My parents were traditionalists, especially my father. Dinner was always a protein, a carb and a vegetable, (unless it was a homemade soup or stew that had all of those things). We had to have the three things on the plate and dinner was a sit-down affair, around the kitchen table with no TV. But we always had music. My father played the violin, loud, to Gershwin, André Kostelanetz, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, or show tunes. I know all the lyrics to Camelot, My Fair Lady, Gigi, The Music Man and The Sound of Music songs. (oh yes) This was his way of relaxing while having a cocktail (usually a Scotch on the rocks), when he got home from work. And he always took his shoes off and put on his leather house slippers. I know because I was supposed to fetch them for him. Shoot, we missed having our kids do that for us. 🙂
But I digress. Back to food. We NEVER had takeout or deliveries. We never had pizza or Chinese food or tacos for dinner. We never went to any fast food joint, not even Steak ‘n Shake which was sort of an in-between – in between a restaurant and fast food – in those days. No, we always had a three-item dinner every night.
Our friends’ families had pizza or other fast food at times, which was all fairly new then. We would beg and whine to be able to do that, but no, my mother insisted on a healthy home cooked meal.
So that‘s the way I was raised.
And that’s the way our kids were raised.
Our oldest still proclaims that I used to always say, “It’s not a dinner unless it has a green vegetable.” I don’t remember saying that but it sounds pretty good.
So now the kids are gone and it’s just my husband and me. And I have started making chicken tacos for dinner – with a green vegetable! Yes. All totally homemade, they’re fun and delicious!!!
This dish is roughly inspired by an old Food & Wine magazine recipe and the neatest thing about it is about how to cook the chicken. You roast thighs at a high heat (425 degrees) on a rack, so all the fat drains out. The chicken actually comes out practically fried, with no breading. The original recipe has you rub vegetable oil on the skin of the thighs, before roasting but that makes for a lot of smoke and creates a very messy oven. So I roast without any oil and the chicken has turned out equally good, without the smoke and interior oven splattering.
The skin gets crispy and is very tempting to eat a bit of it while you shred the meat off the bone. Delicious! – but we all know it’s not good for you.
So what I’ve been doing is roasting my thighs on a Sunday when I have more time, shreding the meat and having it all ready for a quick weeknight meal of amazing tacos. Makes the whole thing easy-peasy on the night you’re serving. I know the toppings take a bit of time to prepare but roasting and shredding the chicken ahead of time makes this doable for a weeknight. I made this last Wednesday night with both boys home (Yes! Zach is visiting from Poland!) and it was a HUGE hit!
Try this – you will LOVE it!!
WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN TACOS – serves 4 – 6 – makes about 14 tacos
8 chicken thighs with skin and bones – about 3 lbs.
Fresh ground pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. tomatillos, husked, rinsed, cored and finely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of scallions, trimmed, washed and chopped
11/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, preferably homemade
Large handful of cilantro, chop the stem portion from the leafy parts, and mince the stems
Warm corn tortillas
Chopped white onion, soaked in ice water for 10 minutes and drained
Sliced radishes – about 3
Thinly sliced jalepeno pepper – 1/2 – 3/4 of one
Feta cheese, broken into chunks
Sour cream or crème fraiche
Diced avocado – we used 1 whole and another half
Salsa – optional or chopped plum tomatoes
Fresh lime wedges
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry chicken thighs, trimming off excess skin and fat. Salt and pepper both sides of the thighs and place on a rack positioned on a rimmed baking sheet.
Roast for 40 – 45 minutes. Let cool, remove and discard skin, shred the chicken from the bone. You could make a stock from the bones and skin. This is the step that I do on a Sunday afternoon to have a quick taco meal during the week. Store shredded chicken in the fridge in a covered container and take out the night you’re having the tacos as soon as you start making the rest of the meal to take some of the chill off as soon as you can.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large skillet, heat the 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the finely chopped tomatillos, garlic and scallions. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the tomatillos are softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
While sauce is cooking, prepare all your toppings in separate little bowls. A hand mandoline is best to thinly slice the radishes and jalepenos. Soak your chopped white onions in the ice water bath for 10 minutes and drain.
Additionally prepare the corn tortillas. Place stacks of 6 tortillas in aluminum foil that is lined with a damp paper towel on the bottom and the top of the corn tortillas. Seal the aluminum foil tightly around and warm in a 350 degree oven for 5 – 10 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken to the tomatillo sauce. Simmer until the chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes. Then fold in the chopped stems of the cilantro and a few whole leaves. Taste to see if it needs any salt and pepper.
Serve everything immediately. I like to assemble my taco with a smear of sour cream or crème fraiche on the corn tortilla first, then the chicken tomatillo mixture, then the cheese, followed by jalepeno, onion, avocados, radishes, a tiny bit of salsa and finished with cilantro leaves.