Monday, July 12, 2010

My Go-To Crock-Pot Recipe: Chili Chicken Tacos

I am fully aware that I haven't harnessed the power of the crock-pot.  Really, crock-pots are a great tool.  I even came across a blog where a woman cooked with her crock-pot exclusively for a full year.  They're great at combatting the dinnertime fatigue that can make people (like me -- this is a weakness of mine), just throw up their hands and say, "Let's just go get something somewhere."  I know from experience, dinnertime fatigue is a budget buster.  Plus, it's so easy.  You pop a few things in there, switch it on, and it practically makes dinner for you.  Amazing!

The previous paragraph probably makes me sound like a crock-pot aficionada. Definitely not. I got my crock-pot as a wedding present seven years ago, but I've only made a few recipes with it.  I'm not sure why this is.  I got a crock-pot cookbook with it but the majority recipes sounded unappetizing, plus they required a bunch of processed, pre-made things. Being the from-scratch kind of girl I am (that's just how I learned to cook), not to mention a natural foods enthusiast, I've always shied away from things like Velveeta, canned condensed soups, and salad dressing mixes.  That said, the things I have made in the crock-pot have been really good, but I still feel limited (and a tiny bit afraid) when it comes to my crock-pot. (Recipe submissions welcome.)

But even if I only use my crock-pot once in a while, it's worth having for this recipe. My one, go-to crock-pot recipe for Chili Chicken Tacos.

I got the recipe from Everyday Food magazine and I've used it over and over. On the days I make it, my husband walks through the door after work and the first thing he says is, "Are you making those tacos?!"  I especially love this recipe because it takes five minutes to make.

First the recipe, then the the how-to:

Chili Chicken Tacos (from Everyday Food)

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup prepared tomato salsa
1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 Tbsp. chili powder
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 hard corn taco shells
Cilantro, shredded cheese, lime wedges, and sour cream, for serving (optional. Well, the recipe says optional, I say "Highly recommended".)

The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but I buy the bone-in, regular chicken thighs. The results are better, even if it's a little less healthy. The bones and skin keep the meat from drying out and they make it more flavorful. Once the chicken's cooked, I throw out the skin and bones anyway. No big deal. Plus, chicken thighs are much cheaper than chicken breast; getting bone-in chicken thighs are even less expensive. Since I buy chicken all-natural and sometimes organic, I'll take any savings I can get!

The only tricky ingredient in this recipe is the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  Maybe they're easy to find in your area, but I have the hardest time finding them in mine. If you have a hard time finding them, don't get discouraged. Someone will carry them.  Your search will be rewarded by the sheer deliciousness of the recipe.

Here's another thing about this ingredient: once you buy it, you only need a tiny bit of it. The recipe only calls for a tablespoon or two of chopped chiles. That's like one pepper.  It's like tomato paste - you only use a little bit and are left wondering what do you do with the rest of the can.  I freeze mine. Then I always have them at the ready when I want to make these (and other recipes with chipotle peppers, like this spicy mac 'n cheese recipe. Yum.). They keep for a long time in the freezer. That way, I don't have to make my special trip to the store I don't usually shop at to buy them very often. So even though the can I buy costs like $3-4 bucks, it goes a looooong way.

Chop up your chipotle chiles and slice up the garlic cloves. I always use a separate cutting board for these two ingredients. Don't really want my sugar cookies or pizza dough to have a hint of adobo sauce.

The peppers are part of what gives the recipe some kick, so if you like things spicy, go with the 2 Tbsp. of peppers; less if you want them more mild. The same goes for the amount of chili powder.  Adjust it to your family's tastes.

Put the chicken in the crock-pot, then add the salsa, sliced garlic, chopped peppers, chili powder, and salt and pepper.  Cook on high for four hours (or cook on low for 8 hours). 

While it's cooking, I highly suggest whipping up some pico de gallo and guacamole.  I learned how to make the perfect pico de gallo and guacamole from the Pioneer Woman.  In the summer there are some days when I just serve pico and guac with tortilla chips for dinner. We love it that much at our house - even the boy can't get enough guacamole!

Once the meat is cooked, shred it with a couple forks. The recipe says to moisten it with some of the cooking juices, but I'm telling you, I never have to because I cook with the bone and skin. So, if you've followed my slightly unhealthy lead, this is when you remove the bones and skin.  I love how slow-cooked meat just falls apart, don't you? Note: you could use this meat in so many different ways. It's amazing in tacos, but would also be great on nachos or even in enchiladas. It's quite versatile.

Here's an awesome tip I learned from somewhere (can't quite remember where) -- I use a muffin tin to assemble tacos. Just flip it over and stick the shells in there.  This helps you avoid breaking the shells as you fill them. Works like a charm!

Some cheese, pico de gallo, and some sour cream make these tacos muy delicioso. This is a perfect summertime dinner because you don't have to work in a hot kitchen. I just made them last night for dinner and I'm craving them as I type this.  Good thing I've got leftovers for lunch...

By the way, I'm totally serious about getting recipe submissions. I really want to use my crock-pot more often. If you have a great crock-pot recipe, send it my way!


thegirlwiththeplan said...

I am kind of a crock pot freak.

Here is my go to dinner.
Asian Chicken

6 cans and some sausage
Chicken Pinneapple Curry
Shredded Garlic Lime Tacos

go here

Shauna said...

This looks awesome...I'm sooo cooking it this week. I'm always on the lookout for things that distract from the fact that I am essentially making some sort of burrito/taco/enchilada about 4 times a week.

Also, I picked up chipotle peppers at the store today (the exact same can), and mine were only .90. (we have a pretty substantial Mexican population here, which makes getting ingredients like these a breeze). Anyway, my point is I'd be happy to bring you some when we're there in September. Let me know, and thanks for the recipe!

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