Welcome back, Ladies and Gentlemen, to Kitchen Catastrophes, my ongoing attempt to catalog my poor decisions so that future generations may avoid them. I’m your host and ongoing study in emotional isolation, Jon O’Guin. As some of you may know, Alan, the webmaster for the site, has a plethora of food-based allergies that prevent him from drinking beer, eating pizza, and generally living a life of peace and contentment. Because of his ongoing struggle, I like to take time out every now and again and mock him for it. Today’s mockery takes the form of that most cruel of actions: doing something the other person would love, and not inviting them. So I made Chicken Lettuce Cups!
AS with many recipes I do on this site, this came from a well-planned and researched- HAHAHHAAHA. Of course not. I wandered into a grocery store, stared at a rutabaga for two minutes, and said “This is not a daikon radish.”
In My Defense: I was right.
And, of course, that lead me to decide to make this dish. If you don’t follow the logic, Good! Doctors say understanding my thought processes is the primary vector for infestation.
However, MAKING this dish motivated me to make last Wednesday’s Culinary Compendium post, because this recipe is ALL about 3 things: mincing, mise en place, and there is no third thing, it’s just a more compelling number for lists.
LET’S GET STARTED.
Kitchen Prep School has fewer tennis matches, more actual matches
The first thing you should know about this dish: it takes like 30-45 minutes to prep. And 5 to actually cook. Now, if you’re smart, it’ll probably take you less time than me, because I made three fundamental errors in the set-up: First, I didn’t check my knives’ sharpness and cleanliness; Second, I didn’t thaw the chicken ahead of time; and there’s still no third thing, I just keep lying to you to seem important.
But, yes, this meal calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. These are something of a cooking ‘secret’, in that a great many recipes end up using them, because they’re pretty much just as easy to cook as chicken breast, but have a stronger taste of chicken, and tend to be a bit moister. I bought pre-frozen ones, because I hauled them across the state, and needed something to keep the beer in the cooler cold. I then put them in the freezer, meaning they had to be thawed for the meal. The package recommends putting them in the refrigerator for 12 hours to thaw completely, a direction that probably yields great results, but I decided to make this meal 2 hours before company came over, so it was obviously out of the question.
As such, I had to rely on that ancient ally of procrastinators everywhere: the Microwave. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that thawing food in a microwave is generally a bad idea. It’s just how heat transfer works: by the time you’ve melted the middle of the meat, the outer edges have started cooking. Now, luckily, I knew that this recipe wouldn’t be super impacted by that, so I did it anyway.
Most of it still looks disgustingly moist, so that’s what counts, right?
While the microwave was humming away, blasting frozen bird carcass with radiation to denature proteins, I started some of the prep work. The recipe I was using called for basically everything to be minced. Including the chicken. So I had to mince up some scallions, which is just a fancy word for “green onions”. This is because people are stupid. Seriously. “Green Onion” is supposed to refer to an onion that hasn’t fully ripened, but Scallions are a different species that happens to looks kind of like unripe onions, so everyone just started calling them “green onions”, so now we call unripe onions “spring onions”. This is like if everyone kept accidentally calling my cousin Phillip by my name, Jon, because we look alike, and then deciding “Shit, we can’t stop calling HIM Jon, guess your new name’s Tom.” And now I have to go change my Driver’s License, and my Diploma, and all my website registrations, just because PHIL couldn’t trim his stupid beard that’s nowhere near as good as mine.
Mincing Meat is a great time to let your aggression out. Like how dicing onions is a great time to let your Depression out!
Non-existant Cousin Beard-bashing done, I ended up mincing the scallions, garlic, ginger, some carrots, and shiitake mushrooms. Which bears a little discussion: You may not have noticed, but I’m not a particularly great fan of mushrooms. I’ve only used them in 2 other recipes on the site, (The Mini-Meatloaf and Shepard’s Pie posts) and specifically note in one of them my distaste for the fungal foodstuff. I’m not actually all that against mushrooms, but I was as a child, so I have a lingering opposition to them. (It’s mostly because I don’t like sliced Button Mushrooms, which are the go-to mushroom for salads, pizzas, etc.) But in the end, the recipe called for them, so I used the orange bastards.
They don’t really deserve this abuse, but, hey, when they write a blog, they can shit on me in return.
Free to do what you want, any old time.
I now must confess something to you all: in the time between making the meal, and writing this note, I totally lost the recipe. I looked it up on my phone, and when I tried to find it again, I found just a bunch of other recipes that weren’t the same- oh, here it is. Never mind.
That brief fake-out is actually somewhat important, however. Because, here’s the thing: I modified the recipe IMMEDIATELY, both intentionally, and unintentionally. And if you look at most of the other recipes, they follow a distinct pattern:
Marinade diced/minced chicken in an Asian sauce (I used scallions, cornstarch, and soy sauce, but I saw recipes with hoisin, and vinegar, Sriracha, whatever)
Or, translated: Step 1: Make even more disgustingly sticky.
Stir-fry aromatics and crisp vegetables (I used carrots, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic. Other recipes used water-chestnuts, lime zest, red-pepper flakes) then fry up the chicken.
IT barely looks different! This is a pile of horseshit! BOO.
Put your definitely now cooked chicken in lettuce cups, and serve with or without toppings (chopped cashews, bean sprouts, hoisin/Sriracha) Maybe you, unlike I, will remember to take a picture at this stage. But I doubt it.
In the end, this is a pre-eminently variable dish, that you can tweak to your preferences. It’s a perfect place for culinary exploration, and teaching yourself the importance of setting things up beforehand. Seriously, the timing on this recipe is “Step 1: Prep 30 minutes. Step 2: Cook 10 seconds. Step 3: cook batch 2 15 seconds. Add meat. Step 4: Cook 4 minutes.” You could cook the meal in a single commercial break, after spending a whole show prepping. IT’s fast, fun, and flavorful. Give it a shot sometime.
AS EVER, please like or share on Facebook, so that we can continue to get more people informed about fun things to do in their kitchens, and if you have questions, comments, or recipe ideas, reach out to alan or me at our emails (check the About page) or through the Facebook page. Have fun out there!
NEXT TIME: I REALLY NEED TO PLAN THESE THINGS OUT. SCREW IT, I’M PROBABLY GOING TO TALK ABOUT SQUASHES.
CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAP
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, diced (or ground)
2 scallions, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
3 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and minced (“stemmed” means “cut off the stem, and throw it away”)
2 garlic cloves (I used 3)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger (peel before mincing)
2 tbsp minced carrots
8 lettuce leaves
- Mix the chicken, scallions, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl. Let marinade 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Heat vegetable or peanut oil on high heat in a large skillet. Add mushrooms and carrots, fry 10 seconds.
- Add garlic and ginger, fry 15 seconds.
- Add Chicken mix, fry 3-4 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and spoon into lettuce leaves. Serve immediately.