Lemongrass: Stalks Full of Flavor

September 12, 2013

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: Add a new depth of flavor to your cooking with a simple stalk.

Down & Dirty with Lemongrass, from Food52

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This unassuming stalk might not have the same visual appeal of a giant bunch of cilantro or a stack of shiso leaves, but don’t be fooled by appearances. Lemongrass can add a refreshing lemony taste to your dishes, and its depth of flavor can’t be replicated with a simple squeeze of lemon juice.

If you haven't cooked lemongrass before, it can be an intimidating ingredient on a recipe list. We get it. You might be wondering how to store it, how to prep it, and what else to do with it after you've used the two inches your recipe called for. If that's the case, this is the week to get aquainted with it. We've got answers to all of those questions and more.

More: Take your herbal tea up a notch with lemongrass and other fresh herbs. 

How to Choose Lemongrass, from Food52

How to Find, Select, and Store
Lemongrass is often used in Asian cuisines, so you can find it at an Asian market, or sometimes at your local farmers market. Select firm green stalks with yellowish bases, and they will store well in the refrigerator for a week or two. Avoid stalks that are dried out, have visible bad spots, or are brown at the top (1). Lemongrass freezes well too -- either the whole stalk, or shredded first in a food processor to the consistency of citrus zest, as Burnt Offerings suggested in a Hotline disscussion.

How to Use Lemongrass, from Food52

How to Prep
To prepare lemongrass, remove the tough outer leaves from the stalk until you reach the pale interior (3), and then trim the very top (2) and bottom (4). From there you have options. Ways to prep lemongrass have been discussed in these Hotline threads -- some favorites include smashing, finely chopping, grating on a microplane, or pulverizing it into a paste. Saveur has one more option to add to your arsenal -- the lemongrass knot. Prep the lemongrass as described above, then pound it with a heavy object until it splays, and tie it into a loose knot. This exposes the interior of the grass, and the knot can then be used to add flavor to dishes (similar to a bouquet garni).

How to Make a Lemongrass Knot, from Food52 

How to Use
Lemongrass’ bright flavor pairs perfectly with spring vegetables like asparagus, spring onions, and peas, but there’s no need to wait to enjoy this aromatic. Try stuffing fish or chicken with lemongrass before cooking. And it has an affinity for seafood, too: shrimpmussels, or scallops. Use lemongrass in curries, soups, stir-fries, and spring rolls. Or if you're feeling wild, try it in desserts like flan, panna cotta, or rice pudding. Make a lemongrass simple syrup that can be used in cocktails, drizzled on fresh fruit, or poured over a basic cake. Ready to work lemongrass into your meals this week? Check out our ideas and be sure to let us know your favorites too.

Friday: Mussels in a Yellow Tomato Lemongrass Broth 
Saturday: Sautéed Spring Mushrooms, Chiles and Cilantro in Caramelized Coconut Broth 
Sunday: Meatballs with Chinese Celery Over Noodles in Lemongrass Miso Sauce 
Monday: Lemongrass Ginger Patties 
Tuesday: Sunchoke Lemongrass and Leek Soup  
Wednesday: Chicken & Lemongrass Rice with Coriander Fritters 
Thursday: Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Restaurant-Style Grilled Lemongrass Pork (Thit Heo Nuong Xa)

Photos by James Ransom 

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I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.