A fowl take on fresh spring rolls and peanut sauce

Why do we never see fresh spring rolls stuffed with chicken?

We see shrimp and vegetarian and even crab. But never chicken. And that's a shame, because the ingredients in a fresh spring roll — usually a blend of vegetables and noodles, often some avocado, maybe some mint, all wrapped in tender rice paper — aren't all that far removed from the usual chicken salad ingredients.

And then there is the dipping sauce. There are plenty of variations, but spicy peanut sauce is among the most common. And chicken certainly gets along well with peanut sauce.

So I decided to take spring rolls in a fowl direction. When paired with crunchy jicama, carrots and cucumber, the chicken shines as a spring roll filling. Add fresh mint and a deliciously sweet-and-sour spicy peanut sauce, and you have the makings of a fine Asian-inspired meal.

When soaking the rice wrappers, do them one at a time. And don't soak them longer than suggested or they will fall apart. The rice noodles and wrappers can be found in the Asian or international aisle of most grocers.

This recipe is an excellent way to use up leftover roasted or grilled chicken. And if you have no leftovers or are short on time, just grab a rotisserie chicken.

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CHICKEN AND JICAMA SPRING ROLLS WITH PEANUT SAUCE

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Makes 12 rolls

For the dipping sauce:

1/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter

1/4 cup apricot jam

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar

Hot sauce, to taste

For the spring rolls:

2 ounces dried bean or rice thread noodles

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise

4-ounces peeled jicama root

12 large rice-paper wrappers (8-inch round or larger)

1/2 cup shredded carrots

2 avocados, pitted and thinly sliced

1 pound cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast meat, pulled or cut into strips

12 large fresh mint leaves

To make the dipping sauce, in a medium bowl stir together the peanut butter, jam, soy sauce and vinegar. Season with hot sauce, then set aside.

Place the noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak for 5 minutes, or until softened. Drain well in a mesh strainer and set aside.

Use a spoon to scrape out and discard the seeds from the cucumber halves. Cut each piece into thin strips. Set aside. Cut the jicama into thin slices, then cut each slice into thin matchsticks.

Fill a large bowl (at least several inches larger than the rice wrappers) with warm water. Soak 1 wrapper in the water until just barely softened, about 10 seconds. Carefully remove the rice wrapper from the water and lay flat on the counter. Place a small bundle of noodles along one edge of the wrapper. Top the noodles with a bit each of cucumber, jicama, carrots, avocado and chicken, then top with a mint leaf.

Roll the wrapper, starting with the filling side, folding the ends over the fillings as you roll to form a tight cylinder. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Nutrition information per roll with peanut sauce: 200 calories; 80 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 13 g protein; 310 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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