October 27, 2011

Quick and Easy Chicken Wraps

It was just last week that I was telling you how much of a struggle it was to get Wife to go to Asian restaurants with me, but it wasn't always that way.  When we were still just boyfriend and girlfriend, we had many more opportunities to actually go out to eat.  She had a better paying job than she does now; our kids didn't need separate bedrooms, and as such we paid less in rent.  When going to a restaurant wasn't a rare treat ethnic cuisine still wasn't at the top of her list, but it wasn't out of the question. 

One of our favorites was Mai Thai.  It may not be the most authentic Thai restaurant, even in a place like Boise, but at the time it featured lots of flavors that we weren't used to, and its prices were pretty great before they caught on.  Also, it's beautiful.

From Mai Thai's Website. I did not take these photos.

It was one of our go-to destinations for a nice date, somewhere we could dress up a little and stare at each other over candlelight and still not spend all of our money.  We even used Mai Thai for the rehearsal dinner at our wedding. 

Then it just sort of stopped.  The babysitter who took care of Boy during the days was just that-a babysitter.  We had to switch to daycare which, given the state of our budget, pretty much meant that Wife had to work at a daycare.  We were able to avoid a major expense, but it still caused a significant pay cut. It also took her out of downtown; out of sight, out of mind.  We didn't eat there for years.

 Then along came some holiday or special occasion; I really don't remember which.  One of Wife's aunts gave us a gift certificate to eat at the new location they had opened in Eagle (now defunct.)  My typical choice would be something both large and spicy, but we had chosen to go on a day when we didn't have any money outside the gift card, and neither wife or I planned on forsaking bubble tea.  Wife wanted to take advantage of a rare opportunity to eat shrimp (I'm allergic,) so I played the sweet husband and ordered something inexpensive to make it possible. 

That something was their lettuce wraps.  They aren't the ones currently on Mai Thai's menu (listed as: sauteed chicken with red bell peppers, water chestnuts & green onion topped with crispy vermicelli noodle and served with butter leaves,) but instead had minced ginger, cashew, coconut, and a sweet soy dipping sauce to accompany the chicken.  What had started as settling ended up a memorable meal, and Wife was more enamored with my food than her own.  I vowed to make them at home.  Then I promptly didn't. 

More years passed.  I never quite forgot the wraps, but they were never on the front of my mind.  Then along came the wave of motivation that inspired me to start blogging again.  Along with it came a need for healthier meals, especially lunches.   We started making an excellent quinoa salad Mother-In-Law had suggested to us, and serving it alongside chicken for a healthy boost.  Then one morning (I work at night) I had a few too many beers and devastated the quinoa.  With not much time before Wife's lunch break, I realized that I had better come up with something else.  I doubt she wanted to come home to a lonely slice of chicken on a plate.  We had some lettuce left over from hamburgers, but while I can occasionally whip up exceptions to the rule, salad is one of Wife's four-letter words.  That's when I remembered the wraps.  We didnt' have fresh ginger, or coconut for that matter, but I had a few ideas about what I could use.

Preheat a skillet to medium high with:

1 T. vegetable oil

When it's up to temperature, add:

2 large or 3 small chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Brown on both sides, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.  While the chicken is cooking, remove the peel from a cucumber, then use the peeler to make thin strips of cucumber, being sure not to go into its seed layer.  You will need about half of the cucumber for this, and can reserve the other half for a salad or snack.  Place the cucumber strips in a bowl and toss with:

2 t. vinegar
2 t. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

This is the type of slice you are hoping to end up with.
Set them aside and remove the outer leaves of a head of romaine lettuce. You are looking for four to six decent lettuce "cups" for your wraps.  If the lettuce is fresh, you should be able to get it all from a single head, but if it's a bit older you might need to salvage from more than one.  The white stem section of romaine is bitter and unpalatable, so I usually trim it down before arranging the leaves on a plate, but they can be left on to provide a handle of sorts if you prefer.   By the time you have finished prepping all of your wraps, the chicken should be at or near temperature.  If it looks like this:

Exactly the color I was looking for.
 It's probably ready for you to do this:

I like big chunks of chicken, but it's probably a bit classier to shred it.

Shred the chicken with a fork or, if you are like me, cut it into chunks.  It's really a matter of personal preference.  Before you place the chicken on your lettuce, top each leaf with:

2 tsp. sweet Thai chili sauce (I prefer Mae Ploy)  Be sure to leave the bottle out, because you will want additional sauce for dipping. 

Then divide the chicken evenly between each of the wraps.  Top each with:

1 T. chopped peanuts or cashews
4 marinated cucumber strips, loosely formed into bows

Not Mai Thai, but a pretty good lunch.
That's all there is to it.  Four wraps seem to work pretty well for two people.  I like each wrap to be fairly hefty but you could probably divide the chicken more sparingly between six leaves of lettuce and convince yourself you were having a larger meal.  These wraps don't have quite the "wow" factor as the ones I discovered at Mai Thai, but what it does have, apart from a bottle of chili sauce that has a pretty decent shelf life, is very basic ingredients that are easy to keep on hand.  The next time you are bored of packing a sandwich in your lunch, give these wraps a try.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I think our mortgage would be paid off if my wife and I had the money we spent while young, in love and spending like no tomorrow. Great restaurant recreate! Thanks so much for sharing with us!