Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This recipe is delicious and fairly easy to make though a bit time intensive if you want to do it “the right way” which is to say manually chop things. You can always short-cut the process with a mini-food processor for slightly different results.

Pictures coming soon. I promise. I hope. Yeah, the downside of being impulsive is that I made this last night and only took one single picture before I decided to embed WordPress into my site for recipes / food blogging. I will update the pictures next time I make this recipe.

I haven’t been to a P.F. Chang’s in years – maybe ten or fifteen years.  It’s been a while. But when I went, I sure did enjoy their chicken lettuce wraps but a decade or more is just too long to go without an easy Asian taco dinner. And yes, Chang’s serves their Chicken Lettuce Wraps as an appetizer but we make the recipe as an entree.

I will ordinarily pick up a tray of ground chicken at WalMart and in tray-form, it’s the white meat. If you get the chubb-form (tube shape), it has dark meat ground in there which alters the taste and nutrition somewhat. After my husband once got the tube of ground chicken, I swore we were only ever making the dish with the tray form with all white meat. So much better, in my opinion!

When it comes to the diced onion, I always prefer a white onion for a very mild onion flavor. My husband gravitates to yellow onions but white are prettier so when I have the choice, I go with white. The recipe also uses green onions / spring onions / scallions but you’ll also want/need a regular round onion.  Just, whatever you do, avoid the red onion for this! It’s a very different taste and texture and will be outright gross in this dish.

Initial recipe testing included a full tablespoon of Sriracha. I have a much lower hot-tolerance than my husband and with the full tablespoon, my face was on fire. Even at a half tablespoon, I can definitely feel a zing. Since my husband couldn’t tell there was any heat with the full dose, I’ve since dialed back to about 1.50 teaspoons of Sriracha and let him drench his lettuce wraps with the huge bottle of Sriracha we keep in the house.

The very first thing I do (after taking the ground chicken out of the fridge to reduce its chill-factor; don’t tell anyone at Food Network but I will pull it from the fridge around 9am and not start cooking it until 4pm. Have you ever been to a third world country’s grocery store? They have raw chicken sitting in bins in the middle of an aisle. Yes, there are flies. No, there is no sneeze-guard. My point is that we are sometimes a bit too anal-retentive about food poisoning in the States. I don’t recommend YOU do this and if you do and you die, don’t blame me! I’m telling you what I do, nothing more.)

Anyway, the first thing I do is prep The Stuff. Pop the lid on that can of water chestnuts. I buy cans of sliced water chestnuts because it takes one level of work out of the equation for me but if your store only has whole, that’s fine too.  And if you use a mini food processor for this bit, it won’t make a difference at all.

I get the water chestnuts lined up, sliced into matchsticks and then mince to approximately the same size. I like a bit of crunch to my water chestnuts. The food processor, if you’re not careful, will puree the water chestnuts and if that happens, well, dump it in and pay closer attention next time! Trust me, you want that little bit of water chestnut in each bite.

Once they’re all chopped, put them in a prep bowl. They likely won’t fit back in the can from whence they came and you’ll want to add your scallions to the dish at the same time so the scallions and water chestnuts can hang out in a bowl together for a while.

Speaking of scallions, green onions or spring onions, I always cut off at least one inch of the tops where the green has turned brown or gotten wilty.  And at the bottom, by the root, I’ll usually pull off that one outer layer that always seems to get mushy, slimy before anything else.  And I’ll pull it off even when it’s still nice because it’s a loner (and a rebel, Dottie!) and there’s nothing holding it there except my fingers once I start chopping. I don’t know about you but I’m kind of a menace when it comes to knives in the kitchen. I have grand visions of being Julia Child or Ina Garten and just whipping through things with Mad Knife Skillz and then I end up cut. Either bleeding-cut or “I hope I got the fingernail shard out of there” cut. And with that loner onion piece there, it starts getting slide-y and things go sideways FAST.  So it gets ripped off, with malice. And then I slice top to bottom, lather, rinse, repeat.

These cook down considerably and get lost in the dish so you might want to save a couple of tablespoons of the greens (or whites, your choice) to sprinkle over the top when it’s all done if you’re concerned about presentation. Or just add another onion to the top and cook everything I’ve listed! (I love onions, garlic and ginger so prepare for that if you’re going to hang out with me.)

Note: please do NOT try to use the food processor on the green onions. It will not. end. well.

Then I’ll get to the mushrooms. I prefer crimini over white button mushrooms. I find the crimini to be a more firm while tender mushroom with a hint of earthiness.  White button mushrooms are just blandness personified. Blech. I pop the stems out of the mushrooms (tougher in button ‘shrooms but tolerable in crimini; just a personal preference in our house) and then slice and chop. Again, you can use the food processor here too – just make sure you keep an eye on things, blitz very quickly and for short bursts of time, scrape the bowl frequently. Like way more than you think you should. Otherwise you’ll end up with:

  1. Mushroom dust
    or
  2. Mushroom dust and mushroom shards the size of your pinkie finger

If you don’t scrape, you’ll inevitably get some mushroom on the side of the bowl but up top where the inertia of the mushroom pieces in contact with the blade can’t coax it back into the mix and that one piece will just be huge. And there were be six others buried in the dust that you don’t immediately see … until you dump it all in the pan only to realize that someone is going to have a Mushroom Lettuce Wrap because this giant piece escaped your Eagle Eye.

