I was reminded of how much I love lettuce wraps last week, when I had lunch with my daughters at Thai Foon restaurant in Robinson after a long afternoon of prom dress shopping. They ordered the saucy sesame chicken, as usual, but I wanted something lighter. Cool and crunchy, with spicy-sweet chicken tucked inside, lettuce wraps hit the spot.
This recipe is a pretty good approximation of that dish. I substituted diced chicken breast and used a whole red pepper; for extra crunch, I sprinkled toasted slivered almonds on top. Serve with plenty of napkins and a fork because this can be messy dish.
4 tablespoons sesame or olive oil, divided
1 pound ground chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
4 ounces water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
4 scallions, trimmed and sliced
12 whole Bibb lettuce leaves
Sprigs of cilantro and fresh mint, for garnish
In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering over medium-high heat and cook the ground chicken, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to bowl.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the saute pan over medium heat and when hot, cook the garlic and ginger for about 1 minute, stirring to prevent burning. Add bell pepper and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, or until pepper softens. Return chicken to the pan and stir in the chestnuts to mix all the ingredients.
In a small cup, whisk the soy sauce and hoisin with 1/4 cup of water. Pour into the pan, add the scallions and simmer for 1 minute, stirring to mix.
Remove chicken from the heat and spoon the mixture into the Bibb lettuce leaves, which should cup the chicken. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro and mint, as desired.
-- Adapted from "The Dinnertime Survival Cookbook: Delicious, Inspiring Meals for Busy Families" by Debra Ponzek (Running Press, April 2013, $22)