Charred and crispy-edged chicken makes delicious tacos! Try Grilled Chicken Carnitas Tacos for your next get together.
The allure of chargrilled meat
There is an almost visceral reaction to grilling. All senses come into play. Eyeing a rack filled with chargrilled treats is a welcome sight, a harbinger of what's to come. Certainly, the smell of caramelizing meat will reel anyone in. That smokey, sweet smell as the fire reaches the meat is irresistible. Touch also plays a role as we enjoy the texture of crispy-edged and succulent meat. And how about the sound of a crackling fire creating crackling? The sizzle of fat hitting the hot coals is a signal that the fire is doing its job. Finally, taste. Smoky, sweet, savory, or spicy. Recounting the taste of grilled meat is not a one-word description. Or perhaps the description is a sound - MMM! or OHH! or YUM! Don't forget, licking the lips is a sign of thoroughly enjoyed food.
Typically, carnitas are made with pork shoulder that has been marinated with ingredients such as orange juice, cumin, and oregano. It is slow-cooked until it is falling apart tender and then put under a broiler to crisp the edges of the meat.
With these Grilled Chicken Carnitas Tacos, I take the concept of the pork version and apply it to chicken thighs. The first step is to marinate the chicken for one hour. The marinade also has ingredients that will aid in the formation of crispy, crunchy edges on the chicken and it is these edges that contain some beautiful flavor.
For ease of preparation, after marinating, skewer the chicken along with tomatillos. If you have never tried tomatillos, they are easy to use. Remove the papery husk and give a rinse to the fruit (yes they are technically a fruit).
Add the tomatillos to the skewers to become charred and juicy. As a result, no need for extra salsa in the taco.
Because of the olive oil in the marinade, there is the possibility of flare-ups when drips hit the coals. Be ready to move the skewers if the flame gets too hot. After 5 minutes on the grill, turn the skewers to the other side. Again, cook for 5 minutes. Depending on the heat of your grill, the chicken should be cooked through and have nice charred and crispy edges. The tomatillos will also have some grill marks and become softer.
Equally as important as the grilled meat, are the taco fixings. This is where everyone's individuality shines. Pickled onions are one of my favorite condiments for these tacos. Fast and easy to make, they pack a punch of flavor plus are very pretty.
Since it takes 30 minutes for the onions to soften, it is a good idea to make them while you are waiting for the chicken to marinate. They have a slightly spicy and tart flavor that is somewhat tamed with the addition of honey.
Whatever else you want to add to your taco is your choice - crema, radishes, cheese, cilantro, cabbage, or lettuce. Pile it on!
The complete meal
When you think of it, a taco is a complete meal. It has protein, assorted vegetables, dairy, and starch from the tortilla.
Summer is here and it is grilling time! So, why not enjoy a taco with tender chicken with crispy edges. Treat yourself to Grilled Chicken Carnitas Tacos. You know you want one!
Another grilling idea - https://tenpoundcakecompany.com/grilled-cherry-teriyaki-skewers
Grilled Chicken Carnitas Tacos
- grill or grill pan
- 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, 1 tablespoon small dice
- 1 large orange, zest and juice
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 6 tomatillos
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- 5 slices jalapeno pepper
- 1 clove garlic sliced
- 5 peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tortillas whichever you prefer - corn or flour
- Combine orange juice and zest, lime juice and zest, minced garlic, diced jalapeno pepper, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, and olive oil in a ziplock bag.
- Trim any excess fat from chicken thighs. Cut thighs into three equal pieces. Add the chicken to the bag of marinade.
- Marinate for 1 hour.
- While the chicken is marinating, pickle the onions. This step should be done ½ hour before grilling the chicken.
- Cut the red onion into thin slices and put it in a small bowl.
- Add jalapeno slices, sliced garlic clove, peppercorns, cumin seeds, and kosher salt to the bowl and mix.
- Heat white wine vinegar in the pan until it starts to bubble - only takes a few minutes.
- Add the hot vinegar to the bowl of onion slices. Don't get too close to the bowl as you are pouring in the vinegar. The smell is strong.
- Add the honey to the ingredients and give a stir. Let the onions soften in the vinegar while you prepare everything else. Occasionally give everything in the bowl a stir.
- Get the grill ready. You can use a grill pan on your stove.
- Prep any taco fixings you prefer. I added radishes, Oaxaca cheese (queso fresco would work also), crema, cilantro.
- Remove the papery husk from the tomatillos. Rinse them to remove the sticky residue. Cut each tomatillo into 4 quarters.
- After one hour, thread the marinated chicken and tomatillos onto skewers.
- Place the skewers on the prepared grill. There will be flare-ups because of the olive oil in the marinade. It is best not to place the skewers over the hottest part of the coals.
- Cook for 5 minutes then flip the skewer over. There should be some nice char on the edges of the chicken and the tomatillos.
- After an additional 5 minutes, remove the skewers. The chicken should be cooked but check near the center where the skewer is inserted to check for doneness.
- Remove the chicken and tomatillos from the skewers. Assemble tacos with about 3 ounces of cooked chicken and 2 or 3 tomatillos. Add whatever fixings you like.
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