Over the weekend, I managed to contract pink eye. I know it must have been at school this past week; working in a school exposes you to so many different diseases. The flu. Lice. Colds and coughs. And pink eye. No matter how often you wash your hands or use antibacterial gel, you always come away with something.
That being said, I had to stay home Monday because I was contagious. Kenny mandated me to take it easy – I have been running around like crazy the past few weeks. Don’t you love that man? So, the obedient wifey I am, I relaxed and had a lovely day. After going to the doctor and picking up my prescription, I took my dog for a walk in the park and caught up with How to Get Away With Murder. I listened to the newest This American Life, which is SUCH a great show from NPR. I laughed and cried and learned about the fascinating Dunning- Kruger effect. There were also a few naps scattered in there. And (more than) a few twizzlers. An unexpectedly relaxing day!
Dinner-time snuck up on us, and I needed to put something together fast. There are a few meals I keep in my back pocket for these occasions. They are simple meals, very fresh and healthy, and really darn delicious. I had chicken marinating in the fridge, so my choice was easy. Go-to chicken tacos!
I love this meal for so many reasons. For one, it’s SO delicious. After eating it, you feel so satisfied and … just good inside. Lean sweet and spicy chicken, fresh pico de gallo (you’ll never go back to store bought!) and avocado with lime. In under 30 minutes. I mean, weeknights don’t get better than this.
I’ve been making my own pico for a long time. It’s so simple and fresh, and tastes delicious on everything from tacos to eggs to a tortilla chip. When I got my food processor a year ago, the process became so much easier. It takes under 10 minutes to prepare the pico! If you don’t have a food processor, you should consider it. I use mine all the time.
The grill pan I have is this one by Bobby Flay. I LOVE it. The trick to cooking meat well on a cast iron grill pan is to get it really, really hot before you brush it with oil and put on the meat. The meat should be the same width (you might need to bring out your tenderizer like I did to pound it to the same width), and should be cooked until a nice charred sear appears before flipping.
The other tool you’ll need is a meat thermometer. Trust me when I say this will be your best friend. Chicken needs to cook to 165F; After flipping my chicken and cooking on the second side, I checked the temperature every few minutes to track when it reached 165F. After that you can remove it from the heat and let it sit for a couple minutes.
My Go-To Chicken TacosPrint Recipe
- 2-3 chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp paprika
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp Italian seasonings
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp lemon pepper
- 1.5 tbsp honey
- 8 - 10 tortillas (we love El Milagro)
- 1 avocado, sliced thin
- 4-6 limes
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1 sweet onion
- 1 bunch cilantro
Up to 12 hours before you plan to make the tacos, marinate the chicken. In a large zip lock bag, add the chicken breasts and seal the bag, careful to squeeze out extra air. Using your meat tenderizer, pound the breasts to about 1 inch thick or at least a relatively uniform thickness. Open the bag and combine olive oil, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, garlic, Italian seasoning, 1 tsp salt, lemon pepper and honey with the chicken. Seal the bag, again removing excess air, and squeeze bag until all ingredients are mixed and chicken is coated. Refrigerate for 3-12 hours.
When you are ready to eat, heat your grill pan over high heat, remove the chicken from the fridge, and prepare the pico de gallo. Remove the outer layer from the onion and the knob on the top. Cut the onion in half and each half into 3 sections. Using a food processor, process half of the onion at a time, pulsing and processing to make sure the onion is cut evenly. Remove and place into a large bowl. Repeat with the other half of the onion.
Cut your tomatoes into sixths as well. In the sink, use your finger to remove the seeds from each sixth. Process 3 to 4 pieces at a time, pulsing in between processing to ensure an equal cut. Remove, add to the bowl with the onions, and repeat until all tomatoes are cut. Then, remove the leaves from your bunch of cilantro and add to the processor. You should have about 1 - 1.5 cup of cilantro leaves (before processing). Process, scraping down the edge if needed, until finely chopped. Add to the bowl of tomato and onion. Juice 2-3 limes into the bowl, stir to combine, and salt and pepper to taste. Pico done!
Your grill pan should be hot by now. Brush the pan with olive oil when you will put the chicken. Lay the chicken onto the grill pan and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes or until there is a nice sear. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 5 minutes, using your thermometer to gauge the temperature. If chicken needs to flip a second time back to the original, already seared side, position the flip so that the sear marks will be perpendicular. Once chicken has reached 165F, remove from heat and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
While your chicken is resting, slice your avocado. Squeeze half of a lime over the avocado to prevent it from browning, then lightly salt. Warm your tortillas over the grill pan or in the microwave. When the chicken is done, slice it into strips.
To assemble tacos: place a few strips of chicken, avocado, and a hearty spoonful of pico in your tortilla. Enjoy!
Leftover pico keeps for about 1 week in the refrigerator, and is wonderful on scrambled eggs.