Thu May 27, 2010
Blogging is such a funny thing, a constant pull between complete anonymity and total exposure. Being more than a bit shy and reserved in my real life persona, I rather enjoy the wall I get to hide behind while I ride on this internet superhighway, so I didn't know what to make of an email I received shortly after posting this Asian turkey burger with Sriracha mayo recipe asking if I'd like to be interviewed for a documentary about Sriracha.
A couple of years ago I would have quickly shunned the idea—too much fear and pressure in plopping in front of camera to be a talking head—but right now I'm in a "busting out of my shell" phase, and decided to dive right in, for better or worse. As the interview looms later this afternoon, my head is whirling with mixture of anxiety and tasty tidbits I could impart in my love for Sriracha, which got me thinking of this recipe I had lurking in the back log for Thai beef rolls with sweet chili sauce—featuring a brief cameo by Sriracha, of course.
Of all the hundreds of grilling recipes I've tackled since starting the Meatwave, this is up there as one of my fondest. There's a lot of reasons for this, starting with the fact that these were first introduced to me at a Meatwave by one of my most loyal followers, Chris. I fell in love with his creation instantly—the spicy Thai meat paired with the sweet basil was a most perfect of pairings, leaving me to mostly hord the beef skewers for myself that day, unable to get enough.
After that, I knew I had to make these myself, which brings about the second reason this recipe is so close to my heart—it posed a good challenge. While Chris's version used regular sweet basil, I was dead set on finding the more appropriate Thai basil. The journey for it brought me through multiple neighborhoods and Asian groceries that dot the 7 line in Queens, but I didn't come up with gold until I hit Main Street, which just happens to be a Thai basil Mecca.
With my ingredient quest fulfilled, I went forth mixing the beef with a rather ubiquitous combination of Thai flavors—green onions, mint, chilies, fish sauce and sugar. I formed the cutest little meat logs and picked off the largest basil leaves to wrap the beef in before skewering them.
And enter Sriracha. Only playing a minimal role in the ingredient list, this paste comprised of chilis, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt didn't let its presence go unknown. Without the Sriracha, this dipping sauce would have had no kick, and the balance between sweet and spicy is just another reason I love this recipe so.
Just as I'm about ready to walk out the door to become a certified student film food documentary celebrity, these little beauties got their 15 minutes, photographing like superstar. The greatest achievement though is their taste totally blew their good looks to bits. All the diverse flavors came together to be both a contradiction and compliment, creating a complexity that was an excitement in each mouthful. Now, if I can only turn out a fraction as good on film as these babies did in my stomach, I'll be lucky.
Thai Beef Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce
- serves 6 -
Adapted from Weber's Charcoal Grilling: The Art of Cooking With Live Fire by Jamie Purviance and Tim Turner.
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons Sriracha
For the filling:
1 pound ground chuck (80% lean)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped Thai chilis
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of Thai basil
12 wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
1. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved.
2. In a large bowl, gently combine the ground chuck with the rest of the filling ingredients.
3. Shape a tablespoon of the filling into a small log. Wrap 1 basil leaf around the beef and thread onto a skewer. Repeat until all of the filling is gone.
4. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals out evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Grill the rolls until the filling is fully cooked and slightly firm, about 6 to 8 minutes, turning once during cooking. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.