Chicken “Tacos Mexicanos” with Pico de Gallo
Perhaps one day I will live in that mythical part of the foodie world where I buy and consume only freshly butchered free range organic meat. Seriously, I dream about that day. For now, as the wife of a graduate student who has left gainful employment to chase my culinary dreams, I eat whatever meat is on sale and pray that I am not giving us both cancer. That means that there are always spare chicken breasts chasing around my refrigerator because chicken is always sold in groups of three breasts.
I ask myself, who on earth needs three chicken breasts? People usually cook for two, or four. I’ve never seen a recipe written that “serves three.” Despite our general habits of consumption, where I live one can only buy chicken in quantities of three or six. Six is occasionally a reasonable number, and happens to be the number of people I can squeeze around my table in the wintertime. However, most of the time that leaves me dealing with extra breasts. (And not in the sense of my polka-star father’s favorite song “They’re Always in the Way.”)
I’ve come up with a lot of solutions for the extra breast dilemma. Frequently, I split one breast horizontally so that I can do one meal of thinly pounded cutlets, and another of stir fry. Or, I cut the breast in half and use part of it in a soup or stew and another in a stir fry. Or, I roast all the breasts and we eat half of them and use the other half in a stir fry (just kidding, although I do make a lot of various thai and chinese inspired stirfrys, I use the other half of the roasted breasts for curried chicken salad.)
This week I used two of the three breasts in the black-bean chicken chili, so I only had one lonely breast left. I decided to turn it into salsa-verde chicken, to use either as tacos or in enchilada casserole. I make this mythical chicken with my *gasp* (serious foodies should avert their eyes here, or perhaps just stop reading this post altogether, go read this post instead) crock-pot. I usually combine about 1 pound of chicken (boned, boneless, white dark, doesn’t matter here) with one can of Herdez salsa verde, and let it work for about 2 hours on high, or 4 on low. The problem this time is that when I added my one lonely chicken breast to the pot with half a can of salsa, it was clear that there was not enough volume in the pot for it to work its magic.
That left me scrambling for something to increase the volume in the pot. After pondering the options available in the produce drawer, I discovered some stray red-skinned potatoes. Remembering the tacos mexicanos at Anita’s in the D.C. area, I decided that they would do the trick. Please note that potatoes don’t seem to be a necessary or necessarily authentic ingredient in tacos mexicanos, but really what do you expect from a restaurant that specializes in New Mexican (US) style food. The result of adding potatoes to your tacos is surprisingly tasty, and it does give you something to do with your extra breasts. (My husband has other suggestions, but we’re trying to keep this g rated.)
Chicken “Tacos Mexicanos”
serves 2 (easily doubled to serve 4)
Salsa Verde Chicken
In a small to medium crockpot combine:
1 chicken breast
1 small (7oz) can of salsa verde
5 small redskinned potatoes, quartered or 1 cup of diced russet potatoes.
Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through and tender. Shred the chicken. (Remove the bones if you are using bone-in chicken.)
Fresh Pico de Gallo
1 cup of diced fresh tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes last night, but like vine-ripened better.)
1/2 fresh jalepeno pepper, finely diced
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 clove of garlic, mashed into a paste with about 1/2 tsp kosher salt
fresh cilantro to taste (we love it, so we use about 1/4 cup)
optional: 2 tbs olive oil (I’m an acid head, so I leave it out.)
pepper and additional salt, to taste.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. It’s best if it gets to sit for a few hours to let the flavors make friends with eachother.
(totally optional, unless you are my husband who has a fiendish attachment to avocados, you could garnish with sour cream instead for a similar jolt of cool creaminess)
1 ripe avocado
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt
black pepper to taste
2 tbs chopped cilantro.
Smash the avocado (I use a potato masher for best results). Add the lime juice (this is very important if you like your avocado green instead of grey), salt, pepper, and cilantro. Give it a good stir
6 small soft corn tortillas
Salsa Verde Chicken with Potatoes
Pico de Gallo
1/4 cup of crumbled cojita cheese (Feel free to substitute cheddar, pepper jack, or even feta. Cojita reminds me most of the domestic cows milk feta that is readily available in the U.S.)
Brush each tortilla with olive oil and toast in a dry skillet until they begin to brown and get crispy. While hot, drape each tortilla over something to get the desired shell shape, and allow the tortilla to cool. I used a dowel propped between two glasses. Stuff each tortilla with the chicken, pico de gallo, and sprinkle with cheese. Garnish with avocado or sour cream.