Lettuce Wraps with Thai Chicken
Lettuce wraps have given me such relief in the summer months—I can eat cold meals, gluten free.
Lettuce is a vehicle, an edible cupping tool that gets the filling from the plate into my mouth, without bread. I have also tried other fillings like tacos, tempeh, sesame beef, and sandwich-makings. These buddies can be a little messier than bread since the lettuce does not absorb any liquid of the filling, but they work, and are especially great in the season of heat.
Grinding the meat is important, either purchasing it ground or pulse chopping in the food processor (I took a photo of it, but believe me…raw chicken is not photogenic!). It holds together better when cooked and stays inside the wrap. And how funny—I just noticed that a recent Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for a Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wrap! Different seasonings, but similar techniques.
Both Cooks Illustrated and I think that chicken thighs have the most flavor and moisture. I also concur with them that partially freezing the thighs before pulse chopping them in a food processor is best. They introduced a new suggestion: toss the ground meat with a little cornstarch before frying to help keep it from being mushy. I could go either way with that one.
The journey to leave this world is still continuing for my Mother, so like it or not…it is now time for me to indulge in a few photos of her!
This is my mother two years ago, at age 82 getting a ride from her grandson.
This is a photo the year she was diagnosed with cancer. Wow.
She has a Heart full of Song.
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My friend Elyse made this Lettuce Wrap treat for me at a surprise birthday party (yes, a real-live surprise birthday party). She obviously knew what I liked! For weeks afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about these wraps and begged her for the recipe. It is from the book Terrific Pacific Cookbook by Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman. For years I carried around the page that Elyse copied for me, and then I finally got the book. Asian cooking can be intimidating, but the flavors are fantastic.
In the book he says that the traditional way of eating this dish (larb) is with minced pigeon meat.
Lettuce Wraps with Thai Chicken
If processing your own chicken, partially freeze:
1 pound boneless chicken thighs
Meanwhile, toast on a cookie sheet until lightly browned:
1/2 cup coconut
Remove thighs from freezer and chop into chunks.
Add chicken to the food processor and pulse chop.
Optional suggestion (from Cook’s Illustrated):
Mix into the meat:
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Heat a saute pan on high heat:
1-2 Tablespoons Sunflower, Canola, Coconut or Peanut Oil
When hot, add:
1 pound Chicken, ground or pulse-chopped
If the chicken gets saucy, pour off the excess liquid.
Cook until done, using a spatula to break up the pieces.
Remove to a bowl. Add and mix in:
2/3 cup Red Onion, minced
2 Tablespoons Ginger, grated
2 Chiles, fresh, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon Chili Flakes)
3/4 cups Cilantro, chopped
Make the Sauce in a small bowl:
1/3 cup Lime Juice, fresh
3 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1-2 Tablespoons Hot Water
Mix the sauce into the chicken.
Taste and adjust seasonings—you may want more salt, lime juice, or sugar.
1/2 cup toasted coconut
1/3 cup roasted peanuts
1 head Romaine Lettuce leaves
Scoop a little of the chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf.
Top with coconut and peanuts.
Enjoy…and grab a napkin!
Mom and I with a jigsaw puzzle.