Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Cups

I’m on vacation this week.  That means two things:  I’ll spend much of the week in the basement sewing; and I won’t have a ton of time for cooking.  Time to break out the crock pot.  I’ve been a little leery of returning to the Make it Fast, Cook it Slow cookbook since the tragic Crockpot Coq auVin incident, but decided to give it a go today. The other factor is that it’s 98 degrees out today and I can’t bear the thought of cooking over heat.

The cookbook version of this is called “Sweet and Sour Chicken with Mango Lettuce Wraps,” but I’ve made enough variations that I decided to rename it.  Here are the substitutions:

  • Instead of boneless, skinless breasts – organic bone-in breasts
  • Instead of 1 jar of apricot jam – 1/2 jar of apricot and peach preserves
  • Instead of red chile paste – Chile and Garlic Sauce
  • Instead of red onion – Vidalia onion
  • Instead of romaine lettuce – Butter lettuce

So those are the ingredient substitutions. In terms of cooking I used the cucumbers with the mango to top the lettuce cups. The thought of a cooked cucumber really grosses me out.

What I really like about this recipe is that it’s a complete do ahead dinner. The recipe in the book advises you to chop the mango while the kitchen is still dirty from putting everything together. Good advice. I used fresh mango which is obnoxious to deal with. Next time I’ll look for a salad bar that has some already chopped. I love that the jalapenos go in whole. Chopping hot peppers is kind of a pain. The recipe calls for a 4 quart slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. I don’t have a 4 quart one so I used a 6 quart slow cooker. The only problem there is that the sauce is really shallow so if you’re not careful the chicken will be dry. If you use a 6 quart cooker you can cut the cooking time to about 5 hours and you’ll want to flip the chicken once if you can.

When I tasted the chicken in the crock pot it was fine, but not overly impressive. I was a little worried that I was in for a mediocre dinner. Not so! When you add the mango, cucumber and lime juice this becomes a really good meal. Using the butter lettuce makes a nicer presentation that romaine leaves I think. Resist the urge to use radicchio. You want the lettuce to be a mild counterpoint to the spicy chicken. I’d also say that you don’t need the whole jar of jam. Half is plenty, especially if you’re watching your sugar intake.

I call it Caribbean Chicken because it’s got a kick from the jalapenos and the bright summery addition of the mango and lime. A few steel drums in the background and a Corona and you’re all set. If you can manage an ocean breeze too, good on ya’.

Good? Yep, it’s a keeper.
Easy? Yep, it’s a crock pot.
Good for company? Yep, it makes a lovely plate.
Special shopping? I recommend fresh mango if you can get it.

Caribbean Chicken Lettuce Cups

Ingredients

For the crock pot:
2-3 bone-in chicken breasts, skinned (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 C apricot and peach preserves
3 T low sodium soy sauce
1 T dark sesame oil
1 t Chile and Garlic Sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
2 t minced fresh ginger
2 jalapeno peppers, whole
For Serving:
1 C diced cucumber
2 C diced mango
lime wedges
butter lettuce leaves

Directions

Put the top set of ingredients in the crockpot (chicken through jalapenos), chicken on the bottom. Cook on low 4-5 hours. Remove peppers and discard. Remove chicken and discard the bones. Shred the chicken with a fork and return it to the crock pot. Stir it into the sauce.
Put two whole butter lettuce leaves on each plate. Fill with 1/3-1/2 cup of chicken. Top with mango and cucumber. Serve with lime wedges.

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