Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps – Not Exactly P.F. Chang’s, But Close Enough for the Internet

I don’t do a lot of copycat recipes; mostly because I don’t eat at the restaurants people are requesting the recipes from. I mean, unless they're going to throw in a couple bottles of wine, I’m not going to Olive Garden to figure out how they do their breadsticks. These chicken lettuce wraps however, are a delicious exception.

When I go back to visit my mom, we usually make it to P.F. Chang’s at least once, and always start the meal with their very popular chicken lettuce wraps. Off the record, they do a good job with most of the dishes I’ve had, but the wraps are clearly my favorite.

There’s an addictive quality to the contrasting combination of flavors and textures, and since this recipe has been requested many times, I decided I’d give it a go. Fair warning, I did almost no serious corporate espionage to find out what’s actually in these, but regardless, I loved how this came out, and it seems close enough.

One key here is to use a very large, non-stick pan, so the braising liquid/glaze sticks to the bits of food, rather than the bottom of the pan. Other than that, the technique is pretty simple, and not a lot can go wrong…unless you try to use chicken breast. Even if you think you don’t like them, use thighs, because in this you will. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for about 8 large or 16 smaller lettuce wraps:
Chicken mixture:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
1/3 cup green onion
1 can (8-oz ) water chestnuts, drained, minced
1 cup diced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar

For the glaze:
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced
about 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, basil leaves, and green onions to finish

iceberg lettuce leaves as needed

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pumpkin Seed Brittle – Break Some Off This Halloween

This pumpkin seed brittle recipe was a lot easier to make than film. The procedure for nut brittle, or in this case, seed brittle, is very simple, but there are points in the recipe when you have to move fast, which is unfortunate when you have to move a camera and set up shots. 

Even with these challenges, it came out just fine, and I’m only complaining as a way to build confidence. Once your sugar mixture has turned a nice caramel color, you have to immediately turn off the heat, add your baking soda (be careful), then your nuts or seeds (be careful), and hastily mix until combined. As the concoction cools it hardens quickly, so transfer into your pan and press as soon as you can (be careful).

After that, you can relax, unless you are scoring yours into shapes. No pressure, but you only have about two minutes to make your marks. After the brittle is cool, simply break it up, and you’ll be enjoying a crispy, delicious, and very seasonally appropriate treat.

Regarding the salt: you can add it right into the mix like I did, or sprinkle it over the top surface before the brittle is completely cool. That does look kind of cool, but either way, it’s critical, and should not be omitted.

I can’t help you with the tricks, but at least you have one more idea for a treat now. I hope you give this pumpkin seed brittle recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes enough Pumpkin Seed Brittle for 12 witches or 8 zombies:
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt (3/4 to 1 tsp if using fine salt)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Does This Count?

As I recently mentioned, I'd really love to make it to Video 2,000, and I just thought of a way to do that a little quicker than seven years. I may start doing golf tips on off days. This is me demonstrating my famous backwards-between-the-legs shot. I couldn't take a normal stance with the ball so close to the edge of the sand trap, so this was the only option. My father-in-law Al is on the green, and my sister-in-law Jennifer is filming. We were playing the gorgeous, Fairbanks Ranch Country Club. I don't remember if I made the put. ;) Enjoy!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crostini Dijonnaise – Mustard-Infused Toasts for Extra Special Spreads

If you’re going to serve your pate or rillettes with toasted bread and mustard anyway, why not save a step, and just make mustard-flavored crostini? That’s the question I asked myself while making the potted duck spread we just posted, and this was the answer. 

For a first attempt I was very happy with the results. These had the same crispy crunch of traditional crostini, but also offered a fairly noticeable, mustardy zing.


I’m looking forward to trying some variations using hot mustard powder, maybe mixed into a little olive oil. Speaking of oil, my only criticism is that these needed a little more fat. Next time I’ll use a little more of the butter spread, and/or drizzle in some olive oil to insure we don’t have any dry spots.

That aside, I loved the color, and as we head into entertaining season, I think these would make a great addition to your appetizer arsenal, especially when paired with something as extra special as a batch of homemade rillettes (hint, hint). I really hope you give these a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for one baguette:
1 baguette, sliced diagonally
4 tbsp soft butter
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp yellow mustard
salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne to taste
- bake at 350 F. until crisp and golden brown
(Next time I may try to add a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of mustard powder to the mix)