Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps

It is hot.

Summer in DC has arrived.  The air feels like soup.

I don't mind the heat, but I sure don't want to cook in it.  And I don't relish the thought of standing outside at the grill at the peak time of day for poor air quality.

So I LOVE anything that lets me use my slow cooker but is still a light and summery meal.

This morning, I had some leftover chipotle peppers and decided to play a bit.

First, I browned some ground chicken in a skillet.  Just a little bit.  Just enough to get some color on there.  I moved that to my slow cooker, and added some finely chopped red pepper and red onion.  Once that got a bit of color on it, I poured in crushed tomatoes and stirred it up to get all that lovely brown goodness up off of the pan.  FREE FLAVOR, people! makes cleanup easier.

I made a little sauce in my blender.  I decided to put the garlic in the sauce rather than mincing it by hand because....lazy.  I really hate mincing garlic by hand.  It just makes my hands sticky and annoys me.

The sauce consists of the now-very-flavorful-crushed-tomatoes, some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, lime juice, garlic, and a splash of liquid.  Beer, chicken stock...whatever you fancy.

I let that all cook together in my slow cooker while I cleaned, played with the kids, and engaged in a naptime Orange is the New Black binge.

At dinner time, we scooped it up with romaine leaves (not a true lettuce "wrap," more of a lettuce "boat").  Topped with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice, it was heaven on a hot day.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Lettuce Wraps

1-2 T cooking oil of your choice
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried oregano
1/4-1/2 c finely chopped red pepper (about one half of a medium sized pepper)
1/4 c finely chopped red onion (about one quarter of a medium sized onion)
1 c crushed tomatoes
2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depending on your heat tolerance)
juice of one lime
2 cloves garlic
1 head large-leaf lettuce, such as iceberg
kosher salt
black pepper

1.  Preheat your slow cooker.  Season your ground meat with kosher salt.
2.  Over medium heat, warm 1 T oil for a few seconds.  Add the ground chicken or turkey to the pan.  Use a spoon or spatula to flatten it so that you have as much meat making contact with the pan as possible--this will maximize browning (and flavor).  As it browns, gently jab at it with your spatula to break it up a bit.  After 2-3 minutes, turn the meat over in sections.
3.  Sprinkle the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and oregano over the turkey and stir to combine.  Allow to cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring constantly.
3.  Add the peppers and onions to the slow cooker.
4.  Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pan, whisking to scrape up any brown bits.  Turn off the heat and allow this to cool a few minutes.
5.  Scrape the tomatoey goodness into a blender or food processor.  Add chipotle peppers, lime juice, garlic, stock and black pepper.  Blend until smooth (if the tomato mixture is still hot, make sure to leave a way for the steam to escape before blending!).
6.  Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken and vegetables and stir to combine.  Slow cook on Low setting 3-4 hours.
7.  Serve on lettuce wraps, over rice or quinoa, or tortillas with chopped fresh cilantro.

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