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ancho chili chicken tacos with cider glazed red onions

I can/will/want to eat tacos every single day. I’ve yet to get sick of them, and they keep getting better with age and experimentation. Am I talking about tacos or wine? Ok, both.

ancho chili chicken tacos with red onions

Do you remember your first taco? I do. Sibley State Park camp ground, age 7. Ha and not kidding. Margaret Fransen offered my parents something she was cooking up on her camp stove–crunchy shell, seasoned beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato. It was new to us (and it was awesome) but just the beginning. Thank you, Margaret.

My taco/Mexican evolution went something like this: Margaret’s Old El Paso Taco > Taco John’s soft shells > Chi-Chi’s in the ’80s > Don Pablo’s in the ’90s > variations of this Martha Stewart recipe > and then the changer of all game changers: the day Tim and I landed the last 2 brunch seats at Chicago’s Frontera Grill. Even though I did not eat tacos that day, it was the introduction to Rick Bayless (and his cookbooks) that lead to eating corn tortillas and learning how to make more authentic Mexican food.

white corn tortillas

It is interesting to observe that once I learned how to successfully heat up a corn tortilla, and quit buying flour as a thoughtless habit, the taco options grew exponentially for any meal of the day. Scrambled eggs and sautéed greens, beans and cheese, guacamole and fried egg, chicken and onions, steak and radishes, fish and cabbage slaw, sausages and kimchi, brussels and sweet potatoes. Good grief, we’ll eat corn tortillas filled with anything.

Chicken tacos

This simple chicken taco recipe I am sharing with you here is inspired from Rick in a couple ways that I can readily think of: the grilled chicken with knob onions (page 180) and the adobo marinade (page 140), both from his original Mexican Everyday. I’ve made a few changes over time that work for me and what I usually have on hand. I like the mild Ancho chili taste (poblanos) and have sweetened it up with orange juice, my latest sweetener craze.

fresh squeezed orange juice

It’s easy to make, keeps in the fridge, and adds great flavor for grilling or sautéing meat.

ancho chile marinade

Here’s the marinade:

Ancho Chili Marinade
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Makes: ½ cup, easily doubled
Inspired from Rick Bayless
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup orange juice or ½ orange squeezed and strained
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in pan and add crushed garlic, sauté for 1 minute.
  2. Add oregano and ancho, and stir over the heat.
  3. Add vinegar, orange juice, salt, and water. Whisk until combined.
  4. Heat over medium-high heat until it's bubbling. Turn to low to simmer for 8-10 minutes to blend flavors.
  5. When completely cool pour into a small jar with tight lid and store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Ancho chile chicken

Here’s the chicken and my new favorite way to make onions for tacos (barely cooked with a little crunch). I finish them off with a splash of apple cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste.

red onions finished in apple cider vinegar

Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cider Glazed Red Onions
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Makes: 12 tacos
Ingredients
Chicken
  • 1 lb of chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup Ancho Marinade (recipe above)
Onions
  • 1 red onion (or white) sliced into thin rings, all rings cut in half
  • 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil or clarified butter
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Toppings
Instructions
Chicken Prep:
  1. Rinse chicken breasts in cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  2. Cut chicken breasts in half lengthwise making 2 large strips.
  3. Salt and pepper chicken and let set for a few minutes before adding marinade.
  4. Pour ¼ cup Ancho Chile Marinade into a prep dish, adding more as needed.
  5. Generously brush chicken breasts with marinade on both sides and set in shallow dish.
  6. Let chicken rest with marinade for up to 30 minutes. If you want to do this longer, then pop in fridge until ready. If it's going to be more than an hour, cover or place chicken breasts in large baggie with marinade and rub it around to coat the chicken. (This is not an overnight marinade!)
Directions for Grilling Chicken:
  1. Sear on direct high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, remove from direct heat and cook slowly over indirect heat for about 6 minutes, turning a couple of times.
  2. Remove to plate, cover with foil and let rest while you prepare the onions and tortillas.
Directions for Pan Frying Chicken:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan on medium high heat.
  2. Add marinaded chicken breast pieces, scraping sauce into pan.
  3. Sauté on both sides until cooked through, about 6-10 minutes total, set on a clean plate and cover with foil while you make the onions.
Onions
  1. Heat clarified butter or olive oil in sauté pan on medium high heat, add onions and toss around.
  2. Sauté for about 5 minutes only, stirring a few times. You want them limp but still a little crunchy.
  3. Turn the heat up a bit, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and stir until vinegar evaporates.
  4. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
Assembling Tacos:
  1. Slice chicken into thin strips or pull apart with 2 forks to shred. If chicken has cooled or you make it ahead, reheat in pan with meat juices poured in or add a couple tablespoons of water and a tablespoon of extra sauce. Stir to reheat and shred in pan with two forks.
  2. Serve warm corn tortillas with chicken, queso fresco crumbled, warm onions, cilantro leaves and a chipotle salsa if you wish.

Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cider Glazed Onions

Enjoy!

~Heather

Note about kids and corn tortillas: all 3 of my kids had to warm up to eating corn tortillas over the years, even Evie who wasn’t undoing the habit of flour. It’s not an immediate love in texture for kids, from what I’ve noticed. While they didn’t always prefer it, nor were they forced to eat it, we didn’t buy flour and we kept on serving corn as an option. Zip to the present, there are now arguments on who ate the last corn tortilla and rules about putting it on the list when you do. 

 

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