Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos & Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday cause to celebrate because tacos feed my soul AND my belly. I am a long-standing Mexican food aficionado, and tacos reign supreme in my world. One of the reasons I love tacos so much is their versatility. There are so many filling and topping combinations, along with several options for how to get those fillings and toppings into your mouth. Are you a crunchy or soft taco lover? Corn or flour tortillas? I tend to gravitate toward the more traditional soft corn tortillas, but everyone's a winner here so eat tacos whichever way you love!


There are countless ways to fill your tacos, whether it's a basic ground beef filling, shrimp, or even mushrooms for a vegetarian variation. Today I will be sharing an excellent recipe for Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos. The marinade is simple enough to make once you procure some dried ancho and guajillo chiles. They are soaked until softened and blended with spices to create an adobo paste perfect for slathering over your chicken. I let mine marinate for a good 9 hours or so, but you can also cook it immediately if you don't have time to spare.


The resulting chicken is juicy and flavorful. It's not particularly spicy so it's great for adults and children alike. These tacos get creative when you start building the toppings. I'm a big fan of this spicy avocado-tomatillo salsa which would be fantastic on these chicken tacos!


On this particular Taco Tuesday I opted for a simple schmear of sour cream, some diced tomatoes, and a very rough, chunky guacamole. The following day with leftover chicken and tortillas, I switched it up with a bit of refried beans spread on the tortillas, more avocado to top, and a few slices of homemade pickled jalapenos for spice and acidity.


And let's not forget the importance of delicious libations served with said tacos. I'm a margarita lover through and through, and these Hibiscus Margaritas are super refreshing and beautifully pink. On this particular occasion, however, I was dining with a pregnant friend so margaritas were out of the question. I blended up the most simple yet out-of-this-world Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca to stand in alongside our tacos.


Aguas Frescas are my new-found obsession. They are crazy easy to make, and so fresh and revitalizing that I can't believe I haven't been making them for years. Again, they are fun for the whole family since they are non-alcoholic, and there are so many variations to try. This strawberry-lime version is exquisite, and a wonderful way to get started. It reminds me of a slightly watered-down strawberry nectar. It's delicately sweet, and just exploding with the flavor of fresh strawberries with nothing to muddle or detract from it.


Both these tacos and the agua fresca are simple enough to make for a weeknight, so there's no reason you can't whip them up tonight if you feel so inclined. I myself am ready for a taco coma right about now, and these tacos look just right for getting me there.



Adobo-Marinated Chicken Tacos
Makes 16 to 20 tacos
(Adapted from Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales)

4 dried ancho chiles (about 2 ounces), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
4 dried guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce), wiped clean, stemmed, and seeded
1/2 cup water, plus more for soaking the chiles
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chicken tenders, cutlets, or boneless, skinless thighs
About 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For serving:
Warm corn or flour tortillas
Diced avocado (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream or Mexican crema (optional)
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
Lime wedges (optional)
Finely chopped white onion (optional)

Combine the chiles in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them (I use hot but not boiling water). Soak the chiles until they're soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the soaking water.

Place the drained chiles in a blender. Add the 1/2 cup water, ginger, salt, cumin, and pepper and blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the pitcher with a rubber spatula as needed, about 1 minute. (The mixture will be thick—don't add extra water.) You will yield about 1 cup of chile purée.

Put the chicken in a bowl, add 1/2 cup of the chile puree (the rest can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for a few months to make another batch of tacos in the future), and rub it onto the chicken until the meat is well coated. At this point you can cook the chicken right away, or cover and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

Preheat a grill, griddle, or large skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to add a thin sheen to the grill grates or pan. Season the chile-slathered breasts with salt and cook, in batches if necessary, until they're well browned on both sides and just cooked through, turning them over once, 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes, then slice or dice it for tacos, and serve with the tortillas and your choice of garnishes.

Strawberry-Lime Agua Fresca
Serves 6 to 8
(From Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales)

1 pound ripe strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Ice cubes

Blend the strawberries, sugar, and lime juice with 4 cups of water until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve and into a large pitcher. Use a spoon to scoop off the foam that forms on the surface and discard it. Gradually season the agua fresca to taste with sugar and lime juice. Chill the pitcher in the fridge, then stir thoroughly and pour the agua fresca into ice-filled glasses.



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