We love to start the new year with lettuce wraps instead of bread-based sandwiches.
If you use the right lettuce—a soft variety like butter or bibb lettuce—you can roll the filling like a burrito.
If you prefer a crunchier lettuce like romaine, you can fill the leaves boat-style; or you can create a lettuce cup and serve the filling salad-style.
Here are two variations on a similar recipe—Asian turkey wraps—from Jennie-O, a specialist in turkey products from ground to whole to burgers and bacon.
You can substitute your meat of choice (it’s a great way to use up leftovers) or create vegetarian versions.
The first recipe is simpler in flavor profile, and uses ground turkey cooked from scratch. The second recipe is more complex in flavor, and uses leftover roast turkey.
RECIPE: CHINESE LETTUCE WRAPS
1 package (20 ounces) lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped
½ cup sweet and spicy hot pepper sauce*
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
12 butter lettuce leaves
Chinese lettuce wraps with turkey, flavored with hoisin sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce. Photo courtesy Jennie-O.
*Tabasco makes a sweet and spicy version of its original hot sauce. It’s much milder than original Tabasco: (100-600 on the Scoville Heat Scale as opposed to 2500-5000 for original Tabasco. There are other brands of “sweet heat,” including Sweet Sunshine, a NIBBLE Top Pick Of The Week.
1. COOK the turkey as specified on the package. (Always cook turkey to well-done, 165°F, as measured by a meat thermometer.)
1. HEAT the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3 minutes or until they begin to brown. Mix in the turkey, sweet and spicy pepper sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and cucumber. Heat through.
3. MAKE the wraps: Spoon the turkey mixture onto lettuce leaves and the wrap leaves around filling.
Turkey wraps with the filling spooned into a lettuce cup, salad style. Photo courtesy Jennie-O.
RECIPE: THAI LETTUCE WRAPS
This recipe uses leftover cooked turkey, although you can cook raw, ground turkey as in the previous recipe. There are more ingredients, resulting in more authentic, complex flavors.
The reason this is a “Thai” wrap instead of a “Chinese” wrap is the Thai cuisine ingredients and seasonings: lime juice, grated ginger, fresh mint and cilantro, shredded carrots, fish sauce and sweet chili sauce.
Prep time is less than 15 minutes; total time is less than 30 minutes.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup lime juice
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
2½ cups shredded leftover cooked turkey
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (here’s an easy recipe if you don’t want to buy it)
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
¾ cup coarsely shredded carrot
8 large butter lettuce leaves
¼ cup peanuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. COMBINE the onion and lime juice in small bowl; let stand 15 minutes.
2. HEAT a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, ginger and garlic. Cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove the skillet from the heat.
3. COMBINE the onion mixture, turkey, mint, cilantro, sauces and carrot in large bowl. Spoon the turkey mixture into each lettuce leaf and sprinkle with peanuts.
WHAT IS HOISIN SAUCE?
Hoisin sauce is a thick, sweet-and-pungent condiment that’s used in Asia much the way we use barbecue sauce (but the taste is completely different). It can be used to coat meat and poultry prior to cooking, it can be stirred into dishes and, as in the case of Peking Duck, it can be used as the principal condiment—a very elegant “ketchup.”
The flavor of hoisin sauce has always seemed pruny-plummy to us (in the sense of a sweet fruitiness of roasted plums). In fact, recipes for a hoisin sauce substitute can include prunes.
However, there’s no fruit in traditional hoisin sauce; unless you count a touch of chiles, which are, by botanical definition, fruits. The base of hoisin sauce is soybean paste, which is flavored with garlic, vinegar and sometimes some other spices. The resulting sweet-and-spicy paste is extremely flavorful and may overwhelm people who try it the first time. But keep trying; you’ll learn to love it.