Wait, does he mean Lamb, or Lard, or what? No, there was no misspelling. It is Laab because the Hmong people I worked with called it that, but it is also known as Larb, Laap, Lahb, ລາບ or a couple iterations depending on where you are in the world. No matter how you name it, the dish is all defined the same: “a meat salad”. And that is something I think we can easily get behind.

This recipe is a midwestern spin on the Lao version of Laab. Traditionally it is composed of meat, fish sauce, lime, herbs and spices. Here we take these ideas and use what you may already have in your cupboard if what you are used to cooking goes into a casserole dish or what you can pull from your garden. For those of you who like to experiment, I will give a few substitutions as to what you can put in depending on what you have available. The great thing about this dish is how much variability you can give it and still maintain the “meat salad” definition. Bolded items are preferred in the process.

What you need:

1/4 cup (or more) barley, rice (not the minute variety), or wild rice
1 lb ground pork, chicken or beef
2 small aromatic onions like purple, yellow or shallots
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or basil
1 tablespoon ground red pepper flakes (or less if you are like my good Scandinavian mother)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon white sugar or Mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
20 mint leaves

Put it together:

In a warm, oil-free frying pan on medium low, pour the wild rice and stir until the rice has become quite aromatic. It should smell like baked bread and become slightly darker in color, about 10 minutes. Pour the rice into a food processor or mortar and pestle and mix until it is a course flour. Set aside.

Dice the onion into a bowl and chop the basil and keep separate. In a large saucepan or pot stir the ground beef until almost cooked. Add the onion and finish cooking the meat to get the onions a slight translucence to them. Turn off the heat and remove the pot.

Drain the liquids if you would like at this point. Add the rice flour from the first step, basil, red pepper, apple cider vinegar, mirin and soy sauce. Stir, taste the mixture, and add any flavors from here that you want to exploit more: basil for pepper/tangy, red pepper for heat, vinegar for sour, or mirin for sweetness. Add the final ingredient of the mint leaves and mix gently to incorporate.

Serve with a side of rice, warmed lettuce for a wrap, or put into a bun to make a version of the sloppy joe! All are great options. Happy eating, and remember – Laab is made to be created as your own! What will you add when you make it?

Happy National Mojito Day Everyone!

Sitting at Fair State Brewing today after picking up my CSA from Costa Farms I had a startle – I did not have the proper ingredients for a mojito on National Mojito Day! Once my pulse settled and I realized where I was (and what was available to me there) I started the crafting of this drink. After a few – ahem, test runs, this is what the wife agrees may be the best Mojito she has ever had (and that is saying a lot from her):

3 parts Fair State Brewing Company‘s Roselle
1 part Skaavlenn Rum
1 part Mirin
6 mint leaves (fresh)
Ice cubes

Muddle mint leaves and Mirin together in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the rum and a couple ice cubes and shake until chilled. Use a strainer and pour in a cold glass. Add the Roselle and stir together. Enjoy!

What other local ingredients have people used to make some wonderful mixed drinks?

The following is a version of the Award Winning Beef Ribs served at mancuisine’s smökathon in 2016. It is important to note that when planning to make this recipe, call your butcher well ahead of time as they do not often stockpile beef ribs in their facility – a shame, as these ribs far surpass any flavor you can get from the same style of cut that is offered in pork. I am giving the full recipe for a competition sized portion, make any adjustments as needed or make extra as the rub will last in a pantry for the next time you make these ribs (and there will be a next time, trust me).

Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time
Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time

I use an offset smoker, with an old bread pan filled with water directly next to the firebox in the cook chamber. Water pans are highly recommended to be used in this recipe – if cooking the ribs in the oven as I have been known to do, I will place a pan with water in there as well to keep the moisture level up in the chamber.


The Meat:
4 racks Texas style beef ribs
Remove the meat from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow the meat to get near room temperature. Trim any excess fat and score the membrane on the underside of the rib along each bone with a knife – this gives the rest of the fat easy access to drip out, and there will be plenty over the cook time.

The Rub:
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
3 T chili flakes
1/3 cup + 1 T sea salt
Put the peppercorns and chili flakes into a spice or coffee grinder and grind them into a rough sand, you do not want it to be too fine. Mix in the salt and put 1/4 to 1/2 of the mixture onto the ribs, making sure to get it into the meat, the sides and the bottom of the racks.

Start your coals, fire or oven and bring your vessel to 225 degrees. Maintain this temperature the entire cook time. Know your vessel and what it needs to stay there, and when those times come when more fuel is needed to be added. This is key to a good piece of meat at the end of the day.

Put the ribs into the smoker with the thicker bone side facing the firebox or heat source. Rub in last 1/2 of the dry rub into the top side of the ribs. Close the vessel and watch your temperature.

If cooking multiple racks, rotate the meat every 1.5 to 2 hours to ensure that each one is cooked evenly. 5 hours into the cook time, wrap the ribs with an unlined butcher paper. I do the simple envelope style where the ribs are placed in the center with the membrane side up, fold the four corners into the center, tuck them under and place back in the vessel as they had been when taken out. I cook these using only wood, if you are cooking with charcoal and wood chunks I recommend doing this step and hour or two later. This is also the step where you may add your favorite sauce to the ribs, but they will also be amazing just with the rub.

finished product at the final unwrapping
finished product at the final unwrapping

8 hours into cook time remove the ribs, still wrapped, and place them into a cooler or large plastic container. Leave them there for one hour, remove, unwrap, sauce, and cut into individual ribs.

Make sure to have some paper towels handy, as these ribs will be juicy!

Tooties on Lowry is a bar that if you were to see inside in the dead of night when there is no people, beer or food around, you might go in but not without some serious hesitation. It has the look of a place you would find tucked away in a small town in the boondocks of Wisconsin – wood paneled walls, vinyl stools with rips in them, a gravity furnace hole in the center of the place, a ficus tree in the center of the dining room…

But you do not notice those things when you enter in the height of things. What you do see are families and friends gathering and hugging each other. Old friends bellying up to the bar and shaking hands with the person sitting next to them. Kids running around the game room playing with each other in games of hide-n-seek. Though the physical aspects of the building detract from the appeal, it’s the people and the employees that generate the merriment and jovial nature of the atmosphere.

Credit: foodio54.com

Having eaten there before, my comments on what Tooties is only solidified with this mancuisine visit – It is a community space that locals come to eat food, drink, and be together. Being at Tooties just makes you feel warm inside, before you even have a beer or bite of food.

Their tap selection is notable, at our visit they had just had Insight over for an event and had some of theirs, along with many other local breweries (an a surprisingly absent presence of the big brew dogs, which we enjoy).  We tweeted Tooties in the morning of our visit asking what food we should try and one recommendation was to have the peanut sauce from their wings cover a burger patty and served. It was delicious [thanks twitter Tooties!].

Top commendation goes to their wings. We did Tooties’ “Wing of the month” which has ghost pepper and Surly and they were top notch. Their wings have the right amount of meat, cooked at the right temperature for the right time and covered with deliciousness. Their wing cooking process is refined, and creates delicious and filling wings.

If you are ever in the Robbinsdale area, at North Memorial Hospital (knock on wood – you won’t need to!), or in North Minneapolis and you are looking for a place to settle in, we strongly recommend giving Tooties on Lowry a visit.

Food: 4/5 typical bar food, made in a way that raises them above.
Drink: 3/5 Beer and wine bar, with local selections but not too diverse.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Welcoming, friendly and warming
Overall: 4/5 Good food, great atmosphere, tired building.