When I went to Irvine, CA last April for Sameer’s Eats Halal Food Tour, Lime Chicken Tacos was one of the recipes on the menu that I demonstrated. I made a quick tomatillo salsa (salsa verde) to go with it.
Sameer got a try and so did a few fortunate halal foodies out there in the audience. It was so much fun- I need to dig out those pictures and share them again soon…
To make the tacos, use only the freshest chicken and get the nice tray packs from Crescent Foods if you can (they’re antibiotic-free, humanely raised and of course dhabiha halal).
It all gets nicely marinated in cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, black pepper, salt and garlic, if desired.
After about 35 minutes marinating in the refrigerator (or a little longer if you have things to do), it comes out and all gets thrown into the saute pan.
On high heat.
For about 6-10 minutes on each side so that it turns out looking like this:
Almost looks grilled- imagine the grill marks if you used a grill pan or outdoor grill instead (which you can certainly). Either way, a lid needs to go on after the second flip to keep the chicken from drying out.
And if I wasn’t so busy drooling over that, then I would be taking time out to make the fixings: beans and rice…
and salsa verde (recipe and instructions over here).
And chop up a whole bunch of stuff.
Like more cilantro
And separate out the queso fresco (it typically comes in a package where the cheese is all condensed and you need to crumble it yourself- kind of like a block of feta).
Then plate everything nicely, of course. Especially if for a party- you’ll thank me later. Guests can serve themselves after the initial investment time you put into plating it all ahead of time.
At the last moment, though, you’ll need to warm the tortillas.
And if you ever saw this contraption at a Mexican store and wanted it because it said “Tortilla Press”, it’s not like a panini press.
It’s actually for making fresh tortillas- like from the masa or corn flour; it’s not meant to press anything cooked or to actually heat something on it.
Just in case you ever wondered about that…
So, to warm the tortillas just use your gas flame or some sort of cast iron grill top. Flame on high.
We put two together then flip ’em and lay them flat in preparation for taco-making mode.
Unless you’re going to be a while, in which case you need a tortilla warmer (yes, there are is a whole industry of these)–wrap those babies up in a cotton towel and/or put a terra cotta plate or stone at the bottom of the warmer to retain heat.
Mexicans take this stuff seriously.
Which leads me to the next issue:
Proper taco creation.
According to most Mexicans, there is a right and wrong way to build a taco.
I live with one who insists there is definitely a wrong way and we are not going to show you that.
Rule #1- Know the best brand of tortillas (or the ones your family has liked most for the past 20 or 30 years. If starting from scratch, just follow the brand below)
Rule #2- do not overstuff (yourself and the taco)
That means (to one certain member in my house), that you begin with beans, then add rice, then meat.
I never seem to follow that protocol, but then again I always overstuff the taco…
Then add the greens, to which the salsa is added on top.
Then add radish and cheese…
Add slices of avocado last.
Do I agree? Not completely, but whatever works. And that means it has to look good and taste even better.
Lime Chicken Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa
For now, I think this is a great summer time meal, Mexican-inspired and perfect for a summer Ramadan Iftar. At our house, we might even serve it for Suhoor (leftovers, of course)…
1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenders
Juice of two limes
One tablespoon fresh cilantro
2 cloves fresh garlic, freshly pressed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil to cover (about 1/2 cup) plus 2 tablespoons for cooking
Place chicken in a pie plate, square baking dish or anything that isn’t too shallow. Pour the lime juice over the chicken, add the cilantro and sprinkle the chopped garlic, salt and pepper on top. Pour the oil over it all and flip the chicken a few times to ensure that it’s nicely covered in the oil and other ingredients.
Cover and refrigerate so that it can marinate for about 35 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let it stand for about five minutes before cooking, just to take the chill out of the meat (it actually helps prevent the cold meat from tearing when it is thrown onto a hot pan or grill).
Use a fork to remove the chicken from the pan and shake off any excess juice/oil.
Use fresh oil to heat gently in a saute pan. Once warmed, add the chicken tenders and cook on one side for about 6-10 minutes on high heat, or until nicely browned.
Once one side has browned, flip the pieces over. Cook again until the other side is browned, too. In this way, they’ll seem almost grilled. Once both sides are browned, lower the heat and cover the pan with a lid to keep in the moisture.
Once the chicken is done, remove from heat and pull apart with two forks if you like shredded chicken tacos or simply serve whole or cut up pieces of the tenders.
Serve on fresh tortillas with traditional Mexican toppings like queso fresco, chopped radishes, fresh cilantro, chopped lettuce, and of course, tomatillo salsa or salsa verde.
Get the recipe for Tomatillo Salsa.