You doubted me, didn’t you? You thought maybe after moving, having a baby, and then going back to work that I just might forget about this little old blog. Have a little faith, people! Sure, it’s taken me a few weeks to get back into the saddle in the kitchen, and then a few more to make anything even worth sharing with you. But, here I am.
Granted, for a while, the recipes you see here might all fall into the category of “things you can cook with only one free hand.” Or, “things you can eat hot… or cold, hours later, after the baby has finally gone to sleep.” And the ever popular, “things you probably don’t even need a recipe for because they are so simple.” If you hang in there with me for long enough, I’m sure at some point I’ll work my way back to the layer cakes of yesteryear, but for now, I’m all about simplicity.
With that said, it seemed fitting to come back from my hiatus with this recipe. Some time ago, I had a taste for lettuce wraps and had something very specific in mind- but couldn’t find any recipes that were exactly right. Thus these lettuce wraps were created. They’re just the combination of sweet stickiness and mushroom meatiness that I was looking for. I’m not a huge fan of water chestnuts, but after a trial run, I realized they were necessary to get that slight crunch in the filling that makes the texture just right. I like using ground chicken because of the way it soaks up all the other flavors, but I imagine these would also be delicious with diced pieces of chicken breast or ground turkey or pork. (I used to think that ground chicken was best left to health nuts and was only a very lame substitute for ground beef or pork. But after this recipe changed my mind, I’ve found lots of way to use it, and realized that it has merits all it’s own. Poor ground chicken… so misunderstood.)
But one of my favorite things about this recipe is how simple it is. Everything ends up in one pan, and the condiments are just more of what went into the filling. It keeps your shopping list short and your prep time minimal. But this is one of those dishes where the small amount of effort that goes into it is not proportionate to the huge, awesome flavor that you end up with. Did I mention how important things like this are to me these days? After all, while spending time in the kitchen is great and all, I have something else to keep me busy these days…
Sorry. I couldn’t resist. On to the lettuce wraps…
Simple Asian Lettuce Wraps
This recipe is entirely flexible. If you don’t have hoisin sauce, try teriyaki or something similar. Change up the meat, or play around with different toppings for your wraps. I’ve also used different kinds of lettuce, like Romaine, and it worked well.
1 lb ground chicken
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 oz button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 can water chestnuts, roughly chopped
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 7-8 oz jar of hoisin sauce*
1/3 cup water
2-3 tablespoons soy sauce*
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 small-ish bunch of cilantro, chopped
1-2 heads of Boston or butter lettuce, cleaned and separated into leaves
*If you are trying to make this dish gluten-free, make sure you buy gluten-free brands of these items, which I found were available at my regular old grocery store. Just check the label.
Chopped green onions
Chili sauce, such as Sriracha
In a sauté pan with high sides (or a large frying pan), heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add in the ground chicken and cook until slightly browned. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Then, add the mushrooms and water chestnuts and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Turn heat to low and add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, water, cilantro and green onions. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes. (If you’d like to cook it longer, the flavors will only meld more and get even better- just add a little more water.)
Serve filling in a bowl with a spoon, alongside lettuce leaves and condiments so that everyone can assemble their own wraps. These are invariably messy, so grab a lot of napkins and dig in!