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Simple Braised Whole Lettuce Vegetable Recipes

Braised Whole Lettuce

 

Too often we think lettuce is only for salads. The delicate flavor is also delicious when cooked. These whole braised heads of buttery leaf lettuce make a very sophisticated accompaniment for roast veal, pheasant, or even grilled fish such as red snapper.


Makes 6 servings

  • 6 small heads leaf lettuce, such as Boston or Bibb, trimmed, boiled in salted water to cover for 3 minutes, and well drained

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 slice smoked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • 1 medium-size rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice, including the leaves

  • 1 cup well-flavored chicken stock

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  1. Squeeze the drained lettuce to remove as much of the cooking water as possible. Use your hands to shape each head into a firm bundle. Some cooks like to use a little fine string to hold the bundles together, but if the heads are well compressed, it's not necessary.

  2. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a covered flameproof casserole large enough to hold the lettuce bundles in a single layer. Add the ham, onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until just translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Spread t he mixture in an even layer in the bottom of the casserole. Arrange the lettuce bundles on top of the vegetables.

  3. Pour in the stock and wine. Season well with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently over low heat until the lettuce is very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lettuce to a heated serving plate, cover, and keep warm. Strain the cooking liquid into a small saucepan, pressing on the vegetables to remove as much of the juice as possible. Boil the cooking liquid hard over high heat until it reduces to 1/4 to 1/3 cup of concentrated sauce, about 5 minutes.

  5. Serve the braised whole lettuce vegetable recipes very hot, with a little of the sauce spooned over each head. Garnish with the parsley.

 

Variation:

Create a colorful (albeit expensive) version of this dish by substituting small whole heads of radicchio for the lettuce. Radicchio has a more substantial leaf and will not shrink as much as Boston or Bibb lettuce. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar to the boiling water before adding the heads of radicchio to set the color so it will not fade too much or turn brown.

 

Note:

Vegetables that are diced, "sweated" (cooked, covered, in a little fat until soft), and used in this manner - as a bed to keep another ingredient from touching the bottom of the cooking dish - are called a mirepoix.
 

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