Friday, November 8, 2013

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Last Year's PostHoliday Breakfast Strata
Two Years Ago:  The Best Cranberry Relish

Street food is all the rage right now, which basically translates into anything you can eat while walking around, especially without utensils.  I think the popularity of food trucks has a lot to do with it.  The issue is that most food truck food is really high in fat and calories.  I'd put this recipe up against the best Asian food truck in town without hesitation from a taste standpoint, but it gets even better because the wraps are very healthy.  They're made with lettuce and ground turkey, and they're bursting with big flavors and crunch.  Although they're are very good on their own, the dipping sauce elevates them to a whole new level.  I found this recipe who-knows-where about 20 years ago and have been making it ever since, because it's that good.

The recipe makes twelve wraps, enough for six main dish servings, and the meat freezes very well so you can pull these out and warm them up any night of the week for a quick meal.  They're also great for lunch at work the next day. The turkey can be either grilled or broiled which means you can make them any time of the year.  If you're serving them for a party it would be fun to let people assemble their own wraps with the garnishes of their choice - bean sprouts, red bell pepper strips, chopped peanuts, cilantro, and some lime wedges.  I'd even put out some sriracha (Thai chile hot sauce) for those who really like it hot - there's always at least one in every crowd.

Start by making the sauce, which is really easy because you just chop a little cilantro and stir everything together.  The sauce is pungent, slightly sharp, slightly hot, and a perfect counterpoint to the lettuce wraps.

For the turkey filling, you mix aromatics, seasonings and other ingredients with ground turkey (best done using your hands, wearing disposable plastic gloves).

The turkey mixture is shaped into little logs and then grilled or broiled.

For the lettuce wrap, choose relatively large and flexible leaves - leaf lettuce or bibb lettuce work well.  Don't use romaine - it's too stiff and the rib is too big. Pile on the garnishes, fold them up and dip away!

printable recipe
Thai Lettuce Wraps
Makes 6 entrees or 12 appetizers

1 beaten egg
½ cup coarsely chopped water chestnuts
1/3 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon chili oil or a dash of ground red pepper
20 ounces ground raw turkey
12 large leaves of bibb or leaf lettuce (red or green)
Fresh cilantro sprigs
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
½ cup chopped peanuts for garnish, optional

Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the egg, water chestnuts, bread crumbs, green onion, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, salt and chili oil.  Add the turkey and mix well.  Shape into twelve 4 x 1.5 x .75” cigar-shaped logs.  Grill over medium-hot coals or broil 3 inches from heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until juices run clear, turning once.  Place in lettuce leaves and top with pepper strips, bean sprouts, cilantro and peanuts (optional).  Fold lettuce over to form wraps and serve with dipping sauce.

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