Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dreaming of Mexico: Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos Recipe

I often crave Mexican food. I have been disappointed by Mexican food in New York City. In Chicago, at the Maxwell Street Sunday flea market and Mexican food stands, I knew I was getting closer to the real deal. In Mexico City, I charted every meal I ate in order to get everything in, and a food and beach tour through the country (ok, yes, after the drug cartels and police work out their differences), might just be nirvana to me.

One of the chefs I worked with during my culinary school externship at Trio restaurant in Chicago took me to Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. We ordered several things, among them a lamb stew, that my friend described as a puddle of love. When my parents were in town I took them to Frontera, and my father, a self-confessed Mexican food hater, fell in love, too. My mother got me the cookbook.

I like to make food that will stay fresh for awhile, that I can eat in different ways, for different meals. Rick Bayless' chicken, chipotle, and cabbage taco (or burrito) filling fits the bill. I like to fill sprouted grain tortillas with this and roll them up with avocado and tomato to take into Manhattan for lunch between classes that I teach, but it can be eaten as a simple salad, too. Sometimes I make an avocado, tomatillo and garlic salsa and use that as a dressing. Frequently, I'll make some black beans to round out the meal. I like to make this spicy, so I add more chipotles than called for. On a particularly warm day, sitting on a bench in Central Park, my spicy burrito in hand, in my mind, at least, I might just be one step closer to that Oaxacan beach vacation.

Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos
from Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate at a Time

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, finely chopped
1/2 small head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded cooked chicken, preferably grilled, roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup coarsely grated Mexican queso anejo or another dry grating cheese, such as Romano or Parmesan
12-16 warm, fresh corn tortillas

1. The Filling. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and chipotles. Season generously with salt, usually about a generous 1/4 teaspoon. Add the cabbage, carrot, onion, cilantro and chicken. Toss everything together and let stand for 15 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary.

2. Finishing the Dish. Scoop the filling into a wide shallow serving bowl, dot with the cubed avocado and dust generously with the cheese. Set on the table with the warm tortillas, and you're ready for some great roll-them-yourself tacos.


lisaboudreau said...

Oh my god!!!! This was soooo good! Made a vegetarian version using tempeh. I served this with the roasted squash and apple soup. I'm glad that I did because otherwise I would have guzzled the dressing!

Banu said...

Yeah, those chipotles can be addictive, huh?