Easy Lettuce Wraps
At some point, a little turkey goes a very long way. Or perhaps it’s the larger portions of food, or the dessert you forgot to send with your guests in little take away containers.
Regardless, we end up needing something light and easy for dinner so that we can recover briefly before the next round of holiday eating begins. These lettuce wraps are perfect for that.
I think the first time I had lettuce wraps was at P.F. Chang’s. The idea of a lettuce wrap was so perfect (tasty, crunchy, not filling) that I had to try and come up with my own after I got home. Since experimenting, I’ve come across other versions and try out their ideas, too.
Each time I make lettuce wraps, the recipe is a bit different because I’m trying something new, or I only have available certain ingredients. There are a couple of ingredients we have to have each time, however, because to us, that’s what makes the wrap. Since the lettuce is a no-brainer, celery and water chestnuts are it.
Types of Ingredients
Oil: 1 tsp. peanut oil, or 1/2 tsp. sesame oil and 1/2 tsp. canola
Meat: I usually use lean pork. This can be in the form of leftovers, or from a lone chop in the freezer. This time, I used very lean ground pork that Farmer John puts out. Chicken is also good — especially if it’s been marinated.
Wrap: Iceberg lettuce works best because we enjoy the fresh crunch when the first bite is taken. Butter lettuce works best, however, as the pieces have more flexibility and there’s less breakage and the resulting need to grab a fork to scoop up what’s fallen on your plate.
Veggies: Chopped celery, carrots, sugar peas, green onions, and bell peppers are excellent. This time, I added both yellow and red peppers, sugar peas, and celery.
Other: Water chestnuts are a favorite ingredient because their crunch adds nicely to the mix.
Flavoring: Garlic! Chopped cilantro adds a nice flavor, but basil is also good. Or neither works just fine.
Sauce: Soy Sauce by itself is okay, but I’ve also tried bottled stir fry sauces and splashes of Asian-style marinades. I usually have hoisin sauce in the cupboard or fridge, so I used it this time and think it tastes best. I’ve never made it before, but there’s an interesting recipe here I’m going to give a go tonight just to see how it compares.
Heat: Mixing a bit of chili paste into the soy sauce usually heats things up enough to satisfy the palate that needs a kick of spice. Chopping up 1 T. of jalapeno, habanero, or Thai chili and adding it to the saute pan also works well.
I don’t have a wok any more, so just use a very large saute pan. It’s easy to put all the ingredients in it, let them soften and brown, and then stir gradually to incorporate them into the filling.
After the mix has been created, I add about 2 T. of hoisun sauce, stir well, and then add the cilantro.
To get the lettuce ready, cut the end of the lettuce out of the head and carefully pull and entire leaf away from the head from the bottom instead of peeling from the top. This helps to keep the leaf from snapping.
The wraps work best if they’re not overloaded with filling. A couple of heaping tablespoons (tableware) work just fine.
It’s a good idea to serve rice or noodles with these, as the men in the house usually look at me and wonder where the rest of the food is. But I enjoy them because the flavor is outstanding, there’s much to crunch, and they’re healthy! Plus, the possibilities are endless for the filling. Experiment with the flavors and ingredients you enjoy best.