Using lettuce as a substitute for a tortilla, plate, or chip has become very trendy due to its obvious health benefits and the interesting idea of deconstructing the salad. There is also an air of extreme sophistication when lettuce cups are involved, as if even the most daintiest of Hollywood starlets would easily and rapidly devour the chic little chicken dishes. Nicole, Mischa, and Co. will hopefully (if they're in the mood for eating) be nibbling on these at the Academy Awards after-party this Sunday night, but I propose that we get a jump-start on the celebration and make them for tonight's dinner. If you're down for the recipe,

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Stir Fried Chicken In Lettuce Cup with Thai Basil and Pinenuts
From Wolfgang Puck

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup plum wine or sherry
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon crushed chili pepper flakes
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons Wolfgang's Asian Rib Sauce (see recipe below or use a store bought version)
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup each 1-inch cubes of yellow and red bell pepper
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch slices
2 tbsp Thai basil (if you can not find Thai basil substitute 1 tablespoon each mint and basil)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 head of romaine lettuce, leaves separated

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

  1. In a 10-inch skillet or wok, heat the peanut oil until smoking.
  2. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper and sear, about 1 minute on each side.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the plum wine or sherry and stir in the garlic, ginger and chili flakes.
  4. Pour in the stock and reduce by half (sauce will begin to thicken).
  5. Add the rib sauce, mushrooms, peppers, scallion, basil, and nuts, and cook 1 or 2 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is done.
  6. Stir in the butter and correct seasoning to taste.
  7. Spoon the stir-fried chicken onto the lettuce leave, arranging all the ingredients evenly throughout.

Serves 4.

Wolfgang's Asian Rib Sauce
From Wolfgang Puck

1 1/4 cups rice wine vinegar*
1 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup mirin*
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  1. In a 4-cup enamel or stainless steel saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook, over medium-high heat until syrupy, 50 to 60 minutes.
  2. Strain into a clean container and cool.
  3. Refrigerate, covered, and use as needed.

*Note Rice wine vinegar and mirin can be purchased in markets that carry Asian products.