Monday, November 14, 2011

Vietnamese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes - A Family Favorite

When I brought a hearty stuffed cabbage dish for lunch last Friday, a flock of colleagues invaded my office to take a look at my lunch with pure curiosity while smelling the aroma  of my meal. No one dared to try to poke it, like some would do in the past (which was quite annoying) because I do not like sharing my lunch with just anyone, do you hear me, with just anyone.  I may be perceived as selfish only because I've grown up to become a glutton, thanks to my family.  I love food! My family taught me to share food with only those you love and with whom you feel comfortable.  And yes, I often do eat my lunch at my desk, since our cafeteria is located in another building and the food seems to clash with my taste buds. Cafeteria food is rarely good, except in France.  That's another topic which I could write about in another post. Alright, never mind that.  My point is that the stuffed cabbage definitely caught people's attention because it's a dish that hits the spot on chilly Fall days. I do have to admit that I do love it when my lunches inspire people to cook or to want to make something similar when they go home.  My ego does get a kick out of it.  In fact, two of my colleagues decided to go grocery shopping that same day to go and buy some cabbage. What contentement I felt.  I am pleased to hear about people wanting to cook and to eat well as much as I do.

Another similar dish that is as comforting, is Vietnamese style stuffed tomatoes for which I've already posted the recipe back in 2009.  I need to repost the recipe since it's one of my all-time favorite family recipes. Let me reassure you that it's a dish that never fails to please guests.  It's incredibly tasty, thank goodness for fish sauce! It goes amazingly well with steamed white rice and a fried runny egg. Fried runny eggs are great additions to rice meals for Asian families.  There's nothing like eating a nice fried egg and mixing the egg yolk with your rice and meats.  Ask any Vietnamese, or any Asian, and they'll know what I mean.

For this installment, the difference in the recipe is the stuffing. I used ground lamb instead of ground pork. I also grilled the top of the stuffed tomatoes instead of frying it, giving the tomatoes a smokier taste.  You can use a skillet if you don't have an indoor gas BBQ grill.  It's just as delicious and tasty.

May I add that the best part of this great tasting dish is its simplicity?  These stuffed tomatoes are succulent and so easy to make after a hard day of work, you'll be delighted to see how little effort is required: scoop, stuff, cook...

Preparation time : 10 minutes, Cooking time : 15 minutes

Recipe "au pif":
4-6 big ripe tomatoes
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped in cubes
1/4 cup cooled steamed white rice
1/3 cup black mushrooms , soaked in warm water for 5 minutes (water discarded)
1/4 cup cooked rice vermicelli (can be found at Asian grocery store)
1 tbsp fish sauce (or 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp of canola oil

Cut the tomatoes in halves, remove the flesh from the tomatoes with a small scooper, and put the tomatoe flesh aside for sauce preparation.

Mix 1/2 of the lamb, chopped onion, rice, vermicelli, mushrooms, fish sauce, egg and pepper in a medium sized salad bowl. Mix well with your hands until all ingredients are all well incorporated.

With a table spoon, fill in each tomato half with the lamb mixture up to the rim of the tomato. Add in a little more stuffing if desired. Repeat until you filled all the tomatoe halves. If you have stuffing left, you can use it in the sauce.  Drizzle the tomatoes with a little bit of canola oil

In a large hot skillet, high heat for about 2 minutes. Add in the stuffed tomatoes face down so that the stuffing browns first. Add 4 at a time if your pan is not large enough. Or add them all at once. Grill them for about 3 minutes. Put aside.

In a separate large frying pan, heat about 1/2 tbsp of oil then brown the remaining lamb and give it a good stir so as to avoid big lumps.  

Once the lamb is cooked,  add the tomato flesh remaining lamb to the pan. Stir. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes have dissolved and formed a tomato sauce.

At that point, lay gently the stuffed tomatoes upwards in the pan, cover and simmer on low-medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the lamb is cooked.  You'll know when it's cooked when the side of the tomatoes are starting to detach from the meat.  Immediately remove from heat and serve hot.

Serve with rice and vegetables...and a fried runny egg!

Bon appétit!

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