Sandwich #32–“Chill Out!” Chicken Lettuce Wraps

By 300 Sandwiches

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A word on sweating the small stuff. Don’t.

After we parked our brand new car in a parking garage while running errands in the East Village, we discovered the driver’s side car door was mysteriously slashed below the window, leaving a three inch gash in the leather panel. The culprit was either a garage worker or some other trifling scoundrel, but we couldn’t prove it. I was fuming, since we’d had the car for just two months. But what did Zen Master, aka my boyfriend, do?


“I choose which battles to fight,” he explained. “I fight the battles in which I can annihilate my opponent. This isn’t one of them. We don’t know when the car was damaged. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll get it fixed.”

Fixing it would cost hundreds of dollars. I was furious. A grey cloud sat over my head as if were an angry Lucy van Pelt from the Peanuts comics (“You BLOCKHEAD!” I screamed internally. To whom I was screaming was unclear). Did E not care about our things? Should I never buy new things for our apartment because E wouldn’t care if they were damaged? Is this why he never rinses the dishes before he puts them in the sink, because he JUST DOESN’T CARE if they’re ruined?

I pouted all the way home.

Later, he cheerily worked at his computer as if nothing happened. “How can you just sit there and not be mad about the car?” I asked.

“Here’s why,” he explained. “When I was 20, and I was coming home late night from a party in Michigan near my parents’ house, some guy held a gun to my head and asked for all of my stuff. So I gave him my wallet, cell phone, and whatever else I had. The next day, I canceled all of my credit cards and filed a police report. The thief didn’t get any cash, and I wasn’t hurt. All was well. But when I told my dad what happened later on, he flipped out, flailed his arms, and asked over and over again, ohmygodwhatareyougoingtodowhyaren’tyouupset??!?!”

I was shocked. I had no idea that E had been robbed before. My heart sunk.

“My dad’s reaction stressed me out more than actually getting robbed,” E continued. “I was fine, so why flip? That’s why I’m not mad about the car. Okay, I have to pay to fix it. Big deal.”

With that, I forced myself to get over it.

For dinner, I decided on lettuce wraps because they were light, easy to cook, and no fail (if they were messy and fell apart, then so be it). We both deserved a low stress meal after the afternoon’s events.

It’s easier to lay out your ingredients and let your dinner guests fill the wraps. Slice your vegetables and line up on a large plate for presentation.

There are many variations to lettuce wraps. The filling can be made with chicken, shrimp, beef or just vegetables. You can ground the meat beforehand, cut it into strips or cubes, you can mix the meat with the vegetables and spices or you can layer them on individually. I mixed well-marinated chicken with cilantro and lime, then left the rest of the ingredients out on a plate to be added to our wraps as we preferred. I made some rice on the side with a kick of cilantro and lime using what was left over from the wraps.

I didn’t have to worry about presentation or flavor, as each wrap would look and taste different than the next depending on how E or I constructed our individual wraps. Cooking the meal was downright therapeutic. My mind became at ease as we ate on the couch while watching “Kill Bill 2.”

But if anyone ever tries to hurt my boyfriend again, I will raise ten times as much hell on the perp than I did today. Trust.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 garlic cloves
Dash of sea salt
1 cup bean sprouts
1 pound chicken
1 head boston bill lettuce
1 cup green onion
1 lime, cut into four wedges
1/2 pound carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cashews, crushed
1 cup cilantro, chopped

Make a marinade from the first nine ingredients crushed (you can either save about a third of the marinade to drizzle on assembled wraps, or repeat the above step to make additional marinade for wraps. That’s what I did, and what I recommend). Then, place the chicken in either a Purex glass pan or a freezer bag and coat the chicken with the marinade. Close bag or cover pan, and set in refrigerator for about an hour. When done, remove chicken from marinate and throw this marinade out–no, you can’t reuse what the raw meat was soaking in! Cook chicken in a large skillet on stove on medium heat. Brown throughly, turning as needed (I had thick breasts, which took me about 15 minutes on each side to cook.) Let chicken rest for a minute or two, then cut into cubes and place in a large bowl. Take 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of two lemon wedges, and mix together. Set aside.

Now, lay out your fixings: Grate carrots and set aside on plate or in bowl. Chop up onions and set aside in plate or bowl. Crush cashews. Set out bean shoots and the rest of cilantro for the wraps. Rip off bibb lettuce leaves from head and stack individual lettuce leaves on plate.

To assemble the wraps: take a leaf in your hand, and spoon chicken down the middle. Layer on carrots and bean sprouts, then spoon on crushed peanuts and a spoonful of spicy marinade. Wrap lettuce ends around each other and shove in mouth. Don’t worry, it’s not supposed to be pretty. Just pretty tasty. Makes at least 4 wraps.

Marinade recipe adapted from here.

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