Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Sweet + Salty Sauce

We've been on a real Asian kick this week when it comes to cooking dinner. Sometime in the next few days, I'll post my Garlicky Korean Beef Noodles, which have become a weekly meal for the last 6 months. But today, we're going to talk about chicken lettuce wraps. Lettuce wraps are a must for me whenever we go out to a restaurant, so why not make my own version at home? This recipe is pretty easy when it comes to cooking other dishes on my food blog, although you will do a lot of chopping. But if you have another person helping you, y'all will be done in no time! I started off by making my go-to sweet + salty sauce (that also goes on the Korean Beef Noodles) and all you have to worry about is bring it to a boil, reducing it to a simmer, whisking continuously, and letting it cool. You'll repeat that cooking process 3-4 times until the sauce is smooth and has reduced slightly. After you have done that, just let the sauce cool in the small pot until you are ready to pour it over the chicken. Now, I have a pretty firm belief that everyone likes chicken, but if you are that one person who doesn't, then just trade out the ground chicken for ground pork and ground beef. Now let's talk about all the vegetables. We were recently eating out at one of our favorite thai restaurants and they have the most glorious chicken lettuce wraps. Something a little different that they include are red + green bell peppers. Both my husband and I enjoyed that addition so much, that I had to put some peppers into my chicken-vegetable mixture. It is important though, that you dice up the sweet onions and bell peppers to the same size, so that they will all cook for the same time. Once those vegetables have become slightly softened and somewhat translucent, throw in the minced fresh garlic, diced water chestnuts, minced green onions, fresh basil, minced dried garlic, toasted sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, and some red pepper flakes. Stir it all together and let it cook for a minute or two. Now, all that is left to do is to pour some of the sauce over the chicken mixture until everything is coated. I would suggest starting with half the sauce and working your way up because you don't want an overwhelmingly large amount drowning your chicken + veggies. The goal here is to add just the right amount of sauce to your liking, that way the chicken lettuce wraps taste light and delicious. All that there is left to do is to assemble them. Get a piece of butter lettuce, spoon in some of the sauced chicken mixture on top, drizzle with a little bit of extra sauce, and garnish with a pinch of minced, dried garlic, red pepper flakes, and toasted crushed peanuts. Voila, you have made yourself a real crowd pleasing recipe! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! 

For the Sweet + Salty Sauce:
1C Light Brown Sugar
½C Soy Sauce
¼C Hoisin Sauce
2T Toasted Sesame Oil + 2T Sriracha
1T Rice Wine Vinegar
1t Freshly Grated Ginger
1t Red Pepper Flakes (less or more to your preferred spiciness)

For the Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps:
Prepared Sweet + Salty Sauce
4T Vegetable Oil (separated)
2lbs Ground Chicken
2 Sweet Onions, Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper + 1 Green Pepper, Diced
1t Salt
8oz Sliced Water Chestnuts, Diced
8 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Bunches of Green Onions, Minced
¼C Fresh Basil, Minced
2T Minced Dried Garlic (plus more for garnishing)
1T Toasted Sesame Seeds (plus more for garnishing)
Red Pepper Flakes (to your preferred spiciness)
1T Toasted Sesame Oil
1-2 Butter Head Lettuce
Toasted, Crushed Peanuts, For Garnishing

1. For the Sweet + Salty Sauce: In a small pot, whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until it is well incorporated. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-low heat, making sure to continuously whisk. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for a few minutes. Repeat this process of bringing it to a boil and simmering the sauce three more times. After you have done this, allow the sauce to cool while you make the chicken lettuce wraps.
2. Cooking the Chicken: Heat 2T oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the ground chicken and cook until just browned, about 5-7 minutes. Make sure to crumble the chicken as it cooks, so smaller pieces form. Drain the excess fat out of the pan and set aside the cooked chicken while you sauté the vegetables.
3. Making the Asian Chicken: In a large pot, heat the other 2T of oil over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onions, diced red bell pepper, diced green pepper, and the salt. Sauté these vegetables for about 5-10 minutes, until they have cooked down and gave become translucent. Next, toss in the diced water chestnuts, minced garlic, and minced green onions. Stir everything so that it is all mixed together. Bring the heat up to high and let it cook on that temperature for a minute. Drizzle in half of the reduced sweet + salty sauce, stirring to make sure the lettuce wrap mixture is completely coated in the sauce. Lastly, finish off the dish by throwing in the fresh minced basil, minced dried garlic, toasted sesame seeds, as much or as little red pepper flakes that you like, and toasted sesame oil. Turn off the heat and taste the sauced, ground chicken-vegetable mixture. If you think the chicken needs more sauce, salt, or red pepper flakes, then add it to your liking.
4. Assembling the Chicken Lettuce Wraps: Pull off the individual leaves of butter lettuce and wash and dry them. Place the lettuce leaves onto a plate, and then spoon some of the chicken mixture into each leaf. Garnish the top of the chicken lettuce wraps with a drizzle of the sweet + salty sauce, dried minced garlic, pinch of red pepper flakes, and some toasted, crushed peanuts. Enjoy the lettuce wraps while they are still hot (but they are just as delicious if you serve them cold)!

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