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January 6, 2009

Wolfgang Puck’s Guide to Throwing a Movie Awards Party

wolfgang puck's stir fried chicken lettuce cup on a stack of plates

Photo Credit: Great Gatherings

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Stir-fried Chicken Lettuce Cups

"I like dishes with a lot of personality," says Wolfgang, "and this one really makes a statement. Chicken can be bland and dried out, but when you start with ground chicken and stir-fry it, it gets totally infused with flavor." His unique cooking method calls for first browning the chicken in a large patty, and then breaking it up. This gives you moist, tender pieces, rather than dried-out crumbles. The lettuce cups make a nice cool contrast to the warm, sweet-spicy chicken and eliminate the need for knives, forks, or chopsticks.

Serves 8

24 whole lettuce leaves
1 1/2 pounds ground organic chicken
1/4 cup cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons peanut oil
3/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves, washed and patted dry
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup shredded or finely julienned carrot
1 cup very thinly sliced yellow onion
3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
6 scallions, trimmed and minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 cup Chinese plum wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chiffonade-cut fresh mint or cilantro

Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. Add the lettuce leaves and allow them to soak for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the ground chicken and cornstarch. Season lightly with salt and pepper, mix well, and set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons each of the soy sauce and peanut oil, 1/4 cup of the rice vinegar, and all of the sesame oil and sherry vinegar. Add the spinach, celery, carrot, and onion and toss to coat evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the lettuce leaves and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Arrange the leaves like cups on a large serving platter, or put 3 leaves on each individual plate. Divide the vegetable mixture evenly among the cups and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons peanut oil over high heat just until it begins to give off wisps of smoke. Form the chicken mixture into a large patty and carefully set it in the pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned on the first side. Then add the garlic, ginger, scallions, and red pepper flakes and break up the patty with a wooden spoon to combine it with the seasonings. Continue to stir for 3 to 4 minutes longer, or until the chicken is evenly browned. Pour in the remaining 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 cup rice vinegar, the plum wine, and the chicken broth and continue cooking and stirring for 6 to 8 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Divide the chicken mixture evenly among the lettuce cups. Sprinkle with the mint and serve immediately.

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