05 April 2013

Thai-Inspired Lettuce-Wrap Dinner Party


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This dinner party was inspired by my spontaneous purchase of a fresh coconut in the market, the challenges of opening said coconut, and the determination to do something delicious with the results. Given that coconut suggests Asian food, a cuisine I have relatively little experience with, I turned to our trusty "Hot, Sour Salty, Sweet" cookbook. Nearly every recipe here was inspired by this cookbook, I even consulted it for how to saute my peanuts, though none of the recipes were meant to be combined together in such a way. I'm old-fashioned like that, I still think cookbooks beat the internet when it comes to really learning about a cuisine.

Originally, I made some sauteed eggplant and rice on the side, figuring that guests or picky eaters who didn't want lettuce wraps could simply make themselves a more traditional plate of rice, eggplant, and chicken if they wanted. However, we mainly ended up adding the rice and eggplant to the wraps, using the rice to soak up the delicious chili sauce and the eggplant for a vegetarian wrap. Don't be put off be the long multi-day instructions, this really is easy to pull together.

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Thai-Inspired Lettuce Wrap Party
Lettuce Leaves (we used butter lettuce) - separated, washed, and chilled
Chopped Toasted Peanuts
Sweet-Sour Chili Sauce
Chopped Green Onions, white and green parts
Cilantro and Mint Leaves
Pickled Carrots and Turnips
Sauteed Beef with Coconut (recipe follows)
Chicken Thighs Stewed in Coconut Milk (totally made this one up)

Optional Additions:
Sauteed Eggplant Rounds
Rice

Game Plan:
(This game plan is flexible, you could shift it out to three days ahead, our do all your prep over the weekend for a weeknight dinner party.)

Two days ahead: do all grocery shopping. Make your pickled carrots/turnips, and the sweet-sour chili sauce. Wash lettuce leaves and place them in paper-towel lined tupperware in the fridge. Total time about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

One day ahead: make the chicken in coconut milk, and prep your nuts and chopped herbs, placing them in their serving bowls and covered with plastic wrap. Total time about 1 1/2 hours (mainly the chicken stewing).

Day of party: Make the sauteed beef. If making, saute the eggplant rounds (I drizzle my eggplant rounds with some of the sweet-sour-chili sauce) and make the rice. Assemble all the components on your table and serve!

On the playlist: Keep You - Wild Belle, From Nowhere - Dan Croll, Overdrawn - White Sea, Viva La Vida - 2Cellos, Ghir Enta - Souad Messi, Hope of  Lifetime - Milk Carton Kids

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Beef with Coconut
The best use I've found for ground beef since hamburgers.

1 bunch scallions, white and green parts sliced
1/2 kilo freshly ground beef
oil, salt
1 tablespoon curry powder, the best you can get
1 cup freshly grated coconut or dried unsweetened coconut
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Heat the oil in a medium sized saute pan. Saute the scallions until softened and starting to be translucent. Add in the beef, season heavily with salt and add the curry powder. Saute, breaking the beef up into bits. Just before the beef is done, stir in the coconut and mix well. When beef is done, remove to a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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