Sunday, May 17, 2015

Recipe: Tacos Dorados + Salsa Verde

As you may recall, a couple weekends ago I threw a Cinco de Mayo party for which I cooked one of my all time favorites: tacos dorados de pollo (crispy fried chicken tacos) with salsa verde and bunch of other toppings. I love making these for any occasion since they are pretty simple to make, nearly impossible to mess up and always a crowd-pleaser. I was expecting a handful of friends and drinks would be flowing so I cooked around 90 of these. Based on the fact they were all gone before the sun set, I think they were a huge hit! Cook these for your next gathering or for any day you feel like eating a good meal using my recipe below.

Tacos Dorados

Taco Ingredients:
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 pack corn tortillas (30 count)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • salt
  • vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Ziploc bags (to pre-heat tortillas)

Salsa Verde Ingredients:
  • 8-10 tomatillos
  • 4-6 jalapeños
  • 1/2 batch cilantro 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 avocado
  • salt (to taste)

Other toppings (optional, but I use them all):
  • Lime
  • Queso fresco
  • Lettuce (chopped)
  • Tomato (chopped)
  • Crema fresca/sour cream

Heads up: I realize this looks like a long recipe but it is actually quite easy… I just like to talk a lot ;)

I love this recipe for so many reasons but my favorite one is that it reminds me of sitting around my family's dinner table enjoying it with my parents and siblings. These are so easy to eat that we'd usually stay at the table for quite some time, having random conversations and loosing track of just how many we'd eaten. Now that's what I call family time! Anyhow, let's dive right in!

Tacos Dorados:

Start by filling up a pot about 1/2 way with water (or just enough to cover both of the chicken breasts all the way). Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. While you wait for the water to boil, chop half of an onion into large chunks (quarters is fine) and drop into the pot along with one tablespoon salt and the cloves of garlic. Stir the contents of the pot to make sure the salt dissolves in the liquids. Once the water is boiling, drop in the chicken breasts, reduce to medium heat, and let cook for about 30 minutes while occasionally stirring. After the half hour has gone by, remove one chicken breast from the pot and cut in half to make sure it is fully cooked. Turn off the stove once you've confirmed the chicken is ready and let it cool on a plate for about 10-15 minutes.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, start pulling it into small pieces and placing in a medium bowl. Don't go crazy pulling too thin, but just enough so it won't make your taco too fat – the fatter the taco, the harder to roll. (Does that  sound a little dirty or is it just me? lol) Continue to do so until the two chicken breasts are fully pulled.

Now you're going to pre-heat your tortillas to prevent them from cracking while you roll them into tacos. Separate into batches of ten making sure none of them are stuck to each other and place into Ziploc bags. Ten is the ideal number because it will prevent the tortillas from sticking to each other and is realistically about how many you can roll before they cool off. Once you're ready to roll, microwave one batch of tortillas for 45 seconds - 1 minute. Then place one tortilla flat on a plate or cutting board and add a small handful of chicken in a row slightly off-center. With your fingers, squeeze the chicken into a line and tightly roll the tortilla into a taco roll. Repeat the process with ten tortillas at a time until you are out of chicken/tortillas, placing the rolled-tacos into a container with a lid.

#ProTip: You can do everything up to this part ahead of time and leave the covered tacos in the fridge overnight. Not only will this speed up the process day-of but also make frying easier since the tortillas will cool and retain the rolled taco shape, preventing them from unrolling in the pan! (Thanks for the tip, Mom!)

Next, place a frying pan on the stove and add enough vegetable oil to cover the pan and about 1/3 the height of a taco (usually about half a bottle). Heat the oil on medium heat for a few minutes or until hot enough to hear crackling when you place a taco in the oil. Once hot enough, lay enough tacos next to each other to cover the pan. Fry the tacos for about 2 minutes (or until the side in the oil is crisp and golden) and then turn them to cook the opposite side for another 2 minutes. Once the tacos are evenly golden, remove from pan and place in a napkin-lined container to drain excess oil. Repeat process until all your tacos have been fried. Ta-da! That's it.

Salsa Verde:

The salsa verde I usually make is a slightly thicker, creamier version of the traditional one. I've never gotten any complaints! :)

To start, wash all your vegetables and remove peels (tomatillos) and stems (jalapeños). The quantities here are a bit flexible, depending on how spicy/thick you want your salsa to end up. Once everything is nice and clean, place the cilantro, garlic and 2 tablespoons water into the blender. Blend for a short while until these are a bit choppy. Next, add most of your tomatillos and jalapeños into the blender and blend until everything is nice and smooth. The consistency should be like that of a fruit smoothie. If it's too watery/not spicy enough, add some more tomatillos/jalapeños to even out. Next add salt to taste (add a little at a time to avoid over-salting) and continue to blend to mix the salt evenly.

Most people and restaurants leave it at that but I like to add one extra ingredient: avocado. Scoop the whole avocado into the blender and continue to blend. You'll immediately notice the salsa will turn a brighter color and thicker consistency… you'll love it! Taste for salt one more time and modify accordingly.

Again, this post ended up looking pretty long but the process is actually quite easy – especially if you prep everything the night before. You can go all out with traditional toppings like me, or keep it to a few. As long as you have tacos and this salsa recipe, you'll be ok!

Let me know how your tacos turn out! Show me pictures on Twitter or Instagram at @mromja or using #designplustacos

If you haven't done so already, make sure to check out the full recap of my Cinco de Mayo party along with some party tips and tricks here.

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