Pork and Lemongrass Meatballs in Lettuce Cups

It’s been a lemongrass kind of weekend. I decided to try four new recipes — each required lemongrass — lemony, gingery and so fragrant. Wish I could figure out how to make it into a perfume.

So, I began with these pork and lemongrass meatballs for dinner last night — continued with the yummy chicken wings in the most delicious gingery glaze — added a lemongrass mojito that I sipped through the evening — and finished up with a Malaysian Beef Curry that is simmering away in a crockpot, scenting my entire little house with its spices. I have food for the entire week!

I know this has a lot of ingredient — but the sauce goes together in a couple of minutes and the spices for the meatballs another two or three. The meatballs chill for an hour — and then saute in about 10 minutes. I had an amazing dinner (the lettuce cups and the chicken wings and my mojito) in about 30 minutes of active time.

Meatballs:
1 pound ground pork
1 lemongrass stalk, bottom 5 inches only, smashed with rolling pin, then minced
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Dipping sauce and assembly:
1 lemongrass stalk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons coarsely grated carrot
4 teaspoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced green Thai chile or serrano chile with seeds
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 head of butter lettuce, leaves separated
1 small persian cucumber, thinly sliced

For meatballs: 
Chill pork in freezer while making lemongrass paste. Combine lemongrass, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining ingredients in processor; pulse until paste forms. Add chilled pork; pulse to blend. Shape into 24 balls (each about 1 tablespoonful). Place on rimmed baking sheet. Cover; chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
For dipping sauce and assembly: 
Cut bottom 3 inches from lemongrass. Smash with rolling pin, then mince. Measure 1 tablespoon and place in small bowl (reserve the rest for another use). Add lime juice, fish sauce, cilantro, carrot, sugar, and chile to bowl; whisk until sugar dissolves.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs; brown until cooked through, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes. Transfer to 1 side of large platter.
Arrange lettuce leaves and cucumber on platter with meatballs. Allow guests to place meatballs in leaves, garnish with cucumber, and drizzle dipping sauce over.

from Bon Appetit, March 2011

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