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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thai Lettuce Cups

At the request of a friend, I was going to post my recipe for the Thai Lettuce Cups we enjoyed a couple weeks ago.  They were so yummy, the kids loved them and they are a great healthy meal.  The only problem is, when I made them a few weeks ago, I totally did a “how about a little of this and a little of that” kind of dish and I didn’t keep track of what “this and that” were.  So last night I re-created the recipe, determined to write it down for future reference and for my friend.  Only this time, I didn’t have the same ingredients as last time and they still turned out great.  So, rather than provide a step by step recipe with definitive ingredients, I’m just going to post how to make them (it’s really easy!) and you can choose your own ingredients.

The key ingredients for these great cups are:

Boneless chicken (I use the frozen chicken breast tenders)
A package of coleslaw  shreds (they’re usually in 14 oz or 16 oz bags in the prepackaged salad section of your grocery—remember not to buy the kit that includes the dressing; you won’t need it)
Peanuts (I like dry roasted)
You choice of spices and sauces

Since I’m trying to cut back on our meat intake I only use a few of the breast tenders for this recipe.  I cut them into small pieces so they distribute evenly throughout the recipe and it seems like there’s more chicken than there really is—my meat requiring husband didn’t even notice the lack of animal protein in the dish.  Heat a tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan and add the chicken.  This is also a good time to add any minced garlic or grated ginger to the recipe and sauté with the chicken.

Once the chicken is cooked through (it only take a few minutes if it’s cut small), add a full package of the coleslaw shreds.  At this point, the rest is really up to you…

The first time I made these I picked up a seasoning package of Pad Thai that you simply add water to and pour into your stir fry.  After mixing in the water and dipping my finger in for a taste sample, I about choked.  It was soooo hot there was no way I was going to use it on a dinner that included my seven year old, five year old and tender tongued husband.  I used just a third of the sauce mix and wondered what else I could put in the recipe.  I had a little bit of a teriyaki glaze in the fridge and dumped that in.  The results were wonderful! Plenty of spice, still sweet and salty, nutty & yummy!

Last night, I didn’t have the Thai seasoning or any teriyaki left.  I did have oyster sauce, which is salty due to soy sauce being a main ingredient.  After a little internet research I noticed that many recipes that include oyster sauce also include honey or agave, so that’s the route I decided to take.  After cooking the chicken through with a plethora of garlic (I would have added freshly grated ginger too, if I hadn’t been out), I threw in the coleslaw shreds.  As those started to wilt I sprinkled in some cayenne pepper for heat and then added my sauces.  Both the oyster sauce and agave are thick.  I probably used a 1/3 cup of the oyster sauce and maybe a ¼ cup of agave. 

As the veggies continue to wilt and cook down, the sauce will get watery; keep cooking until it reduces and gets thick.  I add the peanuts almost at the end so they don’t soften during cooking and just get warmed through.  Serve the chicken and veggie mix with wedges of crisp iceberg lettuce or even romaine. 

As you can see oyster sauce and agave is a shade different from Pad Thai seasoning and teriyaki.  Both meals came out fantastic so it seems the sauce is really up to your own personal taste.  Experiment with sweet and sour if that’s your preference or go with the super-hot Pad Thai if you can take it.  Whatever you choose, this is a recipe (loosely defined) to keep in your repertoire.

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