Chicken Tacos

My step-daughter is at times a picky eater. She’s much better now than when we first met (she was 6), when mealtimes sometimes involved sitting at the table long after everyone had finished, bargaining with her to finish just a small amount of whatever we were eating that night. “Eat these four bites of chicken and you can have ice cream with the rest of us.” “I don’t need ice cream.” Hmm…. Bargaining works much better when you have something on them. She wasn’t fazed by dangling-carrots. But there were two family meals that never involved a battle of wills: spaghetti and tacos.
chicken tacos

While she now, at 16, makes an active effort to eat what we’re eating for dinner (and will occasionally be adventurous and try something crazy, like beet juice or salmon sashimi), tacos are definitely still one of her favorite foods. A normally sparse eater, she will devour between three and five tacos on her own. Sometimes six.

I can’t blame her. I have a hard time controlling myself too. Tacos are one of those comfort foods that take me back to dinners around the family table of my youth, the way Remy’s Ratatouille transports Anton Ego. Everyone is happy because they get tacos the way they like them, whether that’s with just meat and cheese, or so packed with toppings they are spilling out in every direction.

These are flavorful but mild tacos, so they are very kid-friendly. If it’s just me and my husband I’m more likely to use jalapeños instead of green chilies to kick it up a notch. My favorite toppings are jack cheese, shredded iceberg, diced avocado, and a medium salsa fresca. What are yours?

Leftovers

Mix the leftover chicken, rice, and beans (and the Mexican-Style Vegetables too!) together for a perfect lunch dish, or pile them all together for a nice taco salad.

chicken taco leftovers medley

Chicken Tacos

Serves 3-4, with leftovers

If you are pressed for time, you could certainly try to fry the tortillas while you are preparing the filling. However, I find that the flavor is better if the meat has a little time to meld with the other flavors, and I’m more likely to over-fry the tortillas if I don’t pay strict attention to that task.

Note: Be careful not to fry your tortillas too long. They shouldn’t be like chips; they should have a crispness but still be pliant enough to fold around their fillings. I like to look for when the tortilla just starts to show signs of browning in spots. And remember, it will firm up a bit on the cooling rack as well. If you over-fry, break them in half and assemble a tostada instead of a taco; or just eat them like chips.

frying taco shells

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp. rendered chicken fat or olive oil
  • ⅓ medium yellow or brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ a (4 oz.) can of diced green chilies (mild) or jalapeños (spicier)
  • 3-4 cups leftover chicken, diced or shredded (from your Crispy Roast Chicken)
  • 2-3 tbsp. chicken stock
  • kosher salt
  • Taco fixings: shredded iceberg, grated jack cheese, salsa fresca, diced avocado, sour cream
  • lard (alternate: vegetable or Canola oil)
  • 12 corn tortillas

Directions

  1. In a large pan or skillet, heat the fat or oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and cook a minute more.
  3. Add the chiles, diced chicken, and a good pinch of salt and cook until warm through.
  4. Season to taste with salt. Reduce heat to low to keep warm while you fry the tortillas.
  5. In a large (preferably cast iron) skillet, heat ¼ inch of lard or oil over medium-high heat.
  6. When oil is shimmering, test by dipping the edge of a tortilla into the oil – if it begins to sizzle, lower the remainder of the tortilla into the oil; if it doesn’t sizzle, remove and wait a minute or two more before testing again.
  7. Fry the tortilla for one minute to soften, then flip the tortilla over and fold in half; fry 1-2 minutes, flip to the other side of the folded tortilla, and fry 1-2 minutes more to desired crispness. (In a 12 inch skillet, you should be able to work on three tortillas at a time – one in each stage: flat, folded first side, and folded second side.
  8. Move to a cooling rack or a half sheet pan lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt if desired.

Serving Suggestions

Starchy Sides: Mexican-Style Rice & Spicy Beans

Veggie Sides: Mexican-Style Vegetables (drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and microwave until tender and hot – 3 minutes, stir, 3 minutes, stir, 2 minutes), Mexican Caesar Salad

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