Monday, December 5, 2011

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I can't recall the first time I made these but I know what the inspiration was.  Have you ever had the lettuce wraps at PF Changs? 

Oh boy are those things good.  They are addictive.  I could eat 19 of them in one blink of an eye.  I started thinking one day and realized I could turn this into a relatively light, week night dinner.  It's easy, packed with flavor, and fun to eat with your hands.  

I usually eat with my feet so this is a fun change of pace for me.

I love Asian flavors.  Garlic, ginger, soy sauce, I could go on and on.  Fresh ginger is heavenly.  As soon as it hits a hot pan it immediately perfumes the kitchen.  It's like clockwork in my house.  I throw garlic and ginger in a pan and Charlie starts creeping around.  Mmmwhatareyoumaking in one syllable flat. 

We both love Asian food.   It's not really difficult to satiate a craving for Chinese food without blowing through a weeks worth of cals in one sitting as long as you take the time and build the flavors right. 

Start with the following:

Ground Turkey
Fresh Ginger
Baby Bok Choy
Olive Oil
Shitake Mushrooms, reconstituted
Green Onions
Whole Water Chestnuts
Bibb or Boston Lettuce
Soy Sauce
Hot Szechaun Sauce

So you could probably just do one package of turkey, but Charlie really gobbles this one up.  It usually lasts for about 5 minutes, so if I don't eat in record speed or pack my mouth like a squirrel preparing for hibernation I'm out of luck.  I like to eat too OKAY?

Throw it in a hot pan and break it up with a wooden spoon.  I didn't add any oil to this, because a) I was trying to keep the fat down and b) it didn't really need it.  I used 95% fat free turkey (not 99%) so there was enough moisture and juice from the meat itself to cook it in.  I also think the 99% fat free tastes like sawdust so no matter how much oil I add it still doesn't taste right.  Don't go higher than 97%.  If you don't like turkey, no bigs.  You could use ground chicken, chopped chicken, ground pork, beef, even tofu.  YES, you can use tofu and I'm actually not being sarcastic this time.

While the turkey is cooking, prep your other ingredients.  I tend to peel the garlic with a sharp knife and work it into a point so it's easier to paste on a micro plane.  You could also peel it and chop it up, but I really want the ginger to infuse everything in the pan so a paste is the best way to make sure that happens.  It just moves around and does a better job of coating the turkey and other ingredients.

So Charlie doesn't like mushrooms.  But I do.  I reconstituted some dried shitake mushrooms (you can usually find them hanging up in your produce department) in hot water for 30 minutes.  Remember to flip them upside down half way through so the stems get softened as well. 

You want to hear something funny (i.e. deeply disturbing) about me?  I have OCD, well...self diagnosed OCD.   See the texture of the inside of the mushroom cap?  That gives me anxiety.  Like, notable, real anxiety.  I can't look at it for too long or I start getting heart palpitations.  I almost threw them all away because they were freaking me out so much. Weird, right? 

Anyway, roughly chop your water chestnuts.  Water chestnuts are the bomb.  They are mild in flavor, so they basically take on whatever flavors you throw at them.  Their purpose is texture - they add this AWESOME crunch that holds up well under high heats. 

Start on your garlic and ginger.  Just use the micro plane on both.

Don't forget our turkey lurkey.  Keep moving it around so it's nice and crumbly.  Once it's cooked through, move it to the side.

Chop nice big pieces of the green onion stems.  I LOVE green onions.  There was one point where I put them in everything.  Charlie had an intervention once I started decorating his cereal with them.  What do you mean you don't like your Banana Nut Clusters with a mild hint of garlicky onion?

I like them raw, and also cooked.  They take on this awesome sweet and savory flavor when you cook them.  Yum. 

So if you have Thai basil, that's the best.  Regular basil works just fine and is in fact what I used.  I chopped up the remaining basil I had left in the fridge which was about 8 leaves, but you could honestly double that if you wanted.  Basil, traditionally an herb used with Italian cooking, works really well with Asian flavors, especially when you pair it with lots of spicey heat.  Basil has almost a cooling affect, like mint has.  Have you ever tried a basil mojito?  Fuhgettaboutit.

Chop up your baby bok choy.  I would have doubled this had I remembered how much it cooked down, but this is just a good way to get some extra greens and fiber into the meal.  Are you noticing a pattern here?  My "recipes" are not really planned, I sort of just wing it.  I just take a mental note of what I want to revise next time and go on my merry way.

