Once upon a time, I worked in a giant office building with a food court in the basement. And in that food court, there was a purveyor of wraps and salads designed to appeal to the starved-for-time, money-to-burn, health conscious yuppie. Among the merchant’s various offerings was a line of collard green wraps. Every time I would pass these wraps I would shake my head. To me, these “wraps” were proof that the gluten-free movement had officially jumped the shark. A few years and one career change later, here we are with Chicken Collard Wraps in our midst. And collard wraps of my own making, no less.
You may be wondering how I got here and trust me that less-than-interesting story will (unfortunately) follow. But before we get to that, I need to confess that I was completely and utterly wrong about collard wraps. Sure, they may be yuppie food but they’re delicious yuppie food. I’m deeply ashamed of my snobbish behavior towards stereotypically snobby food. It just goes to show you should never judge a wrap by its cover.
Please don’t mistake my initial prejudice towards collard wraps as a general dislike of collard greens. I adore collard greens, particularly when they’re getting cozy with a smoked rack of ribs. In fact, I’m a big fan of bitter greens in general. Rapini has made a couple of appearances on this blog. But using collard greens raw or lightly steamed as a sandwich covering seemed like a gross misuse of collards. I mean, can collards really replace the carby goodness of a legit wrap? Asking such a question was exactly where I went wrong.
Don’t think of collard wraps as a stand-in for anything. They are a different food, not a substitution. This is how I feel about veggie burgers. I eat a veggie burger to eat a veggie burger because I enjoy them, I don’t eat them as a substitute for a burger – they are their own food. I don’t know why I didn’t initially approach the collard wrap the same way, but I’m here now so I guess that’s all that matters.
This labeling of food as “vegan” or “paleo” or “gluten-free” leaves people with the false impression that a diet specific the food is not for them. I don’t intend to argue the validity of any diet because, frankly, it’s not my business. What I would like to challenge is our crappy habit of avoiding foods that don’t appear to be for us. I’m not suggesting that a vegan try a chicken leg, but perhaps that vegan could take a gluten-free cookie for a test drive, even if they are in a loving relationship with gluten. Who knows? They might just find a new favorite cookie. I’m not a vegan but some of my favorite go-to meals are vegan. It’s just like your mom used to insist, “Just try it, you might like it.”
Now, let’s talk Chicken Collard Wraps. The idea to do collard wraps came out of my ongoing Summer Picnic Series. In a previous picnic post, I outlined my dislike of stale mayo. Well, I have similar feelings about soggy bread, so I thought it would be a good idea to include a bread-free sandwich idea and the collard wraps came back to me. I initially thought I wouldn’t like them, so I decided to drown the wraps in a harissa-spiked white bean hummus. If I didn’t care for the collard wraps, I would have the hummus to see me through. The lemon marinated chicken served a similar purpose and while both the hummus and chicken did make these Chicken Collard Wraps next level delicious, the collard wraps brought their own considerable game.
The collard wraps were unexpectedly tender. They had a vaguely citrusy-tang to them and their bitterness provided a refreshing contrast to the contents of the wraps. I also felt so good after eating them, energized. I know this is starting to sound kind of infomercial-esque, but I am being genuine. While I was eating these Chicken Collard Wraps I couldn’t stop fantasizing about what else I could wrap in a collard green leaf. This is likely an ongoing obsession.
So that’s how a former collard wrap skeptic came to make these Chicken Collard Wraps. I hope this tale of setting aside prejudice in the pursuit of deliciousness has inspired you to try that vegan recipe you’ve been eyeing or convinced you to give tofu another shot. If you approach food with an open mind you’ll be surprised at what you develop a taste for.
Eat bravely and enjoy!
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Fresh ground pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 bunch collard greens, washed & dried
- 1 batch Spicy White Bean Hummus
- 4 small carrots, peeled & julienned
- 4 Persian cucumbers, cut into spears
- 1 cup alfalfa sprouts
- 1 can white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons harissa
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Place beans, sunflower seeds, garlic, tahini, sesame oil, and harissa in a large food processor. Blitz until smooth.
- With the food processor running, sprinkle in the salt and stream in the lemon juice.
- Transfer the hummus to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld.
- Split the chicken breast lengthwise and open like a book.
- Place the chicken between two pieces of wax paper. Using a mallet, pound the chicken until it's an 1/8-inch thick.
- Transfer the chicken to a large resealable bag. Add the olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper and lemon juice to the bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat. Force all of the air out of the bag and seal again. Leave the chicken to marinate for 3 hours in the fridge.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or grill over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the chicken and cook until golden and firm, turning once. About 3-5 minutes a side.
- Transfer the chicken to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing it into strips. Set aside.
- Remove the fibrous stalks from the collard greens, taking care to leave the leaves intact. Leave the portion of the stalk that is thin enough to be pliable.
- Spread a couple spoonfuls of hummus on each leaf and top with chicken pieces, cucumber spears, carrot sticks and alfalfa sprouts.
- Roll the leaves like a burrito and cut in half.
- Serve Chicken Collard Wraps immediately or refrigerate for up to a day. If travelling, wrap firmly in wax paper before transporting.