Pulled Chicken Tacos
There is something about tacos that make them one of my absolute favorite foods. I mean seriously, ever since I was a kid and my mom would make ground beef tacos with seasoning from a packet and sprinkle a little cheddar on top….mmmm memories. Even now when I make really basic tacos like that for my kids I have to partake in one or five for myself. There is just something about that smoky spicy flavor, the crunch of that hard tortilla crust that is so damn enjoyable.
Nowadays I like a little more sophisticated flavors in my food, but the premise is the same. Layer on flavor and textures all on a tortilla and eat unabashedly without a fork…because it just slows you down. This particular recipe is for pulled chicken tacos, but the same principles and ideas apply for really any meat/poultry you want to use.
A good taco is going to layer in flavor and texture. For this dish I char and peel poblano, anaheim, and jalapeno peppers. I like charring these peppers to give their natural spice a smokey flavor. The peppers, onion, garlic, and seasonings all jump into a blender with a beer, and some chicken brother and get pureed. This sauce (soup…broth?) is where the flavor starts. And after a day of slow cooking with your poultry in a crockpot, the marriage of flavors is really out of this world!
But tacos can’t stop there, you have to have a fresh element, something to add a crisp texture, and bright flavor to all that earthy smoky goodness in the meat. I love a simple pico de galo for this taco. Bright almost sweet flavors from the onion, tomato and lime juice, with the extra kick of a diced jalapeno, really bring this taco to a whole new flavor level.
Still not done. And how could you be? We have earthy, smoky, spicy, crisp, fresh and bright. But where is the creamy? You know that rich flavor that mellows the heat, and gives this taco the perfect mouth feel. For these I went with a salty crumbly queso fresco and my homemade creamy cilantro sauce. If you haven’t made my creamy cilantro, fix that, immediately.
Pulled Chicken Tacos:
For the Chicken
2 Poblano Chilis
2 Anaheiem Peppers
1 Jalapeno (or more if you like it spicy)
1 Small onion (cut into 8ths)
1 Beer (any lager or ale will do)
1 14oz can of chicken broth
1tspn Salt and Pepper (or more to taste)
1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tsp Paprika
Optional Ground Red Pepper for extra heat.
2 whole chicken breasts
Garnish with pico de gallo, queso fresco, and creamy cilantro sauce.
Start by cover charring your peppers. If you have a gas range you can place the peppers directly over the flames. You want to char the outside of the peppers, turn them every 60 seconds or so, but don’t be afraid of letting them turn black. If you don’t have a gas range, or just don’t like the technique, you can also do this under a broiler. Just turn them once you start charring the skin. Immediately after you char the skin place the peppers in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. The cooling will steam the skins and loosen them up. After they have cooled you can peel them easily by hand. Deseed the peppers and put them in a blender.
To the blender add the onion (chopped into 8ths), the beer, broth, salt and pepper, garlic powder, cumin, and paprika. Puree until smooth. Put the pureed mixture in a crockpot with the chicken and cook on low for 6-8 hours. (Or if you are like me, on Low for the duration of your work day.) This slow method of cooking should leave to flavorful and very tender chicken. Now, we need to shred the chicken. You can remove the chicken from the crockpot and use a couple of forks to shred it. You can remove and cool it completely, and then use your hands to shred it. Me? I don’t have the patience for either technique. Grab your hand mixer and beat the chicken. It will shred in about 10 seconds. I know, I know…but I never admitted I was classically trained or fancy, this is Kentucky after all.
At this point, the chicken is cooked, tender and shredded. It’s delicious, but swimming in the cooking broth. I like to strain the broth away from the chicken so that the tacos aren’t too soggy. But don’t toss all that broth, it can certainly be reused again! (I used my most recent batch for the liquid in quinoa). Assemble your taco. Take a warmed tortilla and add the chicken, Pico de gallo, queso fresco, and creamy cilantro sauce. You can thank me when you’re done eating.