I know it's time to hit the test kitchen to develop a new recipe when I find myself obsessed with one dish. Lately, it's been chicken lettuce wraps, which are found on numerous Asian restaurants' appetizer menus and shared. But I've been ordering the sweetly hot and perfectly textured treats for dinner and not sharing even one.
Recently, I walked into one of my favorite Chinese restaurants here in Wilmington, N.C., and the owner said, "Ah, lettuce wraps," as soon as she saw me. That's when I knew I had to master them at home.
It turns out they are unbelievably easy. They remind me of the chopped meat skillet meals I was the queen of back in the "feed the hungry family of four fast" days of Desperation Dinners. Even though those days are long gone, I still sized the portion for four because they make great leftovers if your family is smaller. And if you need to feed a larger crowd, it doubles just as easily.
Now that I have my own recipe that takes less than 20 minutes to make, I can move on to the other delicacies at my favorite restaurants.
At least until another obsession occurs.
Contact Alicia Ross at Kitchen Scoop, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the Kitchen Scoop Web site at www.kitchenscoop.com.
CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
Start to finish: less than 20 minutes
1 pound ground chicken
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup duck sauce
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, crushed (or bottled)
2 tablespoons Asian hot chile pepper sauce (such as Sriracha sauce)
1 (8-ounce) can diced water chestnuts, drained
3/4 cup scallions (green onions), sliced
2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil
16 Boston, bibb, or butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, begin cooking the ground chicken. Add the onion, garlic, soy sauce, duck sauce, ginger, and Sriracha sauce. Stir and cook until the chicken is finely crumbled and cooked through, about 6 minutes.
Add water chestnuts and scallions. Add the sesame oil. Stir and cook just until the scallions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Arrange the lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter. Pour the chicken mixture into the middle of the serving platter. To serve, allow each person to spoon some of the chicken mixture (about 1/4 cup) into the middle of each lettuce leaf and wrap the leaf around the chicken, taco style.
Yield: 4 servings
Approximate values per serving: 421 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated), 101 mg cholesterol, 35 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 635 mg sodium