20 Sep 2010 Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Cups

Mmmmm… Hoisin chicken, wrapped in a crispy, iceberg lettuce leaf.  I don’t remember where I found the original recipe, it was a few years ago.  My daughter and I have tinkered with it a bit over the years and now we think it’s pretty darn incredible! And it’s so fun to eat, too! I love the crunch of the lettuce and the water chestnuts and I love the Asian flavor. This is one of my favorite dishes to serve on a buffet or take to a pot luck.  I’ve served this as an appetizer, a salad, and a main dish!  How’s that for versatility?  To serve, I put out a big bowl of the warm hoisin chicken, add a slotted serving spoon (because the sauce is a bit juicy) then surround the whole thing with “cups” of iceberg lettuce.  Guests assemble their own lettuce cups (and then eat them like a taco!)

This recipe serves a crowd. You’ll have about 8 cups of filing, which will easily fill 16-20 lettuce cups.  There should be no problem halving this recipe if  you want to make a smaller number of servings.

Hoisin Chicken in Lettuce Cups

8 boneless chicken breasts
4-6 Tablespoons oil (2-3 for cooking chicken, and 2-3 for cooking vegetables)
4 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger (or finely chopped fresh ginger, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups chopped celery
½ cup green onion
3 cups diced mushroom
16 oz. diced water chestnuts (2 cans), drained and chopped
1 cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons plain/natural rice vinegar (don’t use the seasoned rice vinegar)
1 cup minced cilantro
2 or 3 heads of iceberg lettuce (note that not all heads are created equal, some have better leaf “cups” than others)

Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat, add chicken breasts and cook thoroughly (approximately 5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the chicken).  Remove from heat and let cool.  Meanwhile, chop celery, green onions, mushrooms and water chestnuts.  When chicken is cool, dice into ½ inch pieces .

In the same pan, heat remaining oil and ginger and sauté until fragrant.  Add celery, onion, and mushrooms, sauté until soft, about three minutes.  Add diced chicken, stir until chicken and vegetables are incorporated together.  Add drained and chopped water chestnuts, hoisin, Worcestershire and rice vinegar to chicken and vegetables, sauté for an additional minute or so.  When the all the liquid has been distributed and all the flavors have blended remove from heat and stir in cilantro.  Remove chicken mixture to a large serving bowl.

Make lettuce cups by carefully pulling off individual leaves of lettuce.  They don’t all have to be perfect, or the same size. Place lettuce cups around the bowl of the chicken.

To serve: With a slotted spoon, scoop ¼-½ cup of chicken mixture into lettuce cup, eat and enjoy!

NOTE:  the chicken/vegetable mixture can be made ahead of time, stored in refrigerator, and then reheated before serving.  (I actually think the flavor improves after sitting 24 hours). If you are going to make the lettuce cups ahead of time, store in sealed plastic  bags  in the refrigerator–but don’t make the lettuce cups too far ahead, the edges of the lettuce will turn brown-when they turn brown depends on how fresh your lettuce is.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today…, and thanks, Hannah (my older daughter), for being here and tweaking this recipe so that’s it’s pretty much perfect!

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