Ask me how I know.

And this, my friends, is exactly why I hand-chop things. Uniformity is my friend when it comes to these lettuce wraps. People will be spooning very small amounts into delicate lettuce leaves and eating with their hands. There’s very little that will escape notice, trust me.

Your mushrooms will likely fit into a regular Old Fashioned Glass (10 or 11 oz capacity) / a table water glass. They’ll go in their prep glass solo.

Next up is your onion-onion. This not the green onion but the white or yellow onion, but definitely not the red onion. It should be a small to medium sized onion with a small dice. Ultimately about a cup or 8 ounces of small-diced onion is what you’re looking for. (I always buy behemoth onions, cut what I need, wrap the remainder in plastic wrap and then put the whole thing in a Food Saver vacuum-sealed bag in the fridge where a cut onion can last for two or three weeks. Telling me “a small onion” will make me laugh because it’s so vague and I never have a small-anything in my house.)

Now go grab yourself another water / old fashioned glass to start building the sauce. Put your diced onion in that glass and build from there.

I like my saucy dishes to be saucy.

Over time and testing, I got this recipe to the level of saucy that appeals to me and my husband. That said, if you find it too saucy, you can cut it by 1/3. (I’ll let you in on the secret further down below.)

So in this second glass, add your garlic, ginger, hoisin, rice vinegar and Sriracha to the diced onions. Mix WELL and keep the spoon in the glass so you can give it another quick stir just before you dump it all in the pan and you don’t leave 30% of your garlic, ginger and onion behind.

If you use a non-stick pan, ever-so-lightly spray it with cooking oil. Not PAM or any weirdness like that but an aerosol cooking oil.  (If you use PAM in your non-stick pan, you’ll end up ruining it.) If you use a regular pan, heat the olive oil in the pan over medium  to medium-high heat.

I usually start with medium-low heat because I like to crumble the raw chicken before it hits the pan. If I drop a whole herkin’ bunch of ground meat into a hot oiled pan, I’ll end up with a giant weirdly-shaped meatball and I’ll have to spend three days attacking it with various implements to get the little crumbles I’m looking for. My non-stick pan hates that. My forearm hates that. My legs hate standing there for that long. In general, I crumble and turn up the heat as I go so that I don’t end up with incinerated-to-under-cooked crumbles in the pan.

You’ll want or need a serving bowl for the cored head of butter lettuce for serving, easy grabbing.

You’ll also want a serving dish / platter that’s somewhere between a bowl and a plate. Saucy food odesn’t work well with a plate but if there’s enough of a lip or edge, you should be fine. Make sure there’s a big spoon (American tablespoon which is probably a serving spoon in every other country) for each person to serve themselves chicken goodness.

If you have hot-sauce fans, you might also put out the bottle of Sriracha or other favorite hot sauce along with some crispy rice noodles for extra crunch.

And napkins. Plenty of extra napkins. (Did I mention that I like my foods to be extra saucy?!)

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

  • Servings: 4 appetizers or 2 main courses
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Super delicious, flavorful, healthful Asian-inspired appetizer or easy, light weeknight meal.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable Cooking Spray with a large non-stick pan or 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced (or a heaping tablespoon of jar minced garlic)
  • 1 small to medium onion, diced small (about a 1/2 cup)
  • 3 ounces hoisin sauce (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons, or just 6 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 to 1 tablespoon Sriracha, optional, to taste
  • 1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and minced
  • 4 ounces crimini mushrooms, minced or diced small
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 head butter lettuce

Directions

  1. Heat the saucepan over medium-low to medium-high  depending on how you prefer to cook and crumble your ground chicken. Either way, get the oil (liquid or aerosol) in there and add the chicken. Cook and crumble, about 3-5 minutes.  Drain or blot excess fat. (There will be more fat if you use dark meat ground chicken and/or olive oil which should be drained. There will be negligible fat to blot away if you use a quick aerosol spray of oil and white meat chicken.)
  2. Add the sauce mixture to the pan: garlic, onion, hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, Sriracha. Stir well and lower the heat to medium-low so the sauce doesn’t reduce too much. Cook about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and mix well. Cook another 2 minutes to soften the mushrooms and release their moisture.
  4. Add the water chestnuts and green onions. Mix well and cook until the green onions are tender, about 1-2 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. (This is a great opportunity to use white pepper if you have it.)
  6. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style.

If this was too saucy for you, the revised ingredient list for the sauce would be:

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (just the basic 4 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (not 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not 1.50 tablespoons)

You might want to adjust down the garlic, ginger, Sriracha accordingly too:

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or a heaping tablespoon of jar minced garlic)
  • 1 level tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • Sriracha to taste

About 325 calories per appetizer portion.

Adapted From: Damn Delicious

Happy eating and please let me know how it goes!

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