Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beef & Basil Rolls

I found this recipe in the book "The Barbecue! Bible" by Steven Raichlen. I have not ventured into much Vietnamese cuisine (I mean I haven't cooked it much before - I eat it lots), so I was excited to give this a try. It also forced me to buy a basil plant for the kitchen window since that was the ONLY fresh basil I could find! There is a lot of fish sauce in this recipe, as well as a good amount of garlic - so be open to both.

The preparation is a bit lengthy, but it is so worth it in the end. And I have no doubt in my mind that if you didn't want to grill these little balls of juicy fun, then you could simply skewer a couple together and cook them in a hot pan on the stove, turning just as the directions say for grilling. After I'd made the beef mixture, I plopped a big spoonful of it into a hot pan to cook it through and sample the flavor - good thing I did, it needed a little more sugar (so I wholeheartedly recommend doing the same). The laborious part came when I had to wrap small balls of gooshy beef mixture into delicate basil leaves and then spear them 4 to a skewer. Still...worth it. And I did not serve mine hot. Instead, I cooked them through, let them cool, and tossed them in the refrigerator and served them about an hour later. I think the flavor really came together because of that...but I tried one hot as well and it was also darn good.

Basil & Beef Rolls
1 pound very lean ground beef (I used sirloin, 90% lean)
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tbl fish sauce (or more to taste)
2 Tbl sugar (or more to taste)
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1-2 bunches basil (I ended up using 30 leaves)
Short bamboo skewers (soaked in water if grilling)

Combine the beef, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and pepper in a bowl. Use your hands to mix thoroughly and form a smooth paste. Cook a small amount of the mixture in a nonstick skillet until cooked through and check for seasoning, adding fish sauce and/or sugar as necessary; it should be salty and sweet.

Rinse your basil leaves under cold water and then pat them dry gently with a paper towel Place one basil leaf on your work surface, underside up, and mound up to 2 tsp. of the beef mixture in the center. Starting with the stem, roll the leaf up into a compact cylinder. Thread the beef rolls onto your skewers making sure to pierce the place where the leaf ends (up to 5 per skewer).

When ready to cook, brush your hot grill with oil, and arrange the skewers on the grate. Grill the rolls, turning once with tongs, until the beef is cooked through (2 - 5 minutes total cooking time). When done the basil will be lightly browned, and the rolls will be very hot to the touch. Serve immediately with some chopped peanuts sprinkled over top (optional), or make up to a couple of hours in advance allowing them to cool before placing them in the refrigerator before serving.

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