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Lovely lettuce wraps crisp-fried shrimp

Planting my family’s summer garden Sunday sacrificed several heads of lettuce.

Supported by late-spring rain and cool temperatures, I had babied these greens along for months. But a few warmer days had caused them to head up noticeably, and now they needed to cede ground to cucumber, jalapeno and cherry tomato starts.

I handled the lettuce as tenderly as I could to produce a bed of greens for diced honey mango, sliced California avocado and sautéed wild-caught shrimp. Served with a pool of green goddess dressing, this was the kind of salad that banishes yearning for warm-weather veggies.

My lettuce heads were so lush that I could have kept the leaves intact and prepared lettuce wraps with the shrimp and some quick-pickled carrots and radishes alongside the mango and avocado. But this recipe will be relevant for months to come when my cucumbers, chiles and cilantro finally come in.

Tribune News Service photo

Crispy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

1 large carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1/3 cup)

1 Fresno chile, stemmed and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Vegetable oil, for frying

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoons hot sauce, or more (or less) to taste

16 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 pound), tails removed

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Kosher salt, to taste

1/4 cup milk

1 cup cornstarch

1 head Bibb lettuce leaves, washed and dried

1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced

Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Lime wedges, for serving

Place the carrot, chile and vinegar in a small bowl; stir to combine. Let marinate while preparing remaining ingredients.

In a 12-inch cast-iron or heavy skillet, heat 1 inch of the oil over medium-high until sizzling.

Meanwhile, add the mayonnaise and hot sauce to a small bowl; mix with fork until well combined.

Season the shrimp generously with the salt and pepper. Dip in the milk, then dredge in the cornstarch until shrimp are covered. Working in two batches, fry shrimp one side at a time in hot oil until crispy, pink and cooked through, for about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season with more salt and pepper.

Spread some flavored mayonnaise on center of each of the lettuce leaves, then top with a few of the cucumber slices and some pickled carrot and chile. Add 2 shrimp on top, and garnish with the cilantro.

Serve with the lime wedges and additional mayo, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.