Spicy Chicken Tacos and the ‘Murican Dream

Hello, internet! How are things? It’s been a minute since we’ve gotten together…

When I was younger, I never really understood when adults said “Life gets in the way of things”. Now I do. As an Adult-In-Progress, I’ve got my first full-time, respectable 8-4 job (though I wish it could be 7-5, overtime for the win!) and though I enjoy it, a lot of nights when I get home, I’m somewhat mentally exhausted. I’ve been running reports and compliance work all day, and it feels so strange to try and flip the switch and let the creative side of my brain to run wild….

On these nights when Bronson and I are both tired from work and would much rather order takeout than cook, we’ve  forced ourselves to come up with some good dinners that are cheap and delicious. Though we’ve both got solid jobs, we’re making sure to save as much as we can to afford more ‘adult’ things, like, you know, a reliable car. It feels like we’re living the ‘Murican dream, two Adults-In-Progress saving up for our own little white picket fence slice of life. 

One of our favorite easy dinners is to make tacos! Chicken or beef or Chorizo, all are awesome. Corn tortillas – the authentic kind, not the Taco Bell packaged crap – vary around $2-3 for a bag of twenty, and onions and cilantro (the traditional toppings of tacos) are each less than a dollar! The meat is the only aspect of this meal where you’ll need to shell out more than $3. 

I can’t really take credit for this meal though, Bronson is the master of meats in our kitchen. I just don’t have the patience. Unless it’s bacon or sausage, my meat always ends up chewy and dry, comparable to rubber. This is why I was pastry cook in a kitchen….But Bronson worked as a line cook for years, manning the flat top grill and meats. So he has all of the meaty knowledge I’ll ever need!

Bronson wanted to cook the chicken with spices and broth to make it soft and juicy, and easily shreddable. He started by trimming the chicken into thin slices and putting them in a pan with half a jar of salsa – we used Pace Picante Medium salsa – 1/2 cup chicken broth, extra spices and garlic.

We let it simmer down on a medium heat for 20 minutes or so. As the chicken was cooking, I came in with two forks and pulled the pieces apart to shred them. We kept it on the stove for another 10 minutes to try and get some of the broth to cook off. When the chicken was broken down and there was only some broth left, I warmed some corn tortillas on a frying pan with a little oil. When I go to those amazing, hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants, I always see the tortillas being warmed on a large flat top. One day, when Bronson and I are filthy stinking rich, we want a flat top section on our stove. Part of the ‘Murican dream is dreaming, right?

While the tortillas were heating up in the pan, I chopped an onion and some cilantro to top the tacos with. There’s nothing like the fresh smell and flavor of cilantro. I’ve heard that for a lot of people, cilantro just tastes like dish soap, but I am so happy that I’m one of the lucky people who can appreciate it’s freshness. Whenever I’m at home and I realize that my breath is not the freshest, I will literally grab a few leaves of cilantro and munch on them!

We doubled up our tortillas – corn tortillas are more delicate than their floury counterparts – and loaded them with chicken, sprinkled the chopped onions and cilantro on top. We finished them off with a slice of lime, juiced over the tacos. 

The chicken was soft and spicy just as we wanted. The salsa that we used was pretty hot for a medium spice level, but we dig spicy things. On top of that, the cayenne and cumin that we added gave a deep, base level of spice. The flavor of this chicken didn’t bite you on the tip of your tongue like a lot of simple spicy flavors, such as hot sauce. It was a nice heat that built with each bite. The tangy onions and crisp cilantro were a perfect match with it, they broke up the flavor of the chicken so that it wasn’t just a pile of meat on a tortilla. The lime juice added at the very end gave a great, light flavor above the others, another fresh flavor that helped break up the spice.The picture above shows my two pretty tacos, but I went back for a third and didn’t mind that I overflowed the taco with extra meat and toppings, messy and delicious.

Next time you’re a little worn out from working on your own ‘Murican dream, make these tacos, take an evening to sit on the couch and appreciate what you’ve already got and what you’re looking forward to, like your own flat top grill……. 

Recipe for Spicy Chicken Tacos

3 chicken tenderloins, trimmed and cut into thin slices
1/2 jar of Pace Picante Medium salsa
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 onion, small diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into 6 slices
Oil, for tortillas

Simmer chicken in large pan with salsa, stock, garlic and spices for twenty minutes. When the chicken is almost completely cooked, take two forks and shred the chicken in the pan. Allow to simmer for another ten minutes. While the chicken is finishing, warm the tortillas in a frying pan with a little bit of oil. Cut the onion into small diced pieces, and roughly chop the cilantro.

When the tortillas are warm, turn off the chicken. Layer two tortillas and pile some of the chicken on them. However much you want in your tacos, just be wary that the more meat you load into the tacos, the less manageable they will be. Top the tacos with onions and cilantro, and squeeze the lime over top of the whole taco. 


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