Chicken Lettuce Wraps (PF Chang’s Copycat)

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So, hi, it will be August by the end of this week. Where the heck has this summer  run off to? Are we seriously in the second half of 2013? Am I seriously getting married in two-and-a-half months? What is going on here, people?

While I calm down from my panic attack here, let’s talk summer suppers.

Mm, the crunchy, sweet and sour chicken lettuce wrap. I think these are the perfect evening meal for summer- light, cool, and crisp, with minimal cook time and maximum flavor. If you have ever been to a PF Changs, this is one of their famous appetizers- and I think this copycat recipe does a great job imitating their classic flavor.

What an easy and fun recipe this is – and I guarantee it will please even the carb-lovers and vegetable-haters in your family. My nutritionally-challenged fiance actually requested I make these lettuce wraps for him, lettuce and all!

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You will notice I suggest grinding the chicken in the food processor before cooking. You can absolutely feel free to buy pre-ground chicken from the store- I just get paranoid about what is actually in the ground meat, so lately I’ve taken to buying fresh organic chicken and grinding it myself. Whatever floats your boat, though!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps (PF Chang’s Copycat)
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Serves: 4

Ingredients
For the “special sauce”:
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
For the filling:
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders, breasts, or thighs (your choice), or, 1 lb ground chicken
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 can water chestnuts, diced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
For the stir-fry sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
For the wraps:
  • Iceberg lettuce leaves
  • Hot mustard
  • Sriracha

Instructions
  1. Make the “special sauce”: Mix together sugar, water, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ketchup, lemon juice and sesame oil in a bowl until combined. Store in the fridge while you make the chicken filling.
  2. Prepare stir-fry sauce: Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil in a measuring cup or small bowl. Set aside.
  3. If you are using ground chicken, skip this step. Otherwise, in a food processor, add your chicken of choice and pulse 10 times to grind up the chicken, or until all unmanageably large pieces are gone. You want somewhere between chopped and total mush- so just take a look at the consistency after each pulse and stop at your liking.
  4. In a pan, heat up oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5-6 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.
  5. Reduce heat to medium. To the pan, add the onions and celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies begin to soften. Add the garlic, mushrooms, water chestnuts and chicken and stir to combine. Add the stir fry sauce and stir, and allow to cook for 2 minutes more.
  6. Serve in iceberg lettuce leaves, and top with “special sauce” and other toppings as desired. Enjoy!

Adapted from Food.com.

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What else is new with you all? This Friday, I have off so I am going with my mom to test out getting my hair done for the wedding! I really can’t wait. I will have to start pinning up a storm of hairstyle ideas that I like. I’m also working on setting up my appointment for something I’ve been looking forward to since we got engaged- Wedding cake tasting!!! YAY!

Happy Eating 🙂
mally

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

There’s not a whole lot more fulfilling than helping out a truly honorable and important cause. And there’s not a whole lot more filling than a five-course meal prepared by celebrity chefs in a gorgeous venue tucked underneath the 59th Street Bridge in Midtown Manhattan. Combined, you’re pretty much describing my dream evening.

I was honored to be asked by the Brain Tumor Foundation last week if I would like to invite members of my Meetup Group, Food Bloggers in NYC, to a black-tie-optional benefit dinner for their foundation held this past Wednesday on April 24, 2013. Never one to turn down a meal, they sweetened the pot by mentioning that a host of celebrity chefs and restaurateurs would be present, including Floyd Cardoz, Jacques Torres, Dale Talde, Kerry Heffernan, Yuhi Fujinaga and Chris Jaeckle. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity, and members of the Meetup group did too!

And what an evening it was.

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

From the start, the venue was a total knockout. Guastavino’s is an absolutely stunning locale for any event. Gorgeous high, sloped ceilings, a lovely swooping curved staircase, and beautiful decor greeted us as we walked in and assembled during cocktail hour. Some delicious passed hors d’oeuvres (chicken liver mousse, tuna tartare, salmon crostini and pea soup) later, we were prepped and excited for what was to come.

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

Next up, I was so excited to have members of my Meetup group join me for this awesome event. Sitting at our private table were:

As for the main event, let’s get to the food! (Apologies for the bad lighting- we were literally holding up our phones’ camera flashes for each other to help alleviate the purple/red lights in the dining room!)

First up, duck confit with spicy eggplant relish and toasted mandarin roll with white sauce, from Chef Dale Talde:

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

Believe it or not, this was my first time trying duck. Like, ever. And I’m so glad I did, because this was SO DAMN GOOD. Cilantro is one of my favorites of course, and the pickled cabbage combined with the eggplant relish made for an amazing mix of flavors.

For the second course, English pea flan with morels, ramps, and tarragon, from Chef Kerry Heffernan:

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

Yes, English pea flan. The word “flan” might make you think of a syrupy, oversweet egg custard, but this instead had a beautifully delicate soft texture balanced with the crunchy morel, ramps and tarragon mixture and salty ham on top. Yum!

Next, olive oil poached king salmon in a spring herb veloute with clams and breakfast radish, from Chef Yuhi Fujinaga:

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

Salmon is one of my favorite things to eat, period, so I was delighted by this dish. I have heard of veloute, but never actually tried it before, so that was a nice surprise. The breakfast radishes were crisp, the salmon was velvety and delicious, and overall I loved this course!

For the main course, pan roasted strip loin with crispy potatoes, parmesan fonduta, and what I think were collard greens, from Chef Chris Jaeckle (a brain tumor survivor):

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

Listen, I’m Argentinian, so yeah, I’m gonna love the steak course. The steak was perfectly seasoned (you can see those giant flakes of salt in the picture!) and the potatoes were a standout accoutrement.

Lastly, for dessert, the most ridiculously insanely delicious ice cream sandwich from none other than Chef Jacques Torres:

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

What can I say. This was phenomenal. The cookie had so many delicious chunks of chocolate in them, and they more than held their own against the yummy ice cream. The perfect ending to an amazing meal!

While the food was stunningly scrumptious from beginning to end, I have to bring up the great work coming from the cause behind the event: The Brain Tumor Foundation.

Taste for Life Benefit Dinner for the Brain Tumor Foundation @ Guastavinos - 4/24/13

The tribute dinner commemorated the success of the pilot program, Road to Early Detection, which brought a mobile MRI Unit to provide free brain scans to under-served communities throughout the five boroughs of New York. They now would like to expand this program across the country to allow people to detect brain tumors before they become something fatal or inoperable.

Overall this was an absolutely incredible opportunity, and I am extremely grateful for the invitation to come and enjoy the evening. Consider checking out the Brian Tumor Foundation and donating to this amazing cause, who’s tagline is, appropriately: “Bringing Tomorrows of Hope.”

Check out more photos from the evening here in my Flickr set, and if you’re in NYC, check out the Food Bloggers in NYC meetup! We’d love to have you!

Happy Eating 🙂
mally