Wednesday, October 12, 2011


As a born and raised Californian, one of the things I miss most when in the Midwest is good Mexican food.  I see you waving your arms, Chipotle, but you do not count.  NO.  Neither do you, Taco Bell!!! Stop it.  I mean the real deal: bean dip and flautas from The Mecca, homemade guacamole and of course, my mother’s fajitas.  Marinated chicken, grilled onions and peppers, Spanish rice, and every topping known to Mexican mankind.  I crave them big time when I’m at school, and they are always among the first home cooked meals I beg for upon my return to the Bay (as far as non-home cooked goes: this).  Surprisingly, it wasn’t until a few days ago, when a fellow Californian and I were bemoaning the absence of Mexican cuisine from our Chicagoland lives, that I decided to make some myself.

Californian friend Spencer and I made some kickass shredded chicken tacos, and if you know what’s good for you/your stomach/your general state of well-being, you will do the same.

Chicken Tacos with Mixed Pico de Gallo and Guacamole
Serves four, makes supergood leftovers the next day

For the chicken:
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
½ teaspoon ground mustard
A small pat of butter (about ½ teaspoon)

For the pico:
½ of a large tomato, diced
¼ of a large white onion, diced
1 ear of corn, grilled and with the kernals cut off
1 meager handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

LOOK at this cool onion dicing technique I learned from Spencer!  Cross-hatch slice it from the center outwards, and then slice the opposite direction!  Insta-dice.  Magic.
For the guac:
2 ripe avocados
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
The other ½ of the large tomato, diced
Another ¼ of the large white onion, diced

For the shells:
Small round tortillas (we used flour)
Canola oil

Shredded cheese of your choice (we went with a pepper jack/munster mix, it was called FIESTA! Fitting.)

Place chicken in a large pot and fill with water until the pieces are just covered.  Add the spices and stir.  Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until all the water is evaporated.

While the chicken is cooking, mix all of the pico ingredients together.  Set aside.

Mash the avocados, and then mix with the remaining guac ingredients.  Play it by ear with the spices and lemon juice.  Make it how you like it.  Guacamole is a highly personal experience.

To make the taco shells, heat an inch and a half of canola oil in a large pan.  Using tongs, hold the tortilla in a shell shape so that the base of the shell is submerged in oil for about 15 seconds (enough time for it to set in that shape).  Lay the shell down in the oil on one side, and then the other, about 5 seconds each side.  We wanted our shells slightly crunchy, and not overly fried.  If you want massive crunch, fry for longer.  Drain each shell on paper towels and pat off the excess oil.

When the water is completely evaporated from the chicken pot, turn off the heat and shred the chicken on a cutting board with two forks.  The pot with have a bunch of the spices hanging around the sides and the bottom.  Drop your small pat of butter and a little bit of water into the pot, and return the shredded chicken to it.  Turn the heat on very low, and toss the chicken until it is coated with the spice mixture.  Use the chicken to get all of the spices off the sides of the pot.

Assemble tacos by filling the shells with a little bit of everything, and topping with a sprinkling of cheese and a small squeeze of lime juice.

Uhhhhhh, yes.  Yes.

The guac will go bad if you keep it longer than 24 hours, but I piled everything on a bed of lettuce the next day it was an awesome taco salad.  Also fully stocked nachos would have been a great idea.  Just some options for you.  You know.  Whatever you’re feelin like. 

1 comment:

  1. So this looks delicious. But if you're ever, ya know, not in the cooking mood and craving authentic Mexi you NEED.TO.GO. to Big Star in Wicker Park. Holy moly me oh my. I could subsist on their grilled corn tacos and guac indefinitely. In fact, I want one right now. Never mind that the sun's not up yet.