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Lettuce Wraps with Chicken and Herbs

Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ pounds ground chicken or turkey
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 jalepeño chile, cored, seeded, and finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chili paste
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 head butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce, trimmed, rinsed, and dried
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped green onions


  • Ginger-Lime Dipping Sauce:
  • 1½ tablespoons hot water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup Asian fish sauce, such as nam pla
  • 2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced


  • Peanut Dipping Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon chili oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon dark or light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced or grated ginger


Procedures:

Many Asian countries have their own version of this lettuce-wrapped appetizer (which reminds me of an Asian-style taco). The recipe, similar to one that I’ve sampled in Vietnam, is versatile: Try adding other ingredients, such as cilantro leaves, pickled ginger, and kaffir lime leaves, to vary the flavors. I really enjoy the character of Thai basil, which grows like mad in my garden, in these rolls. The main thing is to make sure your lettuce is very cold and crisp. For a little more color and crunch, add shredded carrots and/or chopped roasted peanuts to the filling.

Peanut sauce is a popular condiment in Southeast Asia. For a shortcut, try a commercially made sauce rather than making your own. (The peanut sauce would also be wonderful with Grilled Pork Kebabs) The ginger-lime sauce is a snap to make. You may certainly serve the wraps with just one sauce or the other.
  1. For the ginger-lime sauce, combine the water and sugar in a small bowl and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture cool. Whisk in the lime juice, fish sauce, ginger, and garlic. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.


  2. For the peanut sauce, heat the vegetable oil and chili oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until tender and aromatic but not browned. Add the peanut butter and stir until softened, then stir in the water, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and ginger. Bring just to a low simmer, then decrease the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce thickens slightly. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.


  3. Combine the chicken, lime juice, garlic, jalepeño, soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, and sugar in a medium bowl and stir well to blend. Heat the sesame oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken mixture and cook, stirring to break the meat into small pieces, for about 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.


  4. To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves around the edge of a large platter. Pile the mint leaves and basil leaves alongside the lettuce. Spoon the cooked chicken into a bowl, sprinkle with the green onions, and set it in the center of the platter, with the dipping sauces alongside. Alternatively, you may arrange the components on individual plates. Tell your guests to hold a lettuce leaf, cupped upward, in the palm of one hand and spoon some of the chicken mixture into the leaf. Add a couple mint and basil leaves, roll up, and enjoy, dipping into either of the sauces.

by Sur La Table & Renée Behnke

 
 
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