Monday, September 15, 2014

Kung Pao Chicken Tacos

Asian tacos? Who knew? The idea of putting stir fry in a taco shell sounded sort of weird to me at first but I'm all about fusion cuisine so when saw this recipe as I flipped through my cooking magazine, I decided to go for it. I don't care for the aftermath on the kitchen floor after I serve rice to the kids so maybe this was my ticket to eating Asian flavors AND a cleaner kitchen? YES! The recipe was delicious and the whole family loved it. I've served this for dinner three times already since we moved in with my in-laws, and the tacos have quickly become my father-in-law's favorite.
Coating the chicken pieces in cornstarch creates a crispy-tender yet healthier "crust" reminiscent of the fried version you would find at a Chinese restaurant. The recipe comes together pretty quickly, as long as you remember to toss the chicken in a bag with soy sauce earlier in the day (it's totally fine marinating for longer than 30 minutes, even overnight if you want). I love how this recipe incorporates raw celery and bell pepper with the cooked chicken for added color contrast and crunch.  I like to use Trader's Joe's Corn and Wheat "Tortillas de me Abuela" as I find the addition of wheat to the corn results in a softer tortilla that doesn't leave your mouth feeling like it's stuffed with cotton balls. I usually double the recipe so that we can have leftovers and we like our food spicy so Graham and I scoop extra sambal oelek or Sriracha sauce onto our tacos for added heat. 
This recipe reheats wonderfully if you are looking for something you can make ahead and then serve later. I have brought it to friends who have just had babies on numerous occasions and I almost always get asked for the recipe. Just pack up the cooked chicken tossed with the vegetables and sauce into a gallon ziplock. Deliver with the peanuts, limes and tortillas on the side. If you're looking for something new and different, give this recipe a try!
Kung Pao Chicken Tacos
(adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup diagonally sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sliced green onions
8  (6-inch) corn and wheat tortillas
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
4 lime wedges

Place chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce to bag; seal. Marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place 1/4 cup cornstarch in a shallow dish. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Add chicken to cornstarch in dish, and toss chicken to thoroughly coat. Shake off excess cornstarch.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of coated chicken; sauté for 6 minutes or until done, turning to brown. Remove chicken from pan using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Repeat the procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil and coated chicken.
Combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, honey, and next 3 ingredients (through sambal oelek) in a microwave-safe bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Microwave at HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring twice. Stir in garlic. Combine soy sauce mixture, chicken, celery, bell pepper and green onion; toss to coat chicken and vegetables.
Warm tortillas in the microwave or under the broiler. Place 2 tortillas on each of 4 plates; divide chicken mixture evenly among tortillas. Top each taco with chopped peanuts; serve with lime wedges and hot sauce, if desired.
Serves 4

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posted by kelsie