Summer comes this weekend, at least to our brains if not our skies (thunderstorms passing through New Mexico this week!). Memorial Day weekendâ€”time to reinstate the grill and pull out that warm-weather attitude.
I’ll keep this quick and to the point: three easy, zippy recipes for a Southeast Asian-style grilled dinner (with a hint of the Southwest) that will dazzle your guests. Not for weak stomachs.
Southeast Asian Curry Burgers
1 lb high-quality grass-fed ground beef*
2-3 stalks fresh lemongrass, peeled and sliced thinly
large chunk of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2-3 dried anchos**
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
drizzle of fish sauce
1/2 head garlic, minced
3 small shallots, finely chopped
* Good meat is key to re-creating Asian flavors. If you’re in the Albuquerque area, check Keller’s. Grass-fed beef will be lean. Try adding a dollop of butter or ghee if you want super richness. Or, try it with ground pork for burgers reminiscent of a Lao wonder I had for breakfast one morning, of all places, at the Luang Prabang bus station. (Lao bus stations sell some of the tastiest food.)
** Here’s the Southwest connection. Ancho chiles (dried poblanos) lend a rich, smoky aroma that pairs very well with these Asian flavors.
Pound ginger, lemongrass and all spices using a mortar and pestle (or toss into a food processor to save time). Mix with meat, shallots, garlic and fish sauce. Form into patties. You’re good to go! Grill as you would any ordinary hamburger.
Southeast Asian Grilled Veggies
your choice of vegetables, sliced as you like
several garlic cloves, minced
pinch of sliced ginger (optional)
glug of fish sauce
drizzle of sesame oil
Mix vegetables with other ingredients in a bowl and let sit half an hour. Wrap everything in foil for grilling. (I made two separate packets: one with whole tomatoes; another with sliced onion and eggplant.) Grill until vegetables are tender.
Lao Jaew (with hints of Mexico)
1 or more ancho chiles
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small piece of ginger, minced or pounded
glug of fish sauce
drizzle of vegetable oil
juice of one large lime or two small limes
pinch of sugar (I used shaved piloncillo; palm sugar also would work)
Break the dried ancho into small pieces (smash it or crumble it in your hands). Mix with other ingredients and let sit until ancho pieces turn soft. Taste and add more of any ingredient, as desired. This is a great chile sauce to keep on hand in the fridge. Plus, it has a beautiful orange-red color.
Enjoy! Serve with rice. Or whatever you want. I particularly love the way Southeast and Southwest flavors cooperate in these dishes.