Wednesday, November 9, 2011

limited ingredient chicken lettuce cups or wraps or whatever

I had four kids at home from school today.  All sick - or saying they were sick.  Four kids.
Do you know how many kids I have?  Four.  I have four kids.
I kept thinking "Didn't we just do this?  We just did this."  
(quote from Ella Enchanted)
We just had five days in a row with four kids at home - actually, make that five, as we had a friend of Maddy's over for four nights while her parents were gone.  But she's a dream child....  Anyway, Mia has been home since Monday, and now the other three today as well.  I think, after the hours went one and they got less effective at faking it, only one - Maddy - was really sick (Mia most definitely was the first two days but I think she could have gone today after all.)  It is really hard to know sometimes and I don't want to spread their germs to other kids if they really are sick.  Tough call.

Anyway, I wasn't going to even make dinner today as it wasn't worth it with so much illness.  But by the time came for dinner, I realized they needed some real food.  I had planned to make lettuce wraps because we got a free head of lettuce on Sunday.  Makes sense, right?  Plan meals around free produce that will go bad if not used?   Yes, except as Eric pointed out, that free head of lettuce would have cost us about 17 cents......
I googled a recipe - thinking of PF Chang's lettuce wraps.  I haven't had them in years and boy are they tasty.  I copied two recipes down, thinking that I would use one of the two or a combination.  Then I realized that I only had a fraction of the required ingredients.  Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, dried chilies, dry sherry among other things where not stocked in my pantry.
But I was not deterred.  Nope, not me.  I figured I could just throw some stuff in there that are used in asian-ish cooking and it just might work.  And what better time to experiment with cooking than when your family is ill?
Lo and behold - it was quite fabulous!  I quickly jotted down what I think I sort of had done (not measured or anything) so I could keep it for later..... why reinvent something that I just invented, right?  So I thought I'd share it with you in case some day you too want lettuce wraps and are lacking in the asian liquids department.  Here it is:

Limited Ingredient Chicken Lettuce Wraps
(or, Using Only What I Had On Hand Chicken Lettuce Wraps)
juice from 1/2 an orange
3 T soy sauce
2 t corn starch
1 t ginger*
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t oil
four chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (like 1/2 inch or a little smaller)
Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add the chicken pieces - let sit and marinade for about 15 minutes or so.  In the meantime....

Veggies and stuff:
1 red pepper
1/2 medium onion
8 mushrooms
3 cloves of garlic
4 oz or so of rice noodles, broken up
1/2 c chopped peanuts
Chop up the pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic - I chopped it all really fine so that they kids wouldn't notice it.   I'm sneaky that way.  Cook them in a bit of oil for 3 minutes or so.  Cook the rice noodle pieces as directed on the package.  Do nothing with the peanuts... at least right now.
After the 3 minutes of veggies cooking, add the chicken and cook until you can't see any rawness.

juice of 1/2 an orange
4 T soy sauce
3 T honey
1 T cornstarch
3/4 t ginger*
1 t oil
Combine all this goodness.  Add it to the chicken and veggies when the chicken is cooked.  Cook for a few minutes until thickened.  Stir in the rice noodles and peanuts.  Cook for a minute or two or until it is all hot.
Serve with ice berg or bib lettuce pieces.  Take a leaf, pile in some of this goodness and wrap it up... eat!

It could definitely benefit from some water chestnuts, but those are hard to come by here.  Oh, and the ginger*....  I didn't have fresh, so I used powder, but if you have fresh on hand, that would be much better, I'm sure.

All but Cade loved it.  He made it abundantly clear that it was not his favorite meal.  I'm pretty sure he didn't mind it but he had decided ahead of time that he didn't like it.  He said it looked gross - so his mind was made up.  I gave him the often used Auntie Jann quote "looks gross, must taste good", but he didn't buy it.  That quote, by the way, is probably over thirty years old and has rung true that whole time.... she stated it once when we were having a yucky looking meal (don't recall what it was... do you remember mom?) and it has stuck ever since.
Everyone else thought it was great.  Then when they (the kids, not Eric...) found out there were mushrooms in it (after they had oohed and aahed and ate most of it), they weren't so sure.  Uh huh.  But in the end, they agreed that it was a keeper.

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