Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Asian Lettuce Wraps

One of our favorite summer meals is the Asian Lettuce Wrap. The kaleidoscope colors of the vegetables, the contrasting textures of crisp lettuce, savory meat, nubbly rice, aromatic herbs and the satisfying crunch you hear when you sink your teeth into a meal that is art---all of this makes it a meal that never gets old.

I've tried several variations of this dish in the past few years, but, of course, this one is new. And it's from Bon Appetit, my prime source of recipe material. George gave me a subscription for Christmas six years ago and it has remained one of the best gifts I've ever received. I go through every issue and get inspired over and over  again. 
This particular recipe is unique because of the blend of Asian flavors. I changed the recipe slightly, partly because I didn't have ten people to feed (just two) so I estimated amounts and tweaked the ingredients until I got what I was looking for. I wanted to use ground chicken to add to my texture party, but I think marinating chicken breasts, thighs, or slices of pork tenderloin in the soy/mirin mixture and then grilling them would be fantastic.


I also chose to keep all the vegetables raw instead of sautéing them, to keep the meal as light and fresh as possible. I used Sriracha as my heat element; feel free to use red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, but we love the tangy, garlicky punch of this Asian condiment.                                       

Pan-Asian Chicken and Vegetable Lettuce Wraps adapted from Bon Appetit January 2004
Serves 2

Dipping Sauce:
1 t. toasted sesame seeds
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 lime, a few squeezes, to taste
1 t. Asian sesame oil
4 squirts Sriracha

Stir-Fry Sauce:
1/8 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. mirin
1/8 c. sake ( I omitted this)

1 1/4 lb. ground chicken/pork
1 T. Asian sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 carrot, peeled, julienned
1/4 head green cabbage, shredded
1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
1 scallion, sliced thinly on angle 
1/2 c. bean sprouts
6-8 large lettuce leaves, washed, dried with paper towels
small handful of mint leaves, chopped
small handful of basil leaves, chopped
steamed rice

For dipping sauce: combine all ingredients in small bowl. Divide between two ramekins; set aside.
For wraps: Place medium skillet over medium-high heat. Heat sesame oil, and when hot, add chicken, garlic and shallot; season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir and break up meat with wooden spoon until browned, 8-10 minutes. While meat cooks, combine stir-fry sauce ingredients and when meat is mostly cooked, add mixture and stir until meat is coated. Keep warm. Place all of vegetables and herbs on serving platter, lettuce on another platter and meat in serving bowl. Divide among lettuce leaves, wrap and dip in sauce, to serve. This makes plenty--leftovers are good (minus lettuce leaves) tossed together and eaten with a fork, like an Asian rice salad.

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