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Archive for February, 2011

Chicken Lettuce CupsHappy new year to all my Asian friends! It is the year of the rabbit and Plucky finds that she will be attending–not one–but two lunar celebrations this week.

To celebrate, I’ve developed a lighter version of one of my favorites. Since I am thousands of miles away from my favorite Chinese food place (Gary Lee’s Asian Star in Salt Lake City), this quick recipe for chicken lettuce cups comes pretty close to the “real deal.”

For my friends at Weight Watchers: This recipe serves 8 entree portions and much, much more as an appetizer. Figure on about 6 points per each entree-sized portion. To keep the calories down, I have made it with chicken, but you could also try it with a pound of ground pork.

Chicken Lettuce Cups

In the morning: Wash and core one head of iceberg lettuce. Let drain and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

2 oz. rice sticks, fried until golden, drained on paper toweling and set aside.

Whisk sauce together in small bowl and set aside:
1 tablespoon Mirin (Chinese rice wine) or sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Prepare as directed and set aside:
3 scallions, minced
4 oz. mushrooms, rough chop
2 oz. bamboo shoots, rough chop
2 oz. water chestnuts, rough chop
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, rough chop

In wok or fry pan, heat 1 teaspoon peanut oil on high heat until just smoking. Add 1 pound ground chicken and stir until halfway cooked. Add mushrooms and keep stirring until mixture is cooked through and liquid from mushrooms is nearly evaporated. Reduce heat to medium. Add scallions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and heat through. Add sauce and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste, add peanuts and rice sticks (crumbled). Serve on platter with lettuce cups and extra hoisin sauce.

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I know I’m ten days early, but I wanted to share this foodie valentine with you. If you are not familiar with Anthony Bourdain, you should pick up a copy of his latest book, Medium Raw. Billed as, “a bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook,” Bourdain does not disappoint his readers, who know him as a bold writer that does not know the meaning of soft-serve.

After penning his best-selling Kitchen Confidential, which, among other things, instructed us as to why we should never order fish on Monday, Bourdain has spent the past decade as a television personality and food writer. I had recently finished Medium Raw when I happened to be watching a Top Chef marathon with my daughter. In one particular episode, Bourdain appeared with Justo Thomas, a Dominican seafood butcher of whom he writes about almost reverently in chapter 18.

Thomas is a virtuoso with a fish knife. I read with fascination as Bourdain described the machine-like precision in which Thomas cut between 750-1,000 pounds of seafood a day at New York’s acclaimed Le Bernardin restaurant. According to Bourdain, when Thomas takes a vacation, it takes three men to accomplish the same task while he is away. I had recently taken a cooking class where we saw a 20-minute demo of a 28-pound halibut sliced, filleted and portioned. Thomas can zip through a fish the same size in roughly eight minutes.

After the Top Chef segment was over, I encouraged my daughter to read (at a minimum) Bourdain’s homage to Thomas. She was immediately hooked. Like me, she couldn’t put the book down. When I could hear her laugh out loud, I knew it wasn’t just me; this book was a winner.

Bourdain isn’t for everybody. He has what my mother calls a “potty mouth.” For those with “clutch-my-pearls” sensibilities, I have to warn you; this book is laced with F-bombs. That’s just the way he rolls. For those who can get past that, Bourdain does not disappoint. His stream of consciousness style is deliciously descriptive–bordering on food porn. His opinion never fails to entertain. Bourdain is one of those writers who is blessed with the ability to write without filter. He freely gives his opinion on a variety of subjects ranging from the bastardization of the hamburger, why Alice Waters is out of touch, the villainous James Beard House, and a cootie-infested Ronald McDonald. Oh, and don’t disrespect your server…

It’s a can’t-put-down read for foodies. Bourdain, now the father of a two-year-old daughter, has mellowed. Like most of us who woke up wondering how the hell we got on AARP’s mailing list, Bourdain’s life experiences have given him a unique perspective on his passion and on those who are industry “leaders.” He’s shaken the demons of youth and is here to tell us exactly what he thinks about it. Bourdain’s latest is not merely Medium Raw, it’s well done.

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