Today I'd like to present an argument in favor of lettuce wraps. Sure, they have a reputation for being a vehicle for ho-hum, low-carb and bland diet food, but there's no reason they need to stay in such a category. Once filled with rich and spicy short ribs, soft and sticky white rice, and potent kimchi as they are in Michael Romano and Karen Stabiner's Family Table, the humble Bibb lettuce leaf transforms into the best sort of wrap. They're strong enough to contain the filling, yet supple and mild enough to not overpower their contents. It's the best excuse to eat with your hands. These particular short rib wraps are super easy to throw together: blend up a potent marinade and let the boneless rib meat drink up its flavor for a couple of hours (or more if need be), heat a heavy pan, and sear away. Condiments, like store-bought kimchi and thinly sliced carrots and daikon, are equally simple. The only extra cooking you'll need to do is steam a pot of rice.
Why I picked this recipe: Short ribs are one of my favorite cuts of beef; and this dish, which doesn't require a long simmer or braise, was the perfect meal to whip up now that the days have grown warmer.
What worked: This spicy, salty marinade was the perfect foil to the rich short rib meat. And the cooking method couldn't be easier--just be sure to get your pan ripping hot before searing the ribs.
What didn't: It's hard to slice the beef thinly straight out of the package. Either ask your butcher to slice the ribs for you, or stick them in the freezer for 15 minutes or so to firm it up.
Suggested tweaks: This recipe would also work with well-marbled cuts of pork or boneless chicken thighs. If you're not into spice, you can dial back or cut out the Korean chili powder. I didn't try freezing the marinated meat as suggested but it's an intriguing idea (instant short ribs!).
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Family Table to give away this week.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.