Monday, July 25, 2011

Slow-Cooked Sweet and Sour Chicken Lettuce Wraps

File this under "Brilliant Summer Meals."

Lettuce wraps are always a cool, crisp, light meal, perfect for a hot summer day. But how about preparing them in the slow cooker, to further ensure the cook doesn't break a sweat?

And if you can't be home to turn on the crock pot 3 - 4 hours before dinner, you can prepare everything ahead of time, refrigerate it, and ask one of your vacationing kids to put it in the heating unit and turn it on at the designated time. Ah, summer!

Slow-Cooked Sweet and Sour Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast and/or thigh pieces
salt and pepper
1 jar (about 10 ounces) apricot jam
1/4 cup orange juice
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce (more or less to taste)
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 red onion, chopped or sliced thin
1 T. peanut butter (optional)
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated and washed and dried
1 cucumber, half-peeled, seeded and chopped
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced thin
fresh chopped cilantro
Hoisin sauce

Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker. Combine jam, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili-garlic sauce, ginger and onion and whisk until combined. Pour over the chicken. (You can cover and refrigerate the mixture for several hours at this point, if necessary.)

(After you finish prepping the chicken and putting it in the crock pot, wash the lettuce, chop the cucumber and slice the mango, so you have less to do at dinner time.)

When ready to cook, place the covered crock pot into the heating unit and cook on Low heat until done - this could take anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours or longer. The time depends on the heat of your slow cooker, how cold your chicken mixture is and whether you use dark or light meat.(I used boneless breasts, cut in half, and they were done in 2 1/2 hours. Dark meat usually takes a bit longer.)

Once the chicken is done, stir in the peanut butter, if desired, to flavor and thicken the sauce. Shred the chicken with your (clean) fingers and pile it on the lettuce leaves. Top with fresh chopped cilantro, chopped cucumber and sliced mango. Drizzle with Hoisin sauce if desired and serve.

Recipe adapted from Stephanie O'Dea, Make it Fast, Cook it Slow

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