Lettuce Bowls by Guest Chef Amy Pennington
This-busy-yet clean dish bursts with flavor. A lean bowl of rice noodles incorporates a hearty portion of lettuce alongside a heaping amount of tender herbs. You can omit the rice noodles entirely and make this a Vietnam-inspired salad. The addition of pickled beets and carrots spices things up, while grilled shrimp add some protein. Browned shallots contribute a depth of flavor. Don’t be intimidated by the length of this recipe; despite the extensive instruction, the dish is easy to make.
For pickled beets and carrots:
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 medium red beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut in to matchsticks
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 10 cloves
- 1 tablespoon red chile flakes
For browned shallots:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 – 1 ½ pounds of shrimp
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
- 4 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 6 tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon of red chile flakes
For lettuce bowl:
- 8 ounces of rice noodles
- 1 cup of fresh mint
- 1 cup fresh cilantro
- 4 cups chopped romaine (about half a head)
To make pickled beets and carrots, heat apple cider vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Place beets, carrots, and all of the aromatics in a medium-sized glass bowl and set aside. Once apple cider vinegar is just boiling and all of the sugar is dissolved, pour the mixture over beets and carrots and set aside until ready to use, allowing them to quick-pickle.
To make browned shallots, heat olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat (oil should cover the bottom of the pan, add more if needed). Once heated, add shallots and salt, stirring to coat evenly. Cook and stir shallots until they begin to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes or until they are slightly brown. You want them to develop a rich brown color and get crispy, so let them sit on the heat without disturbing, another 4 to 6 minutes. Once shallots are deeply brown and crispy, remove from the sauté pan, place on a small plate, and set aside to cool.
To prepare shrimp, pre-heat the grill to medium to high heat. Then wash, peel and de-vein shrimp and place in a large bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt to shrimp, then mix with your hands, making sure to coat shrimp. Place shrimp on the grill and cook for approximately three minutes on each side. Place on a plate when finished.
To prepare noodles, set a large sauce pan full of water over high heat and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, turn on the broiler to high. Combine honey and lime juice in a small bowl and stir until incorporated.
Once water is boiling, remove pot from heat, drop in rice noodles and cook according to instructions on the package, about 5 minutes for most thin rice-noodles until just soft. Drain and rinse noodles under cool water, which helps prevent them from sticking.
To make vinaigrette, combine lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, and red chile flakes in a small bowl and stir until brown sugar is dissolved. Divide into four equal portions and place each in a small bowl or jar.
To compose lettuce bowls, add equal portions of the rice noodles to four bowls. Add 1 cup of lettuce and ¼ cup of fresh mint and cilantro to each bowl. Place a forkful of pickled beets and carrots and a pinch of burned shallots on top. Finally, place 2-3 grilled shrimp in each bowl. Serve with a side of vinaigrette.
Most of these steps can be done ahead of time and the components chilled separately in airtight containers. If you make rice noodles ahead, toss with a small spoonful of sesame oil or vegetable oil to prevent sticking. All components of this salad hold well in the fridge, stored individually in airtight containers.