For the Love of Supper: Saucy Tacos
I just love to cook. Ever since I was little, I’ve been deeply interested in the process. When I was as young as three, my dad would wake me up early on Saturdays to help him make waffles from scratch, and it was my honor to separate the eggs and then whip up the egg whites using the hand beater. A few years later, probably when I was around 7 or 8, I started inviting friends and family over to “Miles’* Cafe,” a full service eatery in my dining room where I acted as waitress, chef & dishwasher, and offered menus with prices which I fully expected people to pay.
Throughout my childhood, I told everyone that I would be attending the CIA for college (and delighted in the ensuing conversation about how no, I’m not becoming a spy, I’m going to be a CHEF), and daydreamed about owning my own restaurant. At one point I was hell bent on owning a cafe called “Flour Power” and dreamed up multi colored decor to match its groovy vibe. (Fun fact: I once pulled off of the highway in Livingston Manor, NY to find a bite to eat and literally stumbled upon a cafe with this name and with the same type of decor - next time I looked for it it was gone - SPOOKY)
As I grew into my young adulthood I came to see that a chef’s life is not for me. Grueling hours and low pay don’t really work for a gal who loves to lounge and knit with luxury fibers as much as this one. Still, my love of cooking has continued to grow, and over the last year spent at home, I’ve really upped my game. Through an unreasonable amount of food network consumption and the practice of lots of new recipes found online, I’ve learned some new techniques for making exciting and flavorful stuff. Making up recipes is a true delight and I love to share them with my housemates and celebrate the success of a new dish.
Last night I was planning on Taco night, but I just wasn’t in the mood to make a million little dishes as I usually do (chicken chunks in 1 bowl, peppers and onions in another, salsa, shredded cheese, corn salad, it goes on and on) so I set out to make a one pan filling stuffed with all the amazing flavors I wanted. I was also wanting to make use of my new immersion blender (thanks mom!). This turned out to be one of the more amazing meals we’ve recently shared, and the simplicity of serving & eating it was a JOY. I made a zesty fresh side salad to go with the tacos and voila.
This recipe is long, but really pretty easy to do. Spices can be adjusted to your taste, beer can be replaced with veggie or chicken stock, the chicken could be tofu instead... options are endless. When I am making up a sauce I use this framework (which I picked up while learning how to make Indian-style curry): sweat out the base (onions usually ), add the aromatics (both dry and fresh herbs), add something to thicken (eg tomato paste) , deglaze (booze or broth, plus acidic flavors to taste), smooth it out (purée if you want, add a little butter for richness, season).
After the week we’ve had here in the good old USA it was really nice to get lost in this cooking process. Trying new techniques and processes in the kitchen can be a great way to get excited about nourishing yourself. If it’s something you enjoy, it can be a wonderful form of self care. Sharing home cooked food is also one of the greatest ways I know of to show my love 😍
If you give this recipe a try, let me know how it goes! Give me your tips & tweaks - some may say “if it ain’t broke...” but when it comes to cooking I think there’s always room to improve upon your best dish! Recipe below, my sweets. ✌️
*Miles is my given name, I started going by Penelope when I was 13
Penel’s Saucy Chicken Tacos
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” chunks
- 1 t kosher salt
- 2T olive oil, divided
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 1 sm can sliced poblano pepper (or 1 fresh, roasted, peeled & choped)
- 2-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 t coriander
- 1 t turmeric
- 1 t oregano
- 1 t garlic powder
- 1/2 t cumin
- 1/2t spicy chili powder
- 1/2 t paprika
- 1/4 c tomato paste
- 1/2-3/4 c beer
- 2 T Apple cider vinegar
- 1 T hot sauce
- 1 T orange juice
- 1 T butter
- Cholula, salt & pepper to taste
- Corn tortillas, probably 2-4 pp
- combine chicken chunks with kosher salt in a mixing bowl, stir
- Heat 1 T olive oil in a large heavy bottom pan (I used cast iron) on a medium high flame
- Place chicken chunks in the hot oiled pan in a single layer (do multiple batches if necessary) cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Chicken doesn’t have to be quite cooked through, but shouldn’t be raw on the outside at all.
- Place par-cooked chicken chunks back in the mixing bowl and put aside
- Using the same pan on medium high, heat the remaining olive oil for 1 minute
- Add bell peppers, poblano peppers and onions to the hot pan, cook (stirring occasionally) until very soft and partially caramelized, about 10-15 mins.
- Add fresh garlic, cilantro, coriander, turmeric, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, and paprika, stir to combine and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 mins
- Add hot sauce and tomato paste, stir to combine until the mixture has darkened in color, about 1 min
- Deglaze the pan with 1/3-1/2 c beer, hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice, stir and let cook down for about 10 mins. Add more of the beer as needed while you are cooking to maintain a wet sauce (it should resemble a chunky pasta sauce).
- Taste and add dry seasoning as desired
- Blend the contents of the pan using an immersion blender, leaving some chunks (or per your preference). if you don’t have an immersion blender, blend about 2/3 of the sauce and mix back in to keep some chunkiness.
- Turn the heat to low, add butter and hot sauce and stir to combine. Once butter is melted, season with salt & pepper to taste.
- Add par-cooked chicken into the sauce and stir to coat completely. Let simmer on low for 5 minutes to let the flavors come together and ensure the chicken is fully cooked
- Meanwhile, heat corn tortillas using the method of your choice. I go for the open flame of a burner, about 10 seconds each side.
- Serve tacos simply on the tortillas with a topping of sour cream and salad greens
- Enjoy, and make sure you have napkins at the ready for this saucy delight!
Penel’s House Salad Dressing 1/7/21
In a vessel with at least 1 cup capacity, whisk to combine:
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- 1 T orange juice
- 2T Apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 t garlic powder
- 1/2 t oregano
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 T fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 T mayonnaise
Make a salad of 2 parts chopped romaine and 1 part arugula, seasoned with kosher salt, drizzled with olive oil and tossed before adding 1 chopped avocado. Right before serving, add house dressing and toss to coat. Enjoy the freshest bite!