Use Leftover Brine to Make Quick-Pickled Lettuce
Sometimes recipes are born of long hard hours of testing and re-testing, altering amounts by grams, cooking temps by degrees, timing by seconds. Sometimes, however, when just cooking for myself and my husband I stumble upon a little thing, a trick or technique, a dish that is born of convenience. That's how I stumbled on Quick-Pickled Lettuce.
I eat an extraordinary volume of pickles. They are essentially no-cal, intensely flavored, and no carb, making them a perfect snack for someone who is a type 2 diabetic trying to remove the pounds she has acquired since the election. As such, I am almost always in possession of a jar of pickle brine. I have used this liquid in salad dressings, as a brine for fried chicken, as a splash on roasted potatoes. But never have I done something as smart as use it to make pickled lettuce.
Because the two things I like on my sandwiches are iceberg lettuce and pickles. And I was staring down at a jar of spent pickle brine and a head of lettuce and my brain thought: What if the lettuce were the pickle.
I took the center of my lettuce, the place where the lighter yellow tightly entangled leaves live, and sliced into sandwich friendly slabs, and stuffed them in the jar of pickle brine, and put it back in the fridge. The next day at lunch, I fished one out, rested it on some paper towel to absorb extra brine while I made my sandwich, and then slapped it on there. It was perfect. The iceberg still retained crunch but had softened just enough to meld with the sandwich instead of sitting too proudly on top. Because it was just in the brine overnight, it kept a bit of its sweetness at the core, but with enough pickle punch that I didn’t miss the actual cucumber pickles at all.
Yes, of course I immediately set about to put it on a cheeseburger, because I am no fool. You think this stuff made my basic turkey and cheese awesome? Oh, baby, what it does for a burger.
I have found that I like it best within 24 hours, so I now only put as much lettuce in the brine as I want for the next day. If I’m not going to need it, or lunch plans change, I fish it out after 24 hours and store in a Ziploc bag to prevent it going too soggy. I find it works best with half-inch thick slabs, but experiment to find your own sweet spot.
And the next time you are thinking of tossing that magic salty vinegary elixir down the sink? Don’t. You never know what you might be able to make with it.