Minced Chicken in Lettuce Cups

July 8, 2010

I spent another evening with my friend Kristen at the Co-op for a cooking class. Last night’s class was a one recipe class. After class they gave us the opportunity to sign up for Summer classes. Purchase 3 classes (Ranging from $35 – $49) and get one free. It was a packed room and more of a cooking demo environment – we weren’t at tables like the taco class.

Our chef for the evening was Dionisio Esperas. He and his wife own a business specializing in private cooking classes, demonstrations, interactive dinner parties and personal chef services. Besides the co-op, they teach classes through the Learning Exchange, Shallots Cooking School at the Nugget Market in Vacaville, Bel Air Markets and William Sonoma. They have a combined 20 plus years of culinary experience.

He was great! I liked how he explained things and he added little tidbits of information while he cooked like Chef Gigi did.

1.5 lbs. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast Meat
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Large Egg White
1 Teaspoon Sherry (a drinking sherry, not a cooking sherry – could also substitute rice wine vinegar)
1 Teaspoon Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons Safflower or Canola Oil  – (the best oils for cooking at a high heat)
3 Cloves of Garlic, minced
2 Green Onions, finely chopped (greens and whites)
1/4 Cup Fresh Water Chestnuts – finely diced – can used canned, but likes fresh better
1/4 Cup Celery – finely minced
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Toasted Sesame Oil
Garnish – 1/2 Cup Picked Cilantro Leaves and 1/4 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts
2 Heads Lettuce – he used baby butter lettuce, could also use iceberg or red leaf
Hoisin Sauce for Service


Remove whole lettuce leaves from lettuce head – being careful not to tear them. Rinse the leaves in cold water and stack neatly on top of each other. Cover with a damp towel (paper) and refrigerate until ready to use.

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden brown and then set aside.

Trim chicken of any fat or connective tissue. Dice the chicken breasts into small cubes, about a 1/4 inch. He suggested cutting the thicker breast end lengthwise to make thinner pieces. You also want to make sure that the chicken is room temperature – you don’t want to drop cold chicken into the hot oil because it cools it down too much.

Combine the chicken in a bowl with the salt, egg white, sherry and cornstarch and mix well. Marinate for at least 15 minutes or as long as overnight. The marinade acts as a tenderizer and binding agent.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil and mix to dissolve the sugar. Preheat a wok or large sauté pan to almost smoking. He made a joke and said about the only way to get it hot enough is to purchase a $5000 stove – hah!

The next step is to add in the oil and stir fry marinated chicken until it just turns opaque. Then add the garlic, green onions and celery and stir-fry another 30 seconds. Add in chestnuts and soy mixture and mix all of the ingredients in the pan well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the chicken is done. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

To form the lettuce wrap, spread a bit of Hoisin sauce onto the leaf. Spoon some of the chicken filling into leaf (garnishing with cilantro leaves and pine nuts) and close up forming a small package.

They tasted delicious! I liked the use of the baby butter lettuce – it just folded up really easily while eating and balancing a plate on my knee. 😉

The gal next to me was also taking pictures throughout the class. She leaned over to inform me that the camera she was using was just her “crap” camera, that her normal camera and all of her snazzy lenses were at home. Kind of funny since all I had was my Sony Cybershot, not like I was whipping out a macro lens for my close-up photo. I did however borrow my friend Kristen’s knee for the photo shoot, LOL.

Chef Dionisio got a little crazy with the cilantro on the class demo platter.

My friend Kristen and I talked about substitutions – she thought she might use peanuts instead of pine nuts and I think I might use cellophane noodles for crunch. Chef Dionisio also mentioned that he catered a vegetarian wedding and they made these as appetizers using tofu instead of chicken.

I signed up for more classes that will take me through September. I picked a pretty wide variety, so I’m excited. They also offer some gardening classes through Soil Born Farms – which is a local urban agriculture project – sounds like that might be fun too.

I can’t even begin to tell you how nice it is to have free time to do some of the things that I enjoy. I’m not teaching as many evening classes as I was and I’m no longer selling designer clothing or doing evening trunk shows. I finally feel like I have my life back and life is definitely good!


  1. Another fun and food filled evening! I’ve made lettuce wraps before, but always used ground turkey. I now have another option and look forward to making this again in the near future. I like that you can use larger lettuce leaves and make it more of an entree than an appetizer. I would probably use 2 leaves for durability for my yummy lettuce burrito!

    I can’t wait for our next class! 🙂

  2. This is definitely a recipe I will try – I think even MIL will like it! You could also use ground chicken breast or turkey -probably the option I’ll use.

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