Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos & Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca


Happy Taco Tuesday! It's my favorite non-holiday. I love that it occurs weekly, and that there are so many styles of tacos that can be enjoyed in honor of the occasion. Whether you make the basic, tried and true ground beef tacos, or something more complex and time consuming, it's bound to be delicious.


There are definitely some similarities between these Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos and these Guajillo-Braised Beef Short Rib Tacos. They both utilize the same technique, but with some variances in the braising liquid. This particular recipe uses a combination of ancho and dried chipotle chiles as well as beer and tequila. It calls for a whole habanero, which I omitted. The filling was sufficiently spicy without it!


Chicken thighs and much cheaper than beef short ribs, so arguably this recipe is a lot more approachable and cheaper to make than the latter. It's incredibly flavorful, juicy, and just out-of-this-world good!


Although I loved the short rib tacos, these chicken tacos are more accessible (and like I said CHEAPER) to make, and will grace my table more often. You can easily make this filling ahead of time and either freeze or refrigerate and gently reheat the day of. On the side I served up some Rice-o-licious (also from the Tacolicious cookbook), and my beloved refried black beans.


To cool down some of the spiciness from these tacos, I served them with Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca. Agua fresca is one of my favorite things. It's so easy to make, and you can easily adapt it to use whatever fruits you have on hand and enjoy. Most of my family members guessed this agua fresca contained watermelon from the color, but it weighed heavily on pineapple with a hint of blueberry. It reminded me almost of fruit nectar, and had a wonderful and refreshing quality. A couple folks even spiked theirs with vodka or rum and thought it made a wonderful cocktail.


Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Tacos
Makes about 16 tacos; serves 4 to 6
(From Tacolicious)

3 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or more if needed
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 habanero chile, stemmed (I omitted this entirely, and it was sufficiently spicy without it)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (12-ounce) can favorite beer
1 shot (1 1/2 ounces) favorite tequila
1 cup chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 cup diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa of your choice for serving

Toast the ancho and chipotle chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat, turning once, for about 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Take care they do not burn. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, add the chicken thighs and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Add an extra drizzle of oil if needed to prevent sticking. As the thighs are ready, transfer them to a plate and set aside.

Add the onion and habanero (if using) to the oil remaining in the pot and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until the onion is caramelized. Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, beer, tequila, broth, tomatoes, salt, cumin, and oregano, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the chiles have completely softened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

While the oven is heating, pour the chile mixture into a blender and process until almost completely smooth (a little texture is fine). Return the chicken to the pot and pour the pureed sauce evenly over the top.

Cover the pot, place in the oven, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring if necessary to prevent sticking, for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is fork tender. If the sauce starts to reduce too much and the chicken begins to stick, add a little water or broth. Remove from the oven and use tongs or a fork to loosely shred the chicken, leaving it in the sauce.

Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, and lime.

Pineapple-Blueberry Agua Fresca
Serves 6 to 8

5 cups (700 g) chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
5 cups water

Add the pineapple, blueberries, sugar, and lime juice to a blender along with 3 cups of water. Puree until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large pitcher and then stir in the remaining 2 cups of water (the foaminess will eventually subside). Taste and adjust sweetness or acidity if needed.

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