mains, poultry, sauces + dressings

lettuce wraps with coconut-chili chicken

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Much like most Southeast Asian dishes, lettuce wraps all about layering flavors (sour, hot, salty, sweet) and customizing the taste to your palate.  I love watching anyone eat these, especially a group of kids, because it is so social and interactive...pass me the limes, may I have the cucumbers, etc etc.  For me it's always fun to see what people like, and even more fun to see people loving food.  This recipe is so easily adaptable to other ground meet, especially turkey and pork.  If you can't find ground thighs, use all breast, just increase the oil a bit. It's also easy to make ahead.  The chicken mixture will develop even more flavor overnight.  The rice, because you are tossing it with the vinegar and mirin, stays moist and can be microwaved successfully to re-heat.

To serve, arrange some of the leaves around the edge of a platter.  Mound the chicken mixture in the center.  Serve with lime wedges, cucumber salad, rice, and sriracha, with the extra leaves in another bowl on the side.

Prep to table time, is under 40 minutes.  There are many ingredients, I know, but just get organized and it will take no time at all.

Serves 8.

coconut-chili chicken lettuce wraps

2 heads of butter lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

1 lb ground chicken breast

1 lb ground chicken thighs

2 c coconut milk

2 T olive oil

1 T green curry paste (or more to taste)

1 T fish sauce

11/2 t brown sugar

1 T ginger, grated

3 shallots, diced

2-3 birdeye chilis, diced (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 c cilantro, chopped

1/4 c thai basil, chopped

1/4 c scallions, cut in small rounds

for the rice:

3 cups cooked short grain (sushi) rice, tossed while hot in a glass bowl with 1 T of rice vinegar and 2 T mirin.

for the cucumbers:

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

1 T black vinegar

2 T rice vinegar (or use all rice vinegar if that's what you have)

1 T sugar

salt

combine all of above together until sugar is dissolved.

In a large skillet with 2-3" sides, heat the oil and sauté the chicken until it has a little color.  Add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the chilis, curry paste and cook for about 3 more minutes.  Add the coconut milk, herbs, scallions, sugar and fish sauce and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Adjust for seasonings, maybe adding a squeeze of lime or a splash of soy.