I have little to no patience for football. The season eats up endless Sundays and the only thing I enjoy about the day are the snacks.
Football got another X in my book when it rudely interrupted my cooking demo on DelmarvaLife, the lifestyle show at the tv station I used to work at.
Instead of watching me make asian chicken lettuce wraps, viewers for some reason were more interested in the live coverage of the 2012 Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl parade. I basically thought this my way to a cooking show but Ray Lewis proved to be more enticing than my cooking.
The cooking segment was tied to an appearance I made for a sweeps story. The quarterly ratings period where a tv station finds out how great or how terrible they are. You’ll know it’s sweeps when your local station pumps out investigative or in-depth emotional stories almost every night in February, May, sometimes July and always Novembers. I don’t remember the exact sweeps story I was there to talk about but these lettuce wraps, those I remember.
Chicken breasts are marinated in a slew of sauces to make one super sauce that flavors the chicken and does double duty as a finishing drizzle for the lettuce wraps. A base of hoisin sauce is doctored with sesame oil, soy sauce, sirracha, lime zest and juice, and a little bit of fish sauce. Too much fish sauce and things get too salty and funky real quick. I also smash a garlic clove to float in the marinade and perfume things.
Half of the sauce is poured over the chicken and the rest is set aside for later. The chicken only needs a quick trip in the marinade to pick up some flavor. If you have a grill then this is the perfect dish for warm spring nights but if you are sad and have no outdoor space, like me, then a grill pan on the stovetop is just as good. But warning you now that things will get a little messy because the sugar in the marinade will cause some splatters. Sacrifice a few paper towels and make the dish, it’s worth it. I have also had moderate success in making this in the oven under the broiler. My issue was that i laid the chicken on parchment paper and then the broiler set the paper on fire. All bad.
Even easier than the chicken are the vegetables that go with them, that’s why I made this dish for tv. It’s basically all chopping and no cooking, perfect for a five minute segment in a tv studio kitchen. I had my tv hosts chop lots of crunchy vegetables and I do the same when making the dish off camera.
My magic trio is usually carrot, cucumber and snap pea but today asparagus was in my crisper instead of snap peas. Either way, you chop two cups of vegetables into long thin strips. I leave the vegetables raw, except when I use asparagus, it gets a quick blanch to take the raw taste away.
I also liked to add in creamy avocado and slivers of bright mango, if I have them in my fridge.
To add in heft you can fill the lettuce wraps with rice but I like these rice noodles. They are super easy to cook and taste better cold. Cold rice always reminds me of those cartons of white rice that come with Chinese take out. The rice is so delicious and fluffy when dropped off with the delivery but gets hard and crunchy overnight in the fridge.
I don’t always see these specific rice noodles at the store but can usually find a similar substitute. The noodles take a quick trip in some boiling water and then tangle together in a strainer while they wait for me to tear them apart and stuff in leaves of butter lettuce.
Have you had butter lettuce before? The leaves are the size of small dinner plates and have a soft texture and mild taste. The heads are sold in individual plastic containers and tear easily apart for wraps that can sub for taco shells or spring roll wrappers.
I pile up the lettuce leaves and then make a plate of all the vegetables, chicken, and noodles. From there it’s easy to cup each piece of lettuce in your hand and stuff them with some of the fillings. To top the lettuce wrap, I drizzle over some of the reserved marinade.
- 2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced into cutlets
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs sirracha
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 lime, juice and zest
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 2 carrots
- 1 large hothouse cucumber
- An additional half cup of vegetables: asparagus, snap peas or snow peas are great
- 8 ounces of dried rice noodles
- 1 head of butter lettuce
- Thinly slice the chicken breasts into cutlets so the chicken cooks quicker and you have more surface area to brown. Set aside.
- Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients and pour half of the sauce over the chicken. Reserve the rest for drizzling over the finished wraps.
- Let chicken marinade for at least a half hour up to 24 hours.
- If you have outdoor space then this is a great recipe for grilling. If not, heat a large saute or grill pan over medium heat with a little bit of oil.
- The thin pieces of chicken should brown quickly and cook in 5-7 minutes depending on their thickness.
- Thinly slice the cooked pieces of chicken and set aside while you prep the vegetables and noodles.
- Cook your rice noodles according to the package directions.
- Thinly slice your assortment of vegetables. I usually keep most of the vegetables raw but will blanch things like asparagus and green beans.
- Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves.
- Gather all of your ingredients on a big platter with the reserved marinade on the side.
- To make a wrap: Cup a piece of lettuce in your hand and fill with noodles, vegetables and chicken. Drizzle some of the reserved marinade on top.
- These wraps need to be served immediately but the components and platter can be assembled ahead of time. These are best served cold, the crunchy vegetables and thin noodles are very refreshing on a hot day.