Back from Seattle, although not back from the double-whammy sinus infection/bronchitis that hit me the day before we left. My son and I did our best to dig in and really experience the city, but given that I could hardly breathe, we didn't get very far.
Luckily we had a lovely hotel room at Inn at the Market (recommend it highly - great price and location, fabulous room and service) and since it was cold/raining/gusty outside anyhow, we peppered short excursions (Space Needle, the Frank Gehry-designed American Music Project/Sci-Fi Museum, Pike Place Market, walk-in clinic) with cozy movies and takeout dinners. Not a terrible way to spend a few days together, actually, and despite not seeing much of Seattle, we had a blast.
I'm usually pretty turned off by the mushy, sticky, insanely salty versions that most Chinese restaurants ('round these parts, anyhow) scoop up.
This version is none of those things and is in fact pretty, as well as tender, perfectly seasoned, and addictively light and delicious. Plenty of fresh lime and the Bibb lettuce wraps make these Spring on your plate.
Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
From America's Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010
Note: to make this dish spicier, add the chile seeds. To make a lettuce cup, put a spoonful of rice in the middle of a lettuce leaf, top with the chicken, fold the leaf edges up to form a taco shape, and eat with your hands.
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. short-grain rice, such as sushi rice, rinsed
3 Tbsp. fish sauce (Stephanie's note: my fish sauce is quite strong, so I used 1 Tbsp. fish sauce and 2 Tbsp. soy sauce - perfect)
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice plus 2 tsp. grated lime zest
1 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 lb. ground chicken
2 tsp. canola oil
1 Thai or jalapeno chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced (see note)
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
3 scallions, sliced thin
12 Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves (about 1 head)
1. Bring the water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and rice to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and let sit, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.
2. While the rice sits off the heat, whisk the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mash the ground chicken using the back of a spoon until smooth and no strand-like pieces of meat remain.
3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, chile, and lime zest and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
4. Whisk the fish-sauce mixture to recombine; add it to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, about 45 seconds. Off the heat, stir in the basil and scallions. Transfer the chicken to a shallow serving bowl and serve with the rice and lettuce leaves.