Red Chile Braised Chicken Soft Tacos, with Pickled Red Onion & Grilled Corn Salad
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 2 hours Serves: 4
Truly excellent tacos are one of the things that my wife and I miss most since leaving Los Angeles. The hunt for the little hole-in-the-wall, family owned establishments that were so often the purveyors of said excellent tacos has yielded little fruit in my native nutmeg state. Though flush with a truly staggering amount of world class pizza joints, the taco has eluded the culinary taste makers in Connecticut since forever. So, as is so often necessary when pursuing your passions, I took matters in my own hands.
Mexican food done properly requires a fair amount of coaxing of flavors and patience to develop the richness and complexity native to the cuisine. This recipe takes about two hours to put together, but after your first bite you will know it was time well spent.
Technique for this dish is fairly simple, requiring attention mostly during the searing of the chicken and sautéing the garlic and onion. Proper heat and fat in the pan should ensure a good sear and excellent caramelization on the chicken; helping to develop the rich flavor required for this dish.
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat a large pan with the 2 tbls oil over med-high heat. It is important that there is enough oil in the pan in order to effectively sear the chicken. While the pan is warming, liberally season both sides of the chicken with the salt, pepper, red pepper, paprika, and chili powder. When the oil shimmers the pan is hot enough for the chicken. Sear the chicken on each side, remove from pan and hold to the side.
Add the chopped garlic and onion, stirring with a wooden spoon to remove any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Saute over medium heat util the mixture is browned and the onion starts to turn translucent. Poor in chicken stock to de-glaze the pan. Allow the stock to come up to a simmer before adding the chile sauce, and then the reserved chicken breast, making sure they are almost completely submerged in the sauce. Cover the pan and place in preheated oven, and set a timer for two hours.
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 8 oz chicken stock
- 2 8 oz cans red chile sauce
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 tbls vegetable oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 package corn tortillas
Grilled Corn Salad
- 2 ears large yellow sweet corn; un-shucked
- 1 16 oz can black beans
- 8 oz chopped cilantro
- 2 tbl fresh lime juice
- 6 oz jalapeno peppers; thinly sliced rings
- 10 oz crumbled cotija or goat cheese
Pickled Red Onions
- 1 lage red onion; sliced
- 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 jalepeno pepper
- 4 oz cilantro; whole stem and leaf
- 3 oz coriander seeds
- 2 oz fresh lime juice
While the chicken is cooking, warm your grill for the corn. By leaving the outer leaves on and placing the corn on the upper warming rack, you can slowly steam it. This technique ensures the corn is fully cooked while also allowing for a final char on the grill. Simply place the corn on the upper rack in the grill and progressively peel off the leaves as they char. Once all the leaves are off, char the corn directly on the grill over high heat. Remove the corn and using a chef's knife, slice the kernels off and reserve in a medium sized bowl. Drain the black beans in a colander and add to the corn. Add the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and hold to the side.
For the pickled red onions, chop off the ends and cut in half, slicing the onion into thin half moons. Place the onions in a large mason jar along with the whole cilantro, half jalapeno, and coriander seeds and hold to the side. Pour the vinegar and lime juice in a small pot, adding the salt and sugar and heat over medium/low heat until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the vinegar into the jar with the onions and allow them to sit for thirty mins before using.
To assemble, warm the tortillas either in the oven or in a skillet with a small amount of oil. Add the chicken and corn salad, topping with the cotija or goat cheese and garnishing with the jalapeno rings and pickled onions.
Recipe by David Ferguson