I think I’ve posted twice before about lettuce wraps, once using Cashew Chicken as an inspiration, and once using some cheap steak I found at the grocery store. And, as you know from previous posts, I don’t like to let leftovers go to waste. Well, after making my chicken and vegetable wontons last week (which were amazing, by the way, and totally worth the effort!), I not only had about 3 servings of wontons leftover to freeze, I also had a hefty amount of the filling left over. Rather than let it go to waste, I decided to repurpose it. My first thought was to make some brown rice and make the fastest fried rice ever, but that was too simple. Also, it’s summer and there’s so much good, cheap produce to be had that I just have to incorporate into every dish.
So, sticking with the rice theme, I decided to make lettuce wraps. I grabbed a gorgeous head of Boston bibb lettuce and some cherry tomatoes from a farmstand nearby and got to work. Making the brown sticky rice was the longest and hardest part of making this dinner, which goes to show how easy this dinner is (assuming you recently made wontons and already have the filling around):
Put 2 cups of long grain white rice in a sieve and rinse the rice until the runoff is mostly clear. This step washes away the starchy residue that usually gelatinizes and keeps grains of rice gooey and separated.
Pour the rice into a sauce pan with 3 cups of water and a dash of salt or- my secret- two bouillon cubes. Bring the water to a boil, not stirring, until the water level sinks below the level of the rice. You’ll see holes in the surface of the rice where water was bubbling through. Without stirring, cover the pot and turn the heat to low for about 15 minutes or until the rice is just tender. That’s it! There will be a slightly burnt layer at the bottom of the pan, but I think that’s the best part.
This technique works surprisingly well with brown rice as well, but it may require more time and/or more liquid. To speed up cooking, soak the brown rice in water for about half an hour before the rinsing step.
Meanwhile, I tore off the outer layer of leaves from the lettuce and discarded them (very dirty and well-loved by wildlife), then removed the rest of the outer, floppy leaves and saved them for salad later. When I got to the heart of the head, I very carefully removed each leaf from the base, keeping the leaves intact, and washed them thoroughly. Then I cut the tomatoes into eighths and squeezed them, gently, in a paper towel to remove some of the goopy insides.
When the rice was done, I reheated the wonton filling in the microwave. I layered rice, filling, and tomatoes in each lettuce leaf, rolled them up, and enjoyed my easy, healthy, delicious, and waste-free dinner! The best part about this dish is that it is very adjustable according to your tastes, so don’t feel obligated to follow this recipe exactly!
- 4 oz mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp grated garlic
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 cup carrots, grated fine and squeezed to drain
- 1 cup edamame, chopped
- Soy sauce, sriracha, rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, to taste
- 1 cup long-grain brown rice
- 1 head Boston lettuce
- 5 cherry tomatoes, diced
- Prepare the chicken filling if not using leftovers:
- Sear the mushrooms, chopped, in a touch of canola oil and soy sauce until dehydrated and richly flavored. Add the chicken, garlic, ginger, and scallions and begin to brown the chicken. Add the carrots and edamame to heat through. As the chicken cooks fully, add seasonings as desired. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Put 2 cups of long grain rice in a sieve and rinse the rice until the runoff is mostly clear.
- Pour the rice into a sauce pan with 3 cups of water and a dash of salt. Bring the water to a boil, not stirring, until the water level sinks below the level of the rice. You’ll see holes in the surface of the rice where water was bubbling through. Without stirring, cover the pot and turn the heat to low for about 15 minutes or until the rice is just tender.
- Remove the inner leaves from the lettuce, being careful to keep them intact. Wash and dry thoroughly.
- Layer the rice, chicken mixture, and tomatoes in lettuce leaves and serve with accompaniments as desired.