Southeast Asian cooking joins 'melting pot'

October 30, 1991

Thai Flank Steak

Marinade:

1 stalk lemon grass

1 Thai red, habanero or other hot pepper

1 shallot, peeled

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon each: nam pla or nuoc mam (fish sauce), hoisin sauce, light brown sugar

1 flank steak, about 1 1/4 pounds

Relish:

1 large cucumber

1 small onion

2 Thai red, habanero or other hot pepper

1 stalk lemon grass

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (sushi vinegar)

For serving:

2 small heads Boston letuce

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

For the marinade, remove outer layers from the lemon grass and trim it down to the soft, inner core. There will be two to three inches lemon grass. Cut into thirds and transfer to a food processor. Add hot pepper, shallot, lime juice, oil, fish sauce, hoisin sauce and brown sugar. Process until ingredients are finely chopped. Transfer to a large plastic food bag and add meat. Seal bag and turn it over several times so meat is well coated with marinade. Refrigerate four hours or overnight.

For relish, score peel of the cucumber with a scorer or tines of a fork. Split it lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut into thin slices. Peel onion and slice paper-thin. Slice hot pepper paper-thin. Combine sliced ingredients in a bowl and add vinegar. Stir well, cover and refrigerate at least two hours.

Remove meat from marinade, letting excess drip off. Grill or broil, three to four inches from heat source, turning once, until cooked as desired. Medium-rare will take eight to 10 minutes.

To serve, cut meat across the grain, into thin slices. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plates and spoon relish into them. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with lime wedges.

Coconut Cream Pie

Crust:

1 cup each: finely ground cookie crumbs, sweetened flaked coconut

1/2 cup sliced almonds

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Filling:

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

6 large egg yolks

2 cups whole milk

1 cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons each: dark rum, pure vanilla extract

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Have a nine-inch pie plate and a baking sheet ready.

For the crust, mix the cookie crumbs, one cup coconut and almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add the melted butter and mix well. Transfer crumbs to pie plate and press into bottom and up sides, forming an even layer. Spread the other one cup coconut on the baking sheet. Bake both the crust and the coconut until both a light brown, eight to 10 minutes. Watch the coconut carefully and stir it several times during baking so it browns evenly. Set both aside to cool.

For the filling, combine the sugar and flour in a medium saucepan. Add the egg yolks and mix well. Stir in the milk and coconut and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, four to six minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter, rum and one teaspoon vanilla. Stir until butter melts. Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Whisk until smooth before using.

Pour the filling into the crust. (If you're serving the pie frozen, place in the freezer for several hours until firm.) Whip the cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the confectioners' sugar and remaining teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Smooth over the pie or pipe it on, using a pastry bag and decorative tip if desired.

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