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Sometimes I find myself in an eating rut. For someone who loves to cook, I eat out or order in far too often. Even I’m surprised at how often I end up skipping the kitchen in favor of letting someone else prepare my meal for me. What can I say? I’m lazy. And by the time I get home from work I’m exhausted. While the idea of actually cooking doesn’t usually bother me, the thought of cleaning up afterwards is more than I can take.

So we get pizza.

Boring. And, to be honest, not all that tasty.

There’s no excuse. I have an entire category on here devoted to Quick Weeknight Meals. There are hundreds of great restaurants within in fifteen minute drive from my house. And, if I really wanted, I could make my own pizza in the amount of time it takes to get one delivered. That would taste better. And that wouldn’t require a ton of time spent on cleanup.

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So. I recently made a resolution that if I was going to be lazy and not cook for myself, I at least deserved to eat something good. Not pizza. Not fast food. Not a salad with twelve million calories from a chain restaurant.

Which lead me to discover a great Vietnamese restaurant that I had never been to before, despite the fact that it’s practically walking distance from my house. (It probably is walking distance, but there we go with that whole lazy thing again.)

And that restaurant has lead me to discover that Vietnamese food consists of more than just pho. Like their mussel appetizer, where mussels are served on the half shell drizzled with a sweet and spicy coconut curry. Or Bun Thit Nuong, grilled pork served over vermicelli, which has quickly become my favorite thing to order.

When I received a gorgeous enamel coated, cast iron dutch oven the other day (keep reading to find out how you can get one too!), I immediately decided that I wanted to make something loosely inspired by that dish. It was too hot outside to eat soup or stew, so a richly flavored braised beef served over a cool noodle salad seemed like it would hit the spot. Which it did. Despite the seemingly simple ingredients, this dish was bursting with flavor. As it bubbled and sputtered away in the oven, the most incredible aroma filled the house – mysteriously, it reminded me of cinnamon!

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Vietnamese Braised Beef
 
Tender beef short ribs are braised with Vietnamese flavors and served over rice noodle salad dressed simply with lime juice and fish sauce. Shredded vegetables add color and nutritive value, jalapenos add a tough of heat, and peanuts give the dish a great crunch. If you want to spice things up even more, top your bowl with some sriracha.
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 4 beef short ribs (about 1.5 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbs fish sauce
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups beef stock
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Heat the oil in a dutch oven or heavy, oven safe pot, over medium heat. Add the ribs and sear on each side. Remove the ribs and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the ribs and the remaining ingredients back into the pot. If necessary, add enough water to just cover the ribs. Cover and place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.
  3. Remove beef from braising liquid and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve over noodle salad.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 375 Fat: 27 Fiber: 0 Protein: 28

 
Rice Noodle Salad
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 2 servings rice noodles (vermicelli)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and shredded
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • ¼ cup cilantro or mint, torn
  • 2 Tbs chopped peanuts
Preparation
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the noodles. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, or until the noodles have softened. Drain. Toss together the noodles with the remaining ingredients.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 112 Fat: 4 Fiber: 2 Protein: 3

 

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I’m submitting this to Joanne of Eats Well With Others for her Regional Recipes: Vietnam round-up.

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Giveaway!

To celebrate the end of their Into the Heart of Italy series, Bertolli provided me with a great gift pack that made this dish possible. It included a beautiful 5.5 quart enamel coated cast iron dutch oven (can you believe I actually didn’t have one of these yet? I’m in love. It heats so evenly and really retains the heat – I was able to keep liquid boiling at the lowest setting on my stove and it made very quick work of softening the shallots in the recipe above!), the two white bowls that I served this in (which are huge!), an organic bamboo utensil set, a bamboo cutting board, and two coupons for free Bertolli Italian Dinners for Two – perfect for when you don’t have hours to spend making your own braise. I actually make it a point to always keep one of these meals in my freezer for if I’m tired or to use as a backup if dinner ends up messed up. They’re a little high in calories and the portions are on the small size, but they are really good. My favorite is the Roasted Pork and Cavatappi Pasta. Yum!

Anyway, they’re providing me with another gift set (worth well over $100!) to give away! You’ll receive:

  • VIP coupons for two Bertolli Frozen Meals for two
  • 5.5 qt Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven
  • Two Crate & Barrel Bistro Bowls
  • Crate & Barrel Bamboo Cutting Board
  • Crate & Barrel Bamboo Utensil Set
  • Bertolli Wine Pairing Guide

What do you have to do to win? Watch the final episode of Into the Heart of Italy (embedded below) and leave me a comment telling me 1) what part you found the most inspiring (I have a few favorites!) and 2) what the first thing you would make in you new dutch oven would be.

I’ll randomly pick a winner on Friday. Good Luck!!