LIMEY GRILLED CHICKEN SOFT TACOS
The Inexorable Taco
Tacos in their simplest form are everywhere. The curved and molded hard shell stuffed with seasoned ground beef seems to be the standard starting point for this iconic fare. Chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and shredded cheese are the typical additions to complete the necessary requirements to make the creation a meal.
By bumping it up with sour cream and salsa, you have what is also called a “Spanish Sandwich”. From Taco Bell to the standard Mexican Restaurant, that is what you get. Throw in some chilis or hot sauce and you add a little spice or flavor to the thing.
Having said all that, the best tacos I have ever eaten were found in a small “hole-in-the-wall” outlet in Las Vegas. The entire fixin’s were sealed inside a flour tortilla, pinched and crimped together at the top and heated on the outside. I never knew what all the ingredients were inside, but the flavor was unbelievable, right out of the box, so to speak. I never forgot that experience.
Moving To The Present Day
For some stupid reason, I have always preferred pre-formed, hard-shell tacos stuffed with seasoned meat. My wife, on the other hand, prefers the soft chicken variety. Recently, we went to Taco Bell and I noticed that her tacos had chicken filling that was seasoned with some type of sauce. Hmmm!
Afterwards, I decided to do some research on recipes for Soft Chicken Tacos. What I was really looking for was a marinade to flavor the meat which I planned to cook on the grill when ready. Plowing through the minefield of initial popular entries, I wasn’t having much success. Few, if any, of the recipes put much effort into making a doable concoction that I liked.
I finally found one at tastesbetterfromscratch.com called Grilled Chicken Street Tacos. The main focus of this recipe was the attention paid to the marinade. Since I had to modify the ingredients and instructions to my liking, I could easily have bypassed the reference to the sight, but I did not want to do that. The flavor of the meat was so good, I may try the marinade on other meats like steaks and pork chops.
Some Things To Consider
- If you use regular corn or flour tortillas, you don’t have to worry about the hard shell cracking apart and dumping your fillings out all over your lap.
- Heating the tortillas on a flat griddle is best, but remove them before they start to burn or begin to bubble up.
- 2 tortillas together adds strength to your entry, but doubles the carbohydrates, something I want to minimize.
- Placing the meat in a zip lock bag with the marinade needs to be preceded by tenderizing the meat with a needle type unit. We use one similar to the Yamesu Meat Tenderizer 21 found on Amazon. Otherwise, stab the meat with a sharp pointed kitchen knife.
- Use the excess marinade in the bag to baste the chicken as you are cooking it on the grill.
- If you are afraid of overcooking the chicken, chop it up and throw any under cooked portions in the microwave for a minute.
- Warm the salsa up in the microwave. Cold salsa with the cold Pico de Gallo will cool off your Taco in a hurry.
- If you want more spicy hot flavor, Chipotle seasoning (instead of chili powder) and diced Jalapeños will give it a nice kick.
- Add warm meat to the heated tortilla and add the warmed salsa first. Then put on some chopped lettuce and add the cold Pico de Gallo last. This procedure will help the meat retain some of its heat.
- Pin the Taco together with 2 toothpicks inserted at a sharp angle through the tops of each one. I use small metal clamp style paper clips to do the trick. But you must remember to have oven mittens on your hands when you take the cooked tacos out of the hot oven.
- Serve immediately so as to keep the taco shell and meat from cooling off.
Grilled Limey Chicken Soft Taco Recipe
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
- 8 mini white flour (or corn) tortillas , warmed on a skillet or electric griddle
- Pico de gallo made at home
- Fresh lime juice
- Sour cream, optional for the topping
For the Marinade:
- 4 Tablespoons orange juice
- 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1½ Tablespoons lime juice
- 3 Cloves garlic , minced
- 1½ Tablespoons red chili powder (or chipotle if you want more heat)
- 2 Teaspoons dried oregano leaves
- 2 Teaspoons paprika
- ¼ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Pico de Gallo:
- 2 tomatoes , diced
- 1/2 cup red onion , diced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro , chopped
- 1 – 2 teaspoons lime juice , to taste
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt, to taste
- Make the chicken marinade by combining all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Then pour into large zip lock bag. Add chicken thighs after prepping them with punch-style meat tenderizer or sharp knife.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat grill over medium-high heat. Oil the grill with canola oil or spray generously with cooking spray. Remove marinated chicken from bag and place on hot grill.
- Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping once (thickest part of the chicken thigh should register about 165 degrees).
- Transfer to a covered plate and allow to rest for a few minutes before chopping into small pieces.
- Lay one warmed mini flour (or corn) tortilla flat. Top with chopped chicken strands down the center followed by some warmed salsa (Herdez Brand if push comes to shove) down the center. Add chopped lettuce first, then the Pico de gallo,
- Cilantro, hot sauce, and sour cream are optional (Pico de Gallo already has cilantro). Spritz with a little bit of lime juice.
- Serve immediately with a side of Black Beans or with Pico de Gallo on lettuce with chopped avocado or guacamole with suitable oil and vinegar dressing.
Please leave a comment, if you have some thoughts on this recipe. Thank you!
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