I grew up in Upstate NY thinking the only places you could find Southwestern food were Chili’s or Taco Bell. We simply didn’t have access to true, honest Mexican restaurants like Tortas el Rey.
Instead, I spent the majority of my weekends tossing rocks into Lake Ontario, chowing down on freshly battered haddock sandwiches and coney hots (aka, the snappy griller) with cheese at Rudy’s Lakeside.
Man, what I wouldn’t do for a snappy griller right about now.
I moved to Pennsylvania soon after graduating high school, where the local cuisine consisted of cheesesteak, buffalo wings and Yuengling lager. All of which, hold a special place in my heart.
After graduating from college, I packed my little hatchback with whatever I could fit, and drove to New Mexico on a whim. No job. No apartment. No plan. Armed only with the money I had saved from the past few months of working as one of four bartenders in a tiny college town, and a freshly printed Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing. Yup, I was ready for a change.
Little did I know, I was headed straight for an adventure in food as well. It was that spontaneous move across the country that threw me head first into a love affair with true Southwestern cuisine. I never looked back. I also never set foot in another Chili’s restaurant.
Now there’s nothing better to me than throwing together a weekend taco bar with a few friends, for a lazy Sunday by the pool. Well, as lazy a Sunday as we can possibly manage with a yard full of tiny hellions.
And, this combination of citrus (and tequila) braised chicken with fresh, bright, pineapple and mango is one of my favorites. Simple, refreshing… tastes just like summer.
Margarita Braised Chicken Tacos
(makes 4-6 servings)
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 small sweet white onion (diced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp dried Mexican oregano
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tequila
1 lime (thinly sliced)
Pineapple Mango Salsa (recipe below)
Soft corn tortillas
Mango Pineapple Salsa
1 cup fresh pineapple (diced)
1 fresh mango (peeled and diced)
1 seedless orange (peeled and diced)
1/4 cup red onion (diced)
1 small jalapeño pepper (seeded and diced)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (minced)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (minced)
Juice from one lime
2 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
To make the braised chicken, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Combine the salt, white pepper, and cumin in a small dish and sprinkle evenly over the chicken thighs. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or oven safe stock pot over medium high heat, then add the seasoned chicken thighs and cook each side until lightly browned.
Transfer the chicken thighs to a large plate, then saute the diced onion in the same pan until softened. Add the minced garlic and Mexican oregano, and cook for just a few minutes. Add the chicken broth, orange juice and tequila, then bring everything to a boil, scraping the goodness from the bottom of the pan to incorporate deliciousness. Add the chicken back into the mix, and top with the thinly sliced lime. Cover the dutch oven, and cook everything in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the chicken is fall-apart tender.
Transfer the braised chicken to a shallow baking dish to rest, and cook the remaining liquid over medium heat for 10 – 15 minutes to slightly reduce.
Use two forks to break the chicken up (shred it) then pour the reduced braising liquid over the top and toss to coat.
To make the salsa, mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.
Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to let the flavors have a party before serving.
To assemble the tacos, heat the soft corn tortillas in a hot skillet until soft, add a good helping of the braised chicken, top with salsa and sprinkle with crumbled queso fresco.
Then, dive in.
OMFG. SO GOOD.