Spicy Chicken in Lettuce Leaves

2013 1014 IMG_3303 Spicy chicken on lettuce leavesPretty good for an improvisation. These bundles remind me of the appetizers we order at P.F. Chang’s when on the road with a youth soccer team — delicious, a little sloppy, but something all the kids would eat. The inspiration came from a couple of large heads of Boston lettuce from our CSA that wouldn’t fit in the fridge. First I thought of braising them, but they were so perfectly fresh that I decided instead to use them as wraps for lunch or a light supper.

Since I was planning Thai basil chicken to use up the Thai basil in our garden before the fall freeze soon to be on us, I made a related chicken sauté for filling the lettuce.  I should do this more often: think of ways to fill lettuce leaves. Given the flight from grains and gluten that’s prevalent (for good reason) in our household, lettuce is the new pita, lavash, tortilla and sandwich bread. Go green!

Chicken Filling for Lettuce Wraps

1 head Boston lettuce

Zest and juice of 1 large lime (1 tbsp zest and 1/4 c juice)

2 tbsp Asian fish sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar

Sriracha or other red hot sauce to taste

1 stalk lemon grass, inner pulp finely chopped

1 small red or green chili pepper, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion or shallot, minced

Vegetable oil

1 lb ground chicken or cut-up chicken breasts coarsely chopped in a food processor

Handful of Thai basil, sliced into ribbons

Optional: soy sauce or salt

Separate the large outer leaves from the head of lettuce, wash them, spin them dry and set aside to dry completely.

Combine the lime zest and juice, fish sauce, sugar, hot sauce, lemon grass and chili pepper in a small bowl.

In a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in one layer, saute the garlic and onion or shallot in a small amount of vegetable oil over medium heat until just translucent, and set aside.

Add the chicken to the skillet, turn up the heat and sauté, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through. It is not necessary to brown it. Add the reserved garlic and onion/shallot mixture and the liquid mixture and cook until some of the liquid has been absorbed by the meat. Add the Thai basil and stir to wilt it.

To serve, spoon a tablespoonful or so of the chicken mixture onto a lettuce leaf and roll it up. Serve with additional hot sauce and adjust for saltiness by adding soy sauce or salt.

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