Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grilled Lime Chicken Soft Tacos and Mexican Rice

Our CSA has provided us with an abundance of peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos over the last few weeks, so I thought a good Mexican meal would help use up some of that. As well, a friend gave us a pile of limes from her tree as well. Some were what you expect limes to look like, small and green. A few, however, looked like lemons; large and yellow. Scratch them, and they smelled of lime.

The lime marinated chicken came out moist and tangy. I got a good sear, and great grill marks. Slicing it across the grain ensures that it will be tender. After turning of the gas to the grill, I used the residual heat to warm up the fresh corn tortillas from my local tortilleria.

I made salsa verde, which I love, with the tomatillos.  I had a pile of wonderful cherry tomatoes from the CSA, so diced those up. I had some mixed sweet peppers, no idea what varieties other than pale yellow, orange, and bright red. I grilled those, to get a nice char on the outside, and then sliced them in thin strips. I also included some chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, and a couple of lime wedges, just in case.

Instead of sour cream, I used fat free Greek yogurt. It works really well, having a great mouth feel and tang, and being healthier, to boot.

I am generally not a fan of Mexican rice, as served at most restaurants. I haven't worked out what they do, but there is always an off taste to me. So, I thought I'd try my own, see how it came out. I'd recently tried it in a rice cooker, and it was better flavor wise, but the texture was off.  I was determined to get it right.

My recipe is based on this one from the food.com website, which has an average rating of a smidge under 5 stars, with nearly 500 reviews. It deserves it! The method is flawless, most of my changes are out of frugality, the ingredients I had to hand, and preferred flavor profile. It produced the best Mexican rice I've ever had. Part of that may be ingredients.

For the tomato puree, I used a couple of largish yellow heirloom tomatoes, and 3 or 4 small red ones, all at the upper edge of usable ripeness. I used serranos instead of jalapenos, because that's what I had, but the flavor was great. I cut way back on the cilantro, as I didn't want it to be the dominant taste. Finally, I pureed the tomatoes and onion a little at a time to creep up to 2 cups, rather than make more than two cups and throw away the extra, as recommended in the original recipe. Just seemed wasteful to me. Rinsing the rice did seem to produce a wonderfully fluffy rice. I found that the aroma of the toasting rice was heavenly.


Grilled Lime Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
zest of one large lime
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. dehydrated onion
1/2 tsp. dehydrated garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cumin

Place all ingredients in a sealable storage bag. Remove as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Remove breasts from marinade, pat dry. Grill until done. Rest meat for 5 minutes, then slice thinly across the grain.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

1/2 lb. tomatillos, hulled and washed
1 serrano chili
1 shallot, diced
1 Tblsp. diced cilantro
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
juice of 1/2 a small lime

Cut tomatillos in half; place cut side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Place under a low broiler until soft, and slightly browned, about 3 - 5 minutes.  Let cool. Roast serrano chili over a burner until charred. Cool, remove skin, seeds, and inner membranes. 

Place tomatillos, chili, cilantro, salt, and lime juice in a blender.  Blend on low until smooth.

Mexican Rice

8 -12 oz. ripe tomatoes, cored
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 serrano chilies
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tblsp. minced garlic
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tblsp. chopped cilantro

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a blender, process onion on, adding tomatoes a few at a time, until you have 2 cups puree.  Remove stems, seeds, and inner membranes from serrano chilies, then mince. Place rice in a strainer, and rinse until water runs clear, 1 - 2 minutes. In a large ceramic lined cast iron pot, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat for two minutes. And rice, fry about 8 minutes, until translucent and lightly toasted. Add garlic and serrano chilies, fry and addition couple of minutes. Turn heat down to medium low, and puree and stock. Just bring to a boil, then put on the lid, and place in oven. Bake about 25 minutes, until fully cooked.  Stir at the 15 minute mark to incorporate everything evenly.

Happy Eating!

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