Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend. Last night we grilled chicken out by the lake and built amazing tacos that I simply must share with you all. I’ve done these a few times now, and after bits of modification here and there, they finally taste just right. The ultimate balance of all delicious flavors and textures — juicy, super seasoned grilled chicken, crunchy coleslaw with the snap of balmy, nutty sesame seeds, sweet charred onions, and a savory, creamy, complex, homemade dressing to pull it all together in a soft tortilla, plus a squirt of lime juice. I literally dreamt about them last night. This is the ultimate stress-free summer finger food!
Start with a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I did three big ones and that was plenty for two hungry people plus some leftovers (we’ll see who gets to them first tonight :)). Trim anything gross-looking off, and cut each breast into 3 or so pieces. Now cover with waxed paper and use a meat pounder to gently pound these pieces to about half an inch in thickness. No real rhyme or reason here, they will all come out different shapes. As long as the thickness is about uniform, you’re on the right track! This makes for the most tender chicken.
Now, for the chicken marinade. In a blender, throw in 2 cloves of garlic, 2 scallions, roughly chopped, a quarter cup of soy sauce, the juice of 2 limes, 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar (or honey or agave, use about half if subbing agave) a squirt of Sri racha (or, if you don’t have it, try a little cayenne or chili flakes for a bit of a kick), a hefty shake of salt, and black pepper. Get this all spinning together, and after about 30 seconds, stream in about 3 tbsp. of vegetable oil. This will immediately emulsify the mixture and you’ll have a good, thick sauce. Lay your chicken pieces flat in a big Ziplock bag, and dump 3/4 of this mixture over the chicken, zip it shut, and squish it around gently to make sure all of the chicken is covered in the marinade. Throw it in the fridge and forget about it for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days. The longer, the better. 🙂
You still have a quarter of that mixture in your blender. Throw in about 2 heaping tablespoons of mayo, and get the blender spinning again. As it’s going, stream in another quarter cup or so of vegetable oil. The mayo will further thicken the sauce, and the additional oil you’re pouring in will follow suit and continue to do the same. You’ve just made your very own delicious, flavorful, creamy dressing! Give it a taste. Go ahead and adjust for seasoning here, it may need more salt. This by itself would be so delicious over cucumbers and greens, or to dip french fries in, or mixed into canned tuna fish. Very versatile! Creamy dressings are one of my biggest weaknesses. I put the dressing in a squeeze bottle for easy application later, but if you don’t have one, you can keep it in Tupperware and spoon in onto your taco.
As your chicken’s marinating, the next step is to prepare the slaw. I used red and green cabbage because we had both in the house, but you can also just do one color. I happen to love the red especially, because once it’s dressed and sits a while, the pretty color seeps into the sauce and it all turns out a gorgeous light fuchsia. Sometimes it’s hard to believe colors so vibrant can come from a vegetable.
I sliced my cabbage (about a quarter-head of each color) very thinly. Also slice two scallions thinly and set these veggies aside. In a big bowl, prepare the sauce for your slaw: 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar (or rice vinegar), 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. salt, black pepper to taste, 3 tbsp. mayo, 2 tbsp. sour cream, and a small handful of sesame seeds. Whisk this all together briskly until everything’s combined into a smooth mixture. Then, dump your cabbage and scallions in and toss with salad tongs until everything’s coated. Done!
You are now ready to head to the grill (once your chicken’s marinated for your desired length of time). In addition to the chicken, the creamy dressing, and the slaw, you will need: flour tortillas (taco-sized), spring onions, and lime wedges. Spring onions look like mini white onions with a scallion growing out of the top. I believe these are seasonal (hence the name). We had these in Mexico for the first time and fell in love with them. If you can’t find them, I’d recommend using whole scallions instead. Either way will be great, as both will end up with a sweet caramelized onion flavor after charring on the grill.
Get your coals hot (or your gas turned on) and warm up the grill until it’s at about medium heat. Throw the chicken on first, and cook about 4-5 minutes on each side. This will vary, as it’s hard to control the temperature of a charcoal grill (at least, it is for me!). You’ll know when it’s done…the chicken will have a great deep amber color on it, even charred in some spots, and it will be firm to the touch.
Throw your spring onions on the grill about halfway through the chicken’s cooking time. Once they’re on, keep an eye on them and turn them every few minutes, to evenly cook every bit.
Pull your chicken off and wrap it in foil to keep it warm and let the juices redistribute throughout the meat. If timed properly, you should be able to pull the onions off about 8 minutes after the chicken comes off, which is the perfect amount of time for the chicken to sit after grilling. Doesn’t really matter, but I was hungry and didn’t want to wait longer than I had to. 🙂
Right before your build your tacos, toss your tortillas right on the grill grate and let ’em warm up for a few seconds on each side. I prefer mine soft and malleable, which really doesn’t take long at all on a toasty grill.
To assemble your taco: slice a piece of grilled chicken thinly, against the grain of the meat if possible. It’s going to be tender enough that it won’t really matter, but this makes for the perfect bite. Cut up as much as you like and throw it on your warm tortilla. Now dress liberally with the creamy dressing you made earlier. Slice a grilled spring onion or scallion up and toss that over the sauced chicken. Finally, pile some slaw up on top. Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the taco, and voila.
It’s the perfect combination of flavors — the warm, soft tortilla, which will start to soak up some of the dressing, the awesome crispy char of the sweet/salty/tangy chicken, and the crunch of the slaw and sweetness of the onion make this a winning combo. A lot of ingredients pop up more than once in this recipe, which I think makes for a really complete end product. For example, there is scallion in the chicken marinade, the creamy dressing, the slaw, and on the taco. Each application is different, but not overpowering.
Hope you guys love these as much as we did! I’d love to hear how they come out, and do share any awesome substitutes or additions! Thank you for reading. 🙂
For the chicken/marinade/creamy dressing:
- 2 or 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 c. soy sauce
- Juice of 2 limes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 scallions
- 2 heaping tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. Sri Racha chili sauce
- 3 tbsp. plus 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 heaping tbsp. mayo
For the slaw:
- Quarter head red cabbage, sliced very thinly
- Quarter head green cabbage, sliced very thinly
- 2 scallions, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp. mayo
- 2 tbsp. sour cream
- Small handful sesame seeds
- Spring onions or scallions
- Small flour tortillas
- Lime wedges
- Beer to drink!