Asian lettuce wraps

Homemade mod

Originally appeared in the June 02, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

Think about a typical dinner with friends—often, after scanning the “starters” section of the menu (sometimes more appealing than the boring “entrée” portion), aren’t you tempted to say, “Hey, how about we split a few appetizers?”  My point is that people crave light and stimulating, pre-dinner dishes.  Continue reading after the jump:During the conception of this recipe, I was toying with using a protein which would be a break from the norm (duck briefly crossed my mind), yet was readily accessible at local markets (duck was summarily crossed off my list).  And then I mentally snapped my fingers—turkey.  Turkey is lean, retains its signature flavor, and easily accepts the essence of vibrant herbs and spices.

On the cold-and-crisp side of the division is the Boston bibb (also called butter lettuce), which is a delicate contrast to the sweet-and-spicy filling, and the hoisin adds distinct notes of Chinese cuisine.  As I mentioned, this could be served as an appetizer, but would also be a fresh and healthful lunch (read low in carbs).  Executed properly, these wraps are a dead-ringer for those $8-$10 appetizers at your trendy fusion restaurant.  Minus the price tag, that is.

Asian lettuce wraps

Serves 4 (2 wraps each)

  • 8 large leaves of Boston bibb lettuce (washed and rinsed)
  • As needed, dark sesame oil
  • ¼ white onion, small chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
  • 1 scallion, thin slice
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded, fine dice
  • 1 dried Arbol chile, seeded, small chop
  • A few dashes of ground ginger
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup hoisin sauce
  • Optional: 1 cucumber, sliced thin lengthwise

1.  Heat a wide sauté pan to medium.  Add enough sesame oil to coat bottom of pan, and when hot add onion.  Sweat until translucent.  Add garlic and cook until aromatic (don’t burn).  Increase heat slightly and add ground turkey, breaking up with a wooden spoon as meat cooks.  When turkey is cooked through, add scallion, jalapeno, Arbol chile, and ginger.  Allow flavors to integrate.  Add cilantro and hoisin.  Simmer for a few minutes, reduce heat and reserve.

2.  Use a paper towel to gently pat lettuce dry.  Add a few spoonfuls of filling to the lettuce, and roll cucumber around the wrap.  Secure with a toothpick or skewer.  Serve.

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