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. 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, turkey 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?

This recipe comes from a visit to Revival in South Minneapolis. After my first mouthful of their Tennessee hot chicken I knew I had to try to recreate it at home (the Cheetos style Pork Rinds are next). Good thing they announced recently that they were going to expand, that place always had a line and we had to get in at open to find a spot to sit down. This recipe is damn close to what they have.

The optional spent grain flour ingredient was one I have been meaning to use in a recipe and this was my opportunity. If you are brewers like us, I would recommend trying it out.

The Meat:
6 Chicken breasts, preferably never frozen
Dry Rub:
1/4 C Beef Ribs Spice Rub
The Coating:
5 Eggs
4 C Flour
1/4 C Spent Grain Flour (optional)
1 T Cayenne
1 T Granulated garlic
1/2 T Beef Ribs Spice Rub
Finishing Sauce:
3 T Cayenne Pepper
2 T Brown Sugar
1 t Garlic powder
1 t Yellow Curry
1 C Fry oil (careful!)

Start by cutting the breasts into tender-style strips, usually around 3 per breast. Put in large bowl and sprinkle on and mix in dry rub until modestly coated. This will not take the entire 1/4 cup, save some for the coating. Put in fridge and let sit for at least two hours.

Break the eggs and whisk in a large bowl. In a separate bowl thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients. Pull the chicken out of the fridge and dip them in the dry mix and place them on a plate. This step should be done ahead of time to allow the chicken to warm up a bit from the fridge before cooking, 30 minutes or so.

Set your deep fryer to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Dredge a piece of chicken in the eggs and raise to let the excess drip. Dip once more in the dry mix and tap out any excess. Place in your fryer, , laying it away from yourself, making sure not to overcrowd the space – leaving about an inch between pieces.

Let cook for 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull out of the fryer and place on a rack to cool and drip.

Mix the dry ingredients from the finishing sauce and with a dry, clean, metal or glass measuring cup pull out some of the fry oil and pour on top of the dry ingredients. Mix well. Either brush on or dredge the mixture onto the finished chicken.

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!

If you’ve been to one of the Johnson kids’ eleven graduations, four confirmations, Gold award or three Eagle ceremonies you have had the opportunity to taste our wonderful graduation salsa. Here’s the recipe we enjoy that seems to bring out the celebration love. We use a large bread-making ceramic bowl- well stirred, not shaken but still chilled. This goes fast – we recommend one batch per ~15 people depending on whatever else you may have in your spread.

What you need:

  • 6 medium tomatoes- firm not runny- roma tomatoes if you have them. If not use another four mediums.
  • 1.5 cups sliced green onions
  • 1 cup finely chopped green pepper
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro (no substitutes please). Fresh cilantro is critical. It’s what makes this a spring-summer dish. Something to look forward to during the long winter.
  • 2-4 tablespoons very finely chopped jalapeño chilies
  • 6-9 large cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 1-3 teaspoons salt (we often add only a small amount)

Put them together:

  1. Chop the tomatoes up into pieces that will easily fit on the chips you are providing. Some will seed the tomatoes as well, but I leave them in. If you are adding the Romas chop them smaller than the others. I will typically toss the pieces into a strainer to drip into a separate bowl as I am chopping. Keeps the liquid down (you’ll have plenty anyway).
  2. Chop up the green onions and pepper into tiny pieces, 1/2 inch or less. I like to add these to the tomatoes in the large serving bowl first.
  3. Do remember to lick your fingers often.
  4. Add the lime juice to the bowl. Stir well and let the acids mix. Best about an hour after.
  5. Coarsely chop the cilantro. Make sure there are no long strands of stems.
  6. Chop the jalapeños into smaller pieces than you picked for the green peppers. Do remove the seeds before chopping. For some reason I always wipe my eyes after chopping the chilis. Do not do this.  Toss ’em in and wash hands.
  7. Mince garlic and add to bowl. Garlic fingers are meant to be licked. If the kids are out you may wish to have the significant other do this. Toss ’em in and stir really well with the salt.
  8. Put the whole ceramic bowl in a tub of ice and cover with plastic. Good to chill well ahead of time. Stir often. Sample frequently to ensure quality and a positive attitude when guests arrive.
  9. As people eat, continue to stir in order to mix the love. A liquid will collect on the bottom- mixing keeps the solids wet with this wonderful liquor (in the AA sense of the word).
    After the crowd leaves, drain the liquid, chill well and drink. You will be SO rewarded. Add no vodka, the rush is powerfull without.

