I'm not really a sandwich wrap type of guy. I'm simply not a big bread eater, unless it's a tool for sopping luscious sauces and juices from plate drippings. Lately, I've been cranking out sandwiches as if I owned my own little sandwich shop. Weird.
Although our kitchen is one of the cooler rooms in the house, the stifling heat has cut into my desire for major stove action. We've eaten more salads, vegetables, and sandwiches in the past few days than we have eaten in the last six months. Last night, I had a gorgeous head of market bibb lettuce floating around in the refrigerator leftover from a fried shrimp po' boy supper we devoured a few nights ago. What to do with it? For some strange reason, lettuce wraps came to mind. Although intrigued with the idea of lettuce wraps, I've only ordered them once in a restaurant and have never made them at home.
I know there are hundreds of recipes bouncing around the internet, but I decided to throw it together with what I had on hand. Lettuce wrap purists, please don't bawk.
Sauce. After blending water with fine caster sugar until the sugar quickly disolved, I whisked in citrusy ponzu soy sauce, hoisen sauce, oyster sauce, ketchup, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. To bump up the citrus element and cut through the sweetness, I added fresh squeezed lemon juice.
Filling. I sauteed a pound of ground Certified Angus Beef with minced green bell peppers, diced red candy onions, and minced garlic. While the beef and vegetables sizzled away, I whisked together equal parts of light brown sugar and dark soy sauce. After the ground beef, peppers, and onions caramelized, I poured the brown sugar-soy glaze into the pan and let it ooze through the meat mixture, coating every morsel with the sticky salty-sweet glaze.
Assembly. I tore the outer leaves from the bibb lettuce and lined our plates. After spooning a modest amount of filling into each lettuce leaf, I topped them with roasted peanuts for crunch, sesame seeds, and quartered grape tomatoes.. I ladled the additional sauce into small ramekins on the side.
Well, well, well. I finally discovered what I've been missing. They were fabulous. The buttery bibb lettuce leaves were perfect. They were delicately tender, providing a soft crisp wetness that balanced the rich filling. The roasted peanuts added crunch and the tomatoes freshness. The side sauce was a delightful overkill. Sweet, salty, sticky, messy, and fun.
I looked over at Michael and watched as the dark sugar-soy-infused meat goo dripped through his fingers, down his wrists, and onto his plate. Without a single break in eating, we licked our fingers, chins, elbows, and plates completely clean.