Before we dive in, I have to comment on the inherent irony and ambiguity of the string of words here--gluten free banh mi--since "banh mi" really only means bread. But, my sense is, to Americans who don't speak Vietnamese, the term suggests all the magic of a sweet, garlic, basil, chile, cilantro, vinegar and umami explosion, in sandwich form. And now, sans the bulky bread.
Shall we get into it? This recipe was adapted from this fabulous pork meatball banh mi entry at Epicurious. A few changes have been made to accommodate the moist crunch of lettuce as a replacement to the dry knaw of baguette. Despite what the the image below may suggest, spicy mayo is the way to go! Also, don't be too picky about the veggies you use for the pickles. While carrots and daikon radish are classic, and root vegetables are preferred, just use whatever you have locally and in season. I've used, zucchini and broccoli with good and moderate success, respectively.
Prepare the sweet pickles.
3-4 cups of 1-2 types of vegetables, slivered or julienned, so they'll lay nicely in a long sandwich
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Combine the ingredients into a large bowl and mix periodically for 30 minutes, or set overnight.
Make the asian pesto.
1 small fistful of basil leaves
3 green onions, coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon chile flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Combine the ingredients in a food processor and puree, adding a small amount of water if necessary to keep the contents mixing.
Prepare the spicy mayo.
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons hot chile sauce (like Sriracha, to taste)
Assemble the sandwiches:
1 lb loose chicken sausage, or ground chicken
12-16 large leaves of romaine lettuce
1-2 cups chopped cilantro
1 avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
Fry the sausage and, once cooked, combine 1/2 or the full amount of the asian pesto with the hot sausage and remove from heat. Use more pesto for a stronger flavor, or, to soften the flavor of the pesto, allow it to cook with the chicken for 1-2 minutes before removing the sausage from heat. Allow the sausage to cool slightly before assembling the sandwich.
Wash and dry the lettuce leaves, taking care to keep them whole. Remove 1-2 inches of the white bulky stems from the lettuce, and nest two leaves together. Spread the top leaf with spicy mayo, then arrange a modest layer of sausage, then pickles and finally top with a generous amount of cilantro. If you've got an avocado, between the chicken and the pickles is a perfect place for it.
Eat it like a taco! Also, if you're serving several people, it might be classy to present the sammies along with extra fixings on the table so each guest can customize to his or her own taste.