May 04, 2012

Viva Mexico

The smell of the lightly singed corn tortilla & the memories instantly flood my mind.  I inhale deeply and let the smell fill my head.   

I close my eyes and it's 1993...  I was leaving home for the first time to do a semester abroad.
I was on my way to the state of Jalisco, Mexico to attend the Universidad Autonoma De Guadalajara. 

I remember very distinctly the feeling of stepping off of the plane, walking alone through the airport and realizing that I was on my own in a foreign country...  and speaking Spanish was now a necessity.
The realization that I was the minority in this country where its people were the minority in mine.

Everything was so different; the sounds, the smells, the food...  nothing was familiar to me and as terrifying as that was, it was also the thing that was most exhilarating. 
The most tedious of tasks at home had become an adventure in Mexico, some of them less amusing than others...

I learned more about this country in the few months I lived there than I did in all the years I had been studying it.  Being immersed in a culture other than your own is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.  It opened my eyes to things that changed me for the better, giving me a greater appreciation for what I had.

When I'm craving Mexican food, and quite honestly I don't know that I'm ever NOT, I instantly go to tacos. 
It is street food in Mexico. 

Everyone eats them; there are taquerias on every other corner, each one claiming to have the best of one type or another.  They are inexpensive, fairly simple to prepare and generally a crowd pleaser.
 (those of you with picky eaters, rejoice!)

I made slightly more chicken than I needed so that I could use it in another recipe.  If you are like-minded and wish to cook one protein for multiple uses, stick to the quantities below.  If not, you can reduce the number of chicken thighs to suit your needs.

Chicken Tacos
makes 12 - 16 tacos
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs, bone-in
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 2 large carrots, cut in half
  • 2 stalks celery, cut in half
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half
  • 1 quart chicken stock/broth
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • flour or corn tortillas
  • 1 lime, cut in wedges
  • Garnish: shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, caramelized onion & pickled radish (or, go the more traditional route with diced white onion, cilantro & chiles)

    1. Preheat oven to 325F.
    2. Heat a large, deep frying pan over medium - high heat.  Add olive oil.
    3. Salt & pepper chicken.  Add to pan, bone side facing up.   Sear, then flip over.
    4. Add chicken stock, bay leaves, carrot, onion, celery and cilantro
    5. Cover and place in oven for 45 minutes.
    6. Remove chicken, strain cooking liquid and reserve for another use.
    7. Shred chicken and set aside. 
    8. Warm tortillas, either on a flame or in a pan. (typically served doubled up, not a single tortilla)
    9. Garnish tacos with caramelized red onion, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, cumin crema & pickled radishes.
     I put my tortillas directly over the flame. 
    Keep a close eye on them, as they will burn quickly!
    Traditionally, this is done on a comal...

    Pickled Radishes
    • 10 - 15 radishes
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
    • 5 allspice berries
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tbsp kosher salt

    1. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice radishes very thinly.
    2. Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a simmer.
    3. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes, remove from heat and let cool.

    Cumin Crema
    • 8 oz Crema Mexicana or sour cream
    • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • juice of 1 lime
    1. Combine all ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

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