Do you ever find yourself in a dinnertime rut? I know I do. As much as I’d like to be oh-so creative and whip up incredible meals like a modern domestic goddess, I tend to return again and again to the same rotation of recipes come nighttime. Turkey burgers. Tacos . Soup with grilled cheese. Roast chicken. Spaghetti with meatballs . Repeat.
Well, tonight I’m mixing it up a bit. This is one of those recipes that I forget is in my arsenal, but then when I make it I’m surprised it’s not on my weekly rotation. I think it’s because these bad boys take a few extra steps to make. There’s quite a few ingredients. You’ll have to chop some veggies and assemble some toppings. But I promise you, the result is well worth your while. Not only are these lettuce wraps nice and healthy, they’re also incredibly flavorful and fun to eat. A party in your mouth of sorts. Your taste buds will thank me, I pinky swear.
Start by heating up 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Chop the onions roughly, throw into the pan, and stir so the onions are coated with oil. If you get teary eyed when chopping onions, try wearing sunglasses—they help block the fumes.
While the onion is cooking, prep your mushrooms. Use a damp paper towel to clean each one of any excess dirt. Mushrooms are like a sponge, so you don’t want to wash them directly under running water (they’ll absorb too much water if you do). Or, to save time, just buy the pre-washed mushrooms you can find in most grocery stores.
Once the mushrooms are clean, give them a rough chop. I usually slice the mushrooms first, then run the knife through them to end up with smaller pieces.
After the onions have been cooking for approximately 5 minutes, turn the heat up to medium-high, make a well in the middle, add 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil, and throw in the mushrooms.
Cook for one minute, then bring the heat back to medium. Stir the mixture so the onions and mushrooms are combined, and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes. Keep stirring every minute or so.
While the mushrooms and onions are cooking, use the fine side of a box grater or a microplane to finely zest half of the jalapeño. You can use the extra half as a topping later if you’d like. I’ll put on plastic gloves when I do this so I don’t end up touching my eye later and stinging myself because of touching the jalapeño!
Add the jalapeño to the mixture, as well as two cloves of chopped garlic. I always have the pre-minced cubes that you can get in the freezer section of Trader Joes on hand, but you can also chop the cloves with a knife or use a garlic press.
Add 1/2 tablespoon more olive oil to your pan. Season the ground chicken with salt and pepper then add to the veggie mixture. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. I usually move the veggies off to the side of the pan first, so the chicken gets most of the heat action, and then stir it all together when the chicken is about halfway cooked.
While the chicken is cooking, make your simmer sauce. First wash, zest, and juice the limes and add to a small bowl. You can use the side of the grater you used for the jalapeño or a microplane for this. There is so much nutritional goodness in the zest of citrus fruit, and it will make a huge difference in the overall flavor of the dish. Also, make sure you zest first, then juice—much, much easier this way!
Then add the Sriracha, fish sauce, rice vinegar, agave syrup, hot mustard powder, and soy sauce, stir together, and add to the chicken mixture. Turn the heat to low and cook for 1-2 minutes longer so the flavors can do their thing. Throw in the can of water chestnuts (drain first) and you’ll be ready to serve.
The toppings are really what make these chicken lettuce wraps so delicious. I like to serve them with extra Sriracha, lime wedges, almond slivers (toasted, if you’re feeling fancy), chopped basil and mint, and soy sauce. So good. You seriously need to make these, stat.
This recipe will serve two hungry people, with some yummy leftovers for the next day. The other thing to note is that even though there are quite a few ingredients, most of these will store for months in your pantry or fridge. Stock up the next time you’re at the grocery store and have the ingredients on hand any time you want to mix dinner up a bit. Enjoy!
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Photos courtesy of Niki Lowry.
Niki comes to us from the financial world, but she’s an online girl at heart. After graduating from Cal, she spent a couple of years traveling and working (Ireland – NY – OC) before finally making it back to San Francisco to pursue a career in business and marketing. An avid fan of handwritten thank you notes, Niki also loves fresh flowers for any occasion, the sound of being underwater, and she firmly believes ketchup bottles do not belong on the breakfast table. When she’s not Musing, you can find her on her blog, wandering around the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or with her nose in a ridiculously addicting YA book.More from this Author