Groundhog Day Larb Loaf

Happy Groundhog Day! Here's a recipe that uses ground hog.

Larb is a minced meat salad from Laos. It packs a lot into each bite--salt, sweet, sour, spice, and tons of unami. You fry it all up with some toasted rice flour and serve it in lettuce cups. It's blisss.

I love larb, but I also like the convenience of a meatloaf. To anyone of Laotian descent, I apologize for the gross bastardization of your food culture. But who doesn't appreciate a well-seasoned loaf? Plus, this is perfect for February, when you crave summer flavors, but still want the hefty girth of comfort food.

Notes: I couldn't find ground pork, so I minced boneless chops in the food processor. And no Thai peppers, so I used a habenero--add less or a different pepper for milder meatloaf. If you can't find lemongrass, a subpar substitute is the zest of a lime (sorry, but it's true. Like buttermilk or Egyptian cotton--with lemongrass, ain't nothing like the real thing.) Uncle Ben's Original was in the pantry, so in it went. This recipe could probably be made with other meats, but I've only used pork. Enjoy.

Larb Loaf

5 servings

1.5 lb ground pork

1 x-large egg

¼ cup white rice

1 habenero, stem removed

1 garlic clove

about 1.5 inches ginger, peeled

1 stalk lemongrass

.5 oz mint, chopped (about 1/4 cup)

2 whole scallions, roots removed, sliced thin

½ small red onion (about 2 oz) diced

2 tbs + 1 tsp fish sauce (plus more--don't run out)

1 tsp roast chicken flavored Better Than Bouillon or 1 chicken bouillion cube

2 limes, cut into wedges

1. Toast rice in frying pan until browned. Allow to cool. Grind in spice grinder until flour forms.

2. Remove and discard tough outer leaves, top half, and root base from lemongrass. Slice tender insides into thick rings.

3. Put lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and habenero into food processor. Process until finely minced.

4. In a bowl, gently mix everything but the lime juice together with your hands until the egg, rice flour and pork become one. 

5. IMPORTANT: Take about a teaspoon of the mixture, form a meatball and microwave for 30 seconds. Let it cool and eat; see if the flavor is what you want. Ignore the texture: you're looking for taste, not mouth-feel. If bland, add a teaspoon of fish sauce to the mix. Repeat until seasoned to your preference.

6. Bake uncovered in a loaf pan at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

7. Carefully remove dish and drain off the fat and liquids.

8. Bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven.

9. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Drizzle with lime juice squeezies and eat with a salad, if you have one.

The zest: amounts needed. Lemongrass, ginger, garlic and habenero.  Enjoy.

The zest: amounts needed. Lemongrass, ginger, garlic and habenero. Enjoy.

Toasted Rice. Eat a kernal--it tastes just like puffed rice cereal.  Enjoy.

Toasted Rice. Eat a kernal--it tastes just like puffed rice cereal. Enjoy.

This is a raw meatloaf. Imagine it's cooked.  Enjoy.

This is a raw meatloaf. Imagine it's cooked. Enjoy.

Happy Groundhog Day. And don't worry if it's findings aren't what you want, that little bugger's usually wrong.