTH a paper subscription AND an online one.

That being said, I turn to my HUGE CI cookbook all the time. But I've canceled my subscription forever.

The Yummy Mummy said...

I do remember what happened to Melissa over at Alosha's Kitchen when she re-produced a CI recipe...ah! the drama!

But I live for danger. Bring it on, Kimball. I can take him. He's pretty scrawny and I have birthing hips. (And like CI ever reads my blog anyway. I should be so famous)

That said, I like their website and it is way more efficient than dealing with a stack of magazines
and thumbing through them for that Calphalon review. I'm not re-upping my mag subscription though.

I suppose if you want to save the 30 something extra dollars, having Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" in your kitchen is probably just as good a cooking resource, less starchy and a way more fun read.

Thanks for your thoughts Kate. Right on, as always.


Amy said...

Paul travels every few months...nothing, right? Although, it always feels like I'm being punished when I hear those words, "I need to go to another conference." I'll lock all the doors, and literally 2 minutes later check them again to see if they're locked. Paranoia, anyone?

Funny timing of your recipe. I just posted one for Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups.

Lorelei said...

I was about to post "who needs CI, I'll let you weed through the recipes and post the good ones" but after learning about the CI police I decided to cut and paste this recipe quickly in case they shut you out! I used to subscribe but I got sick of the solicitation calls. Perhaps I'll try the online subscription.

Love your blog ...
--one of your many devoted lurkers.

Anna said...

You poor thing. My OH has just moved 300 miles away and the first week has been hell. I thought I was going mad as I've reverted to an 8-year old, sleeping with the light on and sticking to the ceiling at every creak. Even if it's the first signs of insanity, I'm glad I'm not alone!

The recipe looks delicious, I love fiddly-wrappy-touchy food like that. Definitely trying this one. Thanks Kim!

ntsc said...

AS I remember Melissa ran afoul not of reprinting a recipe, but of changing it. The blog being gone, I can't check it out, although she is a friend on face book.

In anycase, a list of ingrediants is explicitly not copyrightable, nor are general instructions. What is copyrightable is exposition outside those two minimum lists. Now lawyers can and will fight about what is general instruction and what is exposition, but they will not fight about ingrediant lists.

In theory a food recipe ingrediant list might be covered by a patent, but I've never heard of such.

Note: I am not an attorney, I'm simply relaying what I recall from the blog incident in question.

ntsc said...

On the travel, in the late 90s and up to summer of 01, I traveled extensively. Europe and the left coast in the same week with a stop over in NY were common.

My wife started making noises about wanting to see my id before I could come into the house. I was seldom in the office more than 4-5 days a month. I still have unused frequent flier miles.

The Yummy Mummy said...

NTSC - Thanks for the clarification. I think you're right - Melissa changed their recipe and that's when they freaked. Because, you know, after you make a recipe with 24 different cuts of pork, you get a little pissy when people start ka-diddling with your results. being anal makes you all crazy and entitled.

Thanks also for the info on copyright. Not sure if you knew but Krysta ( for those who don't know that even possible?) just found out some guy took her entire post, plus pictures, recipe and her original writing and re-posted the whole thing on his site. He credited her with a link, but did so without her permission or knowledge.

She's pissed. And there's certainly something messed up about it and swarmy about it, but it's all pretty vague still, what's okay and not okay. Thoughts?


unmatched_fabulous said...

link to another food blogger's post about privacy issues etc... hopefully it helps!

Anne Stesney said...

I love it Foster. I hope the CI police try to lock you up. It'll make Cool Hand Luke look like a wimp.

YLM said...

God, I thought it was just me who did all that.

Do you also rehearse escape plans when you're on a plane? If I'm lucky that occupies my mind for at least one hour post takeoff, then I do it again before landing. Kind of makes the time go faster. Have also taught the kids how to read 'exit', just in case. Guess I should probably think about starting a shrink fund for them when they come of age, so mired are they in my paranoia.

Oh well, welcome to psychoville.