I love bok choy.  It's more mild than spinach but has a great tooth to it.  Since it doesn't get mushy, you can add it to the beginning so it looses that raw green taste.  We don't want to make a salad here.

Add a a bit of olive oil to the pan we cooked the turkey in.  Throw in the bok choy and let it wilt down.  See, this came from THREE baby bok choys.  I definitely should have doubled it.

Add your water chestnuts.  This is actually just 1 can, I ended up adding another can later. 

Add your garlic and ginger pastes. 

Move it all around and let the water chestnuts soak up the delicious flavors.

The ginger and garlic were browning up nicely but sticking to the bottom of the pan, so I needed to deglaze it.  So you know what I did?  You read for this stroke of genius?   I used - GINGER ALE.   

You can stop reading now.  Bye bye.  It's been fun knowing you. 

I was swigging from a 2 Liter of Diet Canada Dry and just threw it in.  I didn't even think about it.  I probably would have done the same thing had I been drinking a banana smoothie so lucky for all of us the flavors in the ginger ale complimented the dish. 

Add the turkey back in.  See how there are only tiny little bits of bok choy?  Boooo there should be more.

Throw in your green onion stems.  I also added the white part of the green onions too, but cut them smaller because they don't wilt and cook down like the stems do.  Making them smaller will help them cook evenly with the rest of the dish.

Add some of your favorite Asian stir fry sauce.  Sure, you can make your own sauce but there are plenty of delicious bottled ones at the grocery store (check in the ethnic food section) that make life easier when you are cooking during the week.  I like House of Tsang Spicey Szechaun sauce.  It has a nice good kick and packs a lot of flavor. 

Add your basil at the very end just to wilt it down.  You don't want it to lose its nice herbaceous flavor so if you add it to the end it will perfume the dish and you will get the most bang for your buck.  The longer you cook down herbs the more they will loose their fresh flavor.

Ok give it a stir. Now, if you haven't noticed, I didn't add the mushrooms yet.  Like I said before, Charlie hates mushrooms so if I added them at the beginning there would have been a delicious deep mushroom flavor throughout the dish.  Or, according to Charlie, the taste of old moldy feet. 

So after they've soaked, they should look like this.  Nice and plump and back to life.  Baaaack to liiiife, back to reality.  Ok, Sorry.

As you'll see, we're adding a microscopic amount here.  If you like mushrooms, I would triple this amount.

So the lettuce you use is important.  Ice Berg doesn't really work that well.  The leaves are not very flexible so they tend to break in half when you go to make your lettuce wrap.  I like Boston lettuce or Bibb lettuce.  The leaves hold up really well and since we're already getting lots of crunch from the water chestnuts, the fact that this type of lettuce is not a super crunchy is just fine.

Get a piece of lettuce and pile the turkey mixture inside.  I like to splash each with a hit of low sodium soy sauce, a squirt or two of Sriracha for some more heat, and a sprinkle of fresh cut green onions.  YUM.  Doesn't this look good?

Mmmmmm hells to the yes.  These are delicious and always a big hit AND hubby approved.  Stay hungry!

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps Recipe
2 Lbs of Ground Turkey
3 Baby Bok Choy (Revise to 6)
2 Cans of Whole Water Chestnuts
1 Tbs Garlic, Pasted
1 Tbs Ginger, Pasted
1 Tbs Olive Oil
4 Green Onions
1 oz of Dried Shitake Mushrooms, reconstituted
8 Basil Leaves
1/2 Cup Asian Stir Fry or Szechaun Sauce (Spicy)
1-2 Heads of Bibb or Boston Lettuce
Splash of Water or Ginger Ale (ahem)
Sriracha (Optional)
Low Sodium Soy Sauce (Optional)  

Cook turkey in a skillet until cooked through and crumbly.  Remove from heat.  Add olive oil to pan.  Add chopped baby bok choy to skillet and cook until wilted.  Roughly chop water chestnuts and add to the pan.  Add garlic and ginger.  Stir.  Deglaze pan with liquid of choice.  You can use water or whatever you have on hand that will complement the dish, say ginger ale, water, chicken stock, whatever.  Add cooked turkey back into the pan.  Add green onion stems that are roughly chopped.  You can add the white part of the green onions as well, just cut those pieces smaller.  Stir in Szechaun sauce.  Add chopped basil.  Spoon turkey mixture into lettuce pieces.  Serve with soy sauce, Sriracha, and finely chopped green onions to garnish.  Enjoy!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!