Happy Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day! How fun to celebrate them both together! When you want to give Mom a Mother’s Day treat, get her out of the kitchen. A great way to do that is to use the barbecue to make the chicken and enlist your kids to help with assembling the tacos. Put them to work and create an assembly line. Everyone will have fun adding their ingredient(s) and passing the taco along to the next person. (Just be sure to have everyone wash their hands first.) Dinner will be on the table in no time! And don’t forget to do the dishes too … Mom will be thrilled!
For this year’s celebrations I was looking for food that is really easy to prep and cook, that would easily feed a gang, and that everyone would love. Whenever I am barbecuing chicken, the neighbors stop by to see what I’m making. Grilled chicken, that’s a good place to start. A quick prep, lots of Mexican spices, and I was on my way to the grill!
One of my favorite Mexican meals is Tacos al Pastor, made with pork and pineapple. I love how the fruit marries beautifully with the meat. With that dish in mind, I put together an easy pineapple salsa. Oh my goodness, the combination with the chicken was fantastic and exactly what I wanted. I have extra salsa leftover and can’t wait for our next round of chicken (or maybe pork) tacos!
When people talk about tacos in this country, they usually mean seasoned hamburger in hard taco shells with some cheese on top. I took this outside, cooked the chicken on the grill, and used soft corn tortillas to make beautiful, Mexican-style chicken tacos.
Before I popped the chicken on the grill, I marinated it in regular tomato-based salsa, a pico de gallo. You could certainly use a tomatillo-based salsa (salsa verde) if you like more citrusy flavor. Here in California we can buy fresh salsa at the store, but if you can’t find that where you are and don’t want to make your own, any bottled salsa will do.
To save more time, I grilled the chicken pieces a day ahead and stored them in a resealable bag in the refrigerator. When I was ready to serve I pulled them out, sliced them thinly crosswise, placed them on a plate, covered it, and microwaved until warm. The chicken tasted like it had just come off the grill and couldn’t have been easier or faster to make. My whole family loved this and was begging for seconds – my benchmark for success!
If you are looking for an extra fun adult treat to serve with a cheese platter for your guests to enjoy before dinner, take a look at the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon from Robert Mondavi Private Selection. This is a limited release wine from the Central Coast, vintage 2014. The wine is made from grapes grown in Monterey County, California – the warm days and cool nights create ideal condition for the grapes to develop complex flavors and rich colors. Then a portion is selected to be aged for an additional 3 months in new and used Bourbon Whiskey barrels. The new barrels add a toasty flavor and the used barrels, from a world-renowned Kentucky distillery, adds vanilla aromas and dried herbal notes. The slightly smokiness elevates any grilled meats.This is the perfect beginning to your summertime BBQs!
Having some recipes on hand that I can prepare in advance and have available during the week is always helpful. The next time you are planning on using your grill, think about cooking food for two or more meals at the same time. Then you can serve some that evening, saving the rest for busy weeknight meals. If you include this Mexican chicken, I promise you will get rave reviews!
Happy Cinco de Mayo and Happy Mother’s Day!!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Make sure your grill is cleaned and all debris brushed off the hot grates before adding the chicken. When you turn it over, if is sticks, leave it alone for another minute or two. Don’t force it – it will release easily when it is ready!
If you use any prepared ingredients always check the labels carefully for ingredients that may not be safe. For the most control, make your own from scratch. If you use your grill to cook regular foods that contain gluten, the safest way to cook for someone with celiac or gluten-intolerance is to lay a sheet of heavy-duty foil on part of the grill and cook your gluten-free foods on that. Be sure to use a separate set of tongs or other implements when turning the foods and have separate plates to carry the food back into the kitchen. For many even having their foods brush against regular foods can cause a reaction!
- 3 cups prepared salsa
- 1 tsp honey or agave syrup
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, or a combination
- 3 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp ground ancho chile powder
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh Pineapple Salsa
- 1-1/2 cups fresh pineapple cubes (if you cannot find fresh pineapple, use canned pineapple packed in water and drain well)
- 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, chopped finely
- 1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, stem, seeds and ribs discarded, finely minced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Juice of 1 to 2 limes, to taste
- 1 tbsp organic olive oil
- Fresh cilantro, chopped, to taste
- 12 corn tortillas (look for gluten-free if needed)
- Shredded Monterey Jack cheese (leave off for dairy-free)
- Chopped green onions
- Fresh cilantro, stems removed, leaves finely chopped
- Lime wedges
- Marinate the Chicken: In a food processor or blender, place the salsa, honey, lime juice, cumin, cilantro, and salt. Process until smoothly blended. Transfer to a large resealable plastic bag and add the chicken. Seal the bag, pressing out the air. Massage the chicken to make sure all surfaces are coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, turning occasionally so all sides of the chicken are coated with the marinade.
- Grill the Chicken: Preheat your gas grill over high heat or build a medium-hot charcoal fire, banking the coals on one side of the grill. If using gas, turn down to medium heat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Brush chicken pieces with the olive oil, sprinkle all sides with the paprika and chile powder, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the hot grill and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until the chicken is browned and cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes total, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of the thickest part registers 160°F.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes lightly covered with foil. Cut into thin slices. Wrap chicken slices in foil, and place back on the cooler part of the grill to keep warm.
- Warm the corn tortillas on the grill until softened, about 20 seconds per side, flipping with tongs as needed. Transfer to a foil packet to keep warm and pliable.
- Make the Pineapple Salsa: Prepare all the ingredients for the salsa, chopping everything to small bite-sized pieces (this makes it easier to eat). Place the pineapple, bell pepper, onion, and jalapenos in a mixing bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle very lightly with salt and pepper. Add the lime juice and olive oil, starting with the juice of one lime, then taste and add more if it needs it. Toss again until everything is evenly coated. Add as much cilantro as you like, reserving a few sprigs for garnishing the salsa and plates.
- Assemble the Tacos: Place some of the chicken in a warm tortilla, add a spoonful or two of the pineapple salsa, sprinkle the top with shredded cheese, green onions, and cilantro. Make 2 to 3 per person and serve with lime wedges. Pass additional toppings and salsa at the table so everyone can customize their own tacos.
- Yield: about 12 tacos; 4 to 6 servings
Create a New Tradition Today!
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