Sometimes you just don’t know what to make for dinner. Sure, you have well stocked fridge, a freezer brimming with homemade frozen sauces and organic grass fed and finished meat, and all the herbs a girl could want, yet you still stare into your refrigerator blankly hoping inspiration will strike. When it doesn’t you slam the refrigerator door shut in disgust and hop on to Seamless to see who is still delivering. To avoid episodes like these, when I’m feeling lost about dinner I like to spend my lunch break consulting with a fellow kindred food spirit, Erene. Adventurous and curious about food in the same way that I am, when we aren’t discussing what we made for dinner or brunch over our cube wall, we’re talking about the intricacies of our most recent fine dining adventure at Del Posto or WD~50. Because she often serves as my dinner sounding board, this recipe was inspired by a similar and simpler vegan version that Erene had made a few days earlier with seitan instead of chicken. I love these Lettuce Wraps because they can either supplement or be the centerpiece of any week night meal, or be a killer finger food for your International Tapas Poker Night (added bonus-the cards will stay clean while the players stay fed).
2 tbs grapeseed oil
3-4 chicken thighs, cleaned and diced
1 red or yellow onion, diced
10 large shiitake mushrooms, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I used an orange one for color, but you can use any sweet pepper you prefer)
1/2 can water chestnuts, drained and finely diced
1/2 cup xiao xing cooking wine (you can find this in any Asian Market, or Asian isle in the grocery store)
¼ cup oyster sauce
1 ½ tbs chili garlic siracha
3 tbs rice wine vinegar
2 tbs low sodium soy sauce
1 inch piece of ginger (freeze for even grating)
3 medium cloves garlic
Juice of ½ large lemon or 1 lime
Handful cilantro leaves, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced for garnish
1 package fresh bib lettuce, washed and thoroughly dried (try to find lettuce with large sturdy leaves)
Because this is a one pot recipe, uniform size of your ingredients and timing are critical to proper execution. So, to make sure I don’t burn or over cook anything, I prepare all of my mise-en-place before I even turn on the burner.
Once you have the chicken, celery, onions, mushrooms, peppers, water chestnuts, and cilantro diced and chopped, reserve each in a separate bowl until you need it (since you are cooking the celery, mushrooms, peppers, and onions at the same time, you can reserve them in the same bowl).
Add grapeseed oil to a large shallow sauté pan and heat on high. Once oil is hot and rippling add chicken to pan and let cook on high heat. Once the cubes of chicken are browned on one side, stir and let cook through.
Remove chicken from pan and add celery, peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Let cook on medium heat until tender.
Remove vegetables from the pan and deglaze with xiao xing cooking wine. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon scrape the brown bits from the pan while the alcohol cooks out, about 3 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, siracha, and soy sauce. Grate garlic and ginger into the sauce and stir. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 3-5 minutes, until sauce is thickened. Add chicken, cooked vegetables, and water chestnuts and stir. Let sauce coat the chicken and vegetables and let it heat through. Turn heat off and add cilantro, lemon/lime juice and stir. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.