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Don't Let Lettuce Get in the Way of Your Salad

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For those nights when you get home hungry, stressed, and impatient, Hangry is here to help. Each Monday, Kendra Vaculin will share quick, exciting meals to rescue anyone who might be anxiously eyeing a box of minute rice.

Today: A salad that puts the lettuce on the side and leaves more room for the good stuff.

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The best kind of salad is the kind with more stuff than salad. The greens are present but negligible, outshone by a whole slew of colorful and flavorful toppings. I like a little lettuce with my mix-ins; I like it when the extras are secretly the whole dang thing. 

Lettuce wraps are a great way to deconstruct your favorite salad and build it back together again, but this time light on the lettuce. With all of your add-ons taking center stage as the stuffing, the greens can pursue a purely structural role. A giant kale or collard leaf — or a so-perfectly-shaped-it’s-like-it-was-built-for-this butter lettuce cup — holds everything together flawlessly, without taking over the dish.

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More: Why your salad should cut out the middle man (i.e. the lettuce). 

My favorite dish to rework into a lettuce wrap is a Chinese chicken salad. Since I am the queen of this version, I took out all of the parts of the standard edition I don’t like (those weird noodle crackers and Mandarin oranges) and doubled down on the clear winning component (the bright, crunchy slaw). You, of course, are queen or king of your own lettuce wraps and as such can command them to be full of whatever you like. Just don’t forget to top the whole thing off with a serious sprinkling of chopped green onions — and leave the lettuce to its wrapping duties. 

Asian-Inspired Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Slaw

Serves 4

For chicken:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole roast chicken, store-bought or homemade, with the meat separated and cubed

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock

For slaw and wraps:

1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 1/2 cups shredded purple cabbage
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
Fresh ground pepper
Sesame seeds
1 to 2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 head butter lettuce, separated, washed, and dried, for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Alpha Smoot