It is around this time in Minnesota where our markets are filled with pumpkins and squash. I make this one at home and usually double the quantity because it keeps well and is delicious as leftovers for a work lunch or lazy evening. The ‘+’ symbol added to some ingredients below indicate ones that I like to add more to, but the first time you make it I advise to hold back on those to add later or in future iterations – because you will want to make this one again.  This one is meat-free [gasp! A meat free chili!], but you can add what you would like, I think that the squash is a good substitute in this recipe.

What you need:
1 tablespoon oil (your choice)
1 purple onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, chopped
2+ cups cubed squash, Acorn and Butternut work well
1 can corn, completely drained
1.5 tsp chili powder
1.5 tsp chipotle powder
1 cup diced tomatoes, fresh or canned.
2+ tsp apple cider vinegar
1 can black beans, drained
2+ cups broth (Vegetable/Chicken)
Juice of ½ to 1 lime
Sea salt and black pepper
Cilantro/Sour Cream/Chopped Jalapeño

Put them together:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, ~5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, carrots, squash, corn, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables just start to become tender and the onion is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Add the chile powder, chipotle powder, and tomatoes and warm them up for 1 minute. Stir in the apple cider vinegar and black beans and then add the broth. Simmer until the butternut squash and carrots are tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Add a big squeeze of lime. Season to taste with more salt, pepper, and spices to your liking. If you’re chili is too spicy, stir in a small splash of apple cider vinegar. If it’s too thick, add broth. Add some topping before you dig in – cilantro, sour cream and chopped jalapeño are the favorites around here.

Sean Brock is one of my favorite chefs – If you have not seen any of his episodes of Mind of a Chef then you should take a pause on what you are doing and witness what he has to offer the world. His book Heritage is one that I constantly reference when I am cooking food with history in the South. This recipe is closely tied to his with some slight modifications to have it with more of a kick. I have made this often at home but never for mancuisine’s ribfest – quite possibly the reason I have not yet brought home the judge’s trophy.

What You Need
1⁄2 cup chicken stock
2 1⁄2 cups apple cider vinegar
3⁄4 cup ketchup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. Sriracha Chili Sauce
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
3⁄4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1⁄2 tsp. black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp. onion powder
1⁄4 tsp. chile powder

Put Them Together
Heat all ingredients in a pot on medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring when you can, until reduced by just over a half of its original, about 30 minutes. Depending on what you make, let sauce cool in fridge for no more than a couple weeks – Or add directly to your favorite meat.

Adapted from recipe on Saveur Magazine

I love bringing this soup to gatherings and pot-luck type meals. It always surprises me who pulls a cupful of soup out of this great smelling, not so photogenic, pot of goodness. There is a bit of a spice to this one so the Scandinavians in the area have protested the heat, but still polished off their bowls. Great for times when colds are moving through the population.

What you need:
1+ lbs pork shoulder
6 cups broth (chicken/vegetable)
2 tbsp oil
1 purple onion, diced
1 thumb ginger, skinned and minced
5 carrots, skinned and cut spoon-sized
2 cups kimchi
2+ tbsp Mirin
2 fist sized potatoes – washed, brushed and cubed
1 bunch green onions, cut to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Put them together:
Place the pork shoulder in a slow cooker and add 2 cups of the broth. cover remaining pork with water. Turn on low and leave on 6 hours. Remove pork and let cool. Once cool pull the pork apart, taking out any excessive bits of fat (I prefer to leave a good amount in), and cut into spoonful sized bites.

Get out a stew pot and add your choice of oil and add the sliced onions and ginger to cook over medium heat until brown and soft. Add the kimchi, carrots and brown lightly. Add the pork back into the pot and mix well. Add the rest of the broth and if needed, just enough water to barely cover the pork, and bring to a gentle simmer.

Keep the stew, covered, simmering for an hour. After an hour, stir in the potatoes. Cover and continue to cook for another hour. Add the mirin, adjusting if necessary. Season with salt and pepper if needed and serve, sprinkled with a generous amount of green onions.