Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
|March 7, 2011||Posted by Cheeks under Appetizers, Main Course, Make-ahead, Recipe, snacks|
What is it about Asian food that is constantly alluring? Be it high-end sushi, take-out Thai noodles, or steam-table Chinese, I am thoroughly addicted to Asian food. It’s what I crave (OK, it’s one of hundreds of foods that I crave with regularity) and I can’t ever get enough (ibid.).
Maybe it’s the exotic flavors – lemongrass, cilantro, fiery peppers, fish sauce, all things fermented and funky (kim chi being the tamest example). Or the Thai food ethos of combining sweet, sour, spicy and salty into one satisfying complex dish that keeps me coming back for more. Or the ease of cooking Chinese-eque stir-fries, especially on a weekday night. Nothing else comes together so quickly nor uses up all those odds and ends in the produce drawer. Or maybe I just like ordering take-out, and 80% of the menus in our drawer are for Asian places.
Regardless, my fever for the continent surely influenced my desire for these wraps, when I spied the easy-enough recipe in an odd issue of Cuisine at Home (an odd enough magazine in itself). Oh, and yes, it had peanut sauce. Oh, peanut sauce, I could write sonnets for you. Spicy, creamy, tangy, lovely peanut sauce. I order overcooked satay and underwhelming rama chicken dishes just to get you, the accompanyment. Peanut noodles? Genius!
Except every version I’ve made doesn’t hit the mark. Most peanut sauce recipes I have tried just taste like minorly adapted peanut butter – which might be fine on a sandwhich, but doesn’t carry an entree or make a plate of cold soba noodles any more appetizing.
But this peanut sauce? Wow. Citrusy, spicy, complex – it is everything peanut sauce should be. If you take nothing from this post, please at least try the peanut sauce. You can dip chicken skewers into it, make a noodle dish with it, fill a bathtub and drown in it…This is now my go-to peanut sauce recipe. Not to thick, not to “peanutty,” tangy and fresh and mmmmmm good.
Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 3-4 for dinner, alongside quick fried rice or noodles.
- 3 Tbsp lime juice (from 2 fat limes), divided
- 1 Tbsp lime zest
- 2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste, divided
- 6 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
- 3 lbs chicken breasts, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup water, plus a few tablespoons
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 small cucumber
- 1 small red pepper
- 1 head boston or butter lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
Make marinade. In a food processor, whiz 1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice, 4 Tbsp brown sugar, and 1 Tbsp red curry paste. Pour into a large bowl and add chicken slices to the bowl. Toss well to coat evenly and set aside for at least 10 minutes (up to an hour).
Make peanut sauce. In same processor bowl (no need to wash it out), add remaining 1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice, all the zest, remaining 1 Tbsp curry paste, remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar, water, peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, and fish sauce. Whir until smooth and combined, about 30 seconds. Pour into a small serving dish and set aside.
Assemble fixin’s. Wash red pepper and cucumber. Slice each into thin, long strips (think of a french fry – you want them to lay alongside the chicken strips neatly in the lettuce wrap). Wash the lettuce and carefully separate each leaf, taking care to leave them whole. Arrange lettuce, peppers and cucumbers on a platter with the peanut sauce.
Grill chicken. In a grill pan (alternatively, thread onto skewers and grill outside), grill chicken strips for 1-2 minutes on each side or until well caramelized and cooked through.
To serve, use a lettuce leaf like a tortilla to wrap up 1-2 chicken pieces, a slice of cucumber, and a slice of pepper. Drizzle with peanut sauce, roll up, and serve.