Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday Smells Like . . . Asian Lettuce Wraps

Hello all, J here.

JE had a long day "slangin rocks" (selling jewelry), and is currently sound asleep beside me. No. I won't pour cold water on her. Did your parents not love you enough as a child or something? Who's that cruel?

At any rate, since it's technically past Saturday, and I saw that she did not have time to do a post, I figured I'd back her up. I mean, it's Saturday Smells Like, and I cooked for Melton game night, so the post writes itself. And, you never know when I'm going to mess up and need to cash in some husband points.

This Saturday smells like stir fry beef and pork, with vegetables and Teriyaki sauce. This mixture formed the basis of our lettuce wraps. JE and I love the P.F. Chang lettuce wraps, and we were expecting a friend who has gluten allergies, so lettuce wraps seemed like a great idea. All you have to do is season some meat (chicken, pork, steak, whatever you like . . . except for haggis . . . there's no haggis in stir fry), chop some vegetables and heat a wok and you're set.

The idea for lettuce wraps struck me as I was planning for game night. Planning for Melton game night this time occurred as J walked around the Beaumont Kroger this morning, trying to figure out what would work with Atkins Induction (don't judge me; I'm fat and I like to cook; I'll try almost anything to lose weight now . . . you know, except for that portion control/exercise thing. That's crazy.), not contain gluten and be tasty for everyone else.

I was walking around the vegetables, saw the lettuce, and thought, "Why do they call it 'lettuce'? Were the marketing people opposed to 'edible grass'?" This opportunity wasted was later saved when I saw huge pork chops and steak on "manager's special." Only then did I think, "Wow, great deal on meat! How can I make this work?" After a bit of brainstorming, I came up with lettuce wraps.

So, how do you make lettuce wraps? Well, the lettuce wraps themselves are pretty easy. Step one, buy one head of iceberg lettuce. Step two, google the name thing, because it's really bugging me. Step three, curse the interwebs for not having truly useful information on the etymology of vegetable names. Step four, take off the plastic and carefully peel off lettuce leaves until you think you have enough.

The harder part is what you put into the lettuce leaves. I chose to create my own stir fry marinade for the pork and steak and work from there. I butterflied the pork chops (huge chops that you could cut pockets in to stuff, so the butterfly was necessary). I then rubbed the pork and the steak down on both sides with some sesame oil (This is more for flavor, as I would later use grapeseed oil to perform the stir fry, as sesame oil's smoke point is too low to use as the oil for the stir fry.) After you rub in the sesame oil, salt and pepper both sides of the meat. Then put on granulated garlic, paprika, red pepper flake, ginger and just a bit of cumin. Put the seasoned meat in a plastic bag with some soy sauce to marinate for at least thirty minutes (If you want to score extra husband points, put the plastic bags on a plate. That way, if you fail to seal the bag properly, you won't have a mess in the fridge. Or you could just seal the bag correctly in the first place and use the plate to make your wife feel better. Whatever works for you.).

During that thirty minutes, you can break down the vegetables that you are going to use in the stir fry. I chose bean sprouts, bell peppers (red, yellow and orange for color), broccoli, water chestnuts, jalapeƱos and onions. When prepping, try to get each of the pieces about the same size, as you want to have uniformish cooking times. I also put each ingredient in its own bowl, so people could choose what they wanted in their lettuce wraps. This pretty much made it like a Mongolian Barbecue, except instead of rice or tortillas, we had lettuce leaves.

Now, after the meat has marinated long enough, cube it, and pour the remaining marinade in the bowl with the cubes and mix it around with your hands so it coats all of the cubes. Then, go wash your hands. Seriously. You have meat juice on your hands. I'll wait. . . . (After that, get spoons for each of the bowls or get a towel for your hands, to prevent cross-contamination.)

Next comes the fun part. Get your wok pan. Put it on the range at high heat. Pour one and one half to two tablespoons of grapeseed oil in the hot pan. Next, put in the article that will take the longest to cook. Generally speaking, this will be onions or the meat, at least for me. I like my onions cooked (raw onions can be overpowering), and I like to be safe with my meat. I also like chicken and pork fully cooked when I'm stir frying (Yes. It's a horrible joke, but its late, and I'm trying to be somewhat entertaining). Next, constantly stir the meat/onions around the wok with a wooden spatula, etc., stopping only to add ingredients or when the stir fry is done. You can also do the pan turns, but at that point, you're just showing off, and we all remember how that turned out last Christmas. And yes, the new paint on the ceiling does look nice.

As for the rest of the vegetables, add them based on size and how done you like your stir fry vegetables (I like them still firm). If you like your vegetables more done, add them shortly after the meat and onions (if you choose onions), if you like them crisper, wait a bit longer. After you have your vegetables in the wok, then add your soy sauce or teriyaki according to your preference. You can also add minced garlic at this point if you like. Once everything gets done, upend the wok and slide the stir fry onto lettuce wraps on a plate, and wipe down the wok with a moist cloth or paper towel to get it ready for the next order.


I must say, I enjoyed the lettuce wraps, and it seemed that everyone else did too. They, together with some guacamole and chorizo cheese sauce with tortilla chips, chorizo and cream cheese stuffed jalapeƱos, two vegetable trays (one from the Hills, and one from us) with ranch and spicy ranch, a shrimp cocktail ring and bacon tomato cups made for an adequate game night spread.

The only problem was, like always, I made too much food. One day, I'll figure out how not to overcook. Until then, I will give people food to take home.

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