When Tampa Bay Times entertainment editor Stephanie Hayes and I were talking all things taco for her cover story this week, she mentioned a recipe from the New York Times: shredded chicken fit for tacos. The recipe is from former New York Times writer Mark Bittman, a master of using simple techniques and recipes to transform ingredients into full-flavored dishes. This recipe fits the bill. Chicken thighs are boiled in water for about a half an hour, along with some spices, and that is essentially it. (Using the dark meat instead of white results in a more tender, succulent taco topping.)
Stephanie says it's her go-to for homemade tacos, and now it's mine, too.
This recipe is a good example of the perfect taco ingredient: not too showy, but sturdy enough to hold its own and complement the other fillings in the tortilla.
If you want to embark on a Taco Tuesday adventure outside of your home, you'll find tips in Stephanie's story on Page 6E. If you want to re-create the taco magic in your own kitchen, here is some advice.
A guide to Taco Tuesday at home
Meats: As with the recipe for shredded chicken below, it's best to cook your meats slowly for the most sumptuous taco filling. So throw a pork roast in the slow cooker Monday night, or allow an hour or so to do a quick braise on a piece of red meat.
Tortillas: If you're buying some from the store, opt for ones with the least amount of ingredients listed on the package. Particularly if you're buying corn tortillas, the ones with three or so ingredients (one of them should be corn or masa flour) will taste much better.
Cheese: Shredded Monterey Jack is usually the way most home cooks go, but for something a little different and a lot more fresh-tasting, opt for crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese. Neither of these will melt like the Jack will, but they both offer a mildly salty bite.
Salsa: Make your own! It's the easiest taco topping to assemble. In a bowl, mix 6 chopped Roma tomatoes, 4 minced garlic cloves, 2 seeded and minced jalapenos, 1 finely diced red bell pepper, ½ finely chopped red onion, 2 dry ancho chiles (seeded and snipped into pieces), 1 tablespoon olive oil and the juice of 1 lime. Make this first, then refrigerate until you're ready to use, so the flavors have time to meld.