I have a legitimate obsession with Mexican food. I really need no excuse to indulge in one of my favorite cuisines. These chicken tacos are easy enough to whip up on a weeknight, especially if you marinate them overnight in this tangy achiote/annatto infused marinade laced with chile powder, Mexican oregano, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and orange juice.
Although the original recipe calls for skin-on chicken thighs, I lightened it up a bit with chicken tenders instead. They were still incredibly juicy and delicious! Grilled and then chopped into small pieces, the chicken is definitely the star of the dish.
We served our tacos with creamy guacamole and charred, smoky tomatillo chipotle salsa. The salsa was so good, we continued dipping our tortilla chips in the remaining salsa long after the tacos were all gone. A combination of tomatillos, tomatoes, onion and garlic charred and then blended with smoky, spicy chipotles in adobo and a generous handful of chopped cilantro. The charred, smoky flavor of this salsa goes really well with fire-kissed grilled chicken tacos.
Whether you serve them together or separate, these achiote-rubbed grilled chicken tacos and the tomatillo chipotle salsa are both big winners in my book!
Tangy Achiote-Rubbed Grilled Chicken Tacos
Makes about 12 tacos; serves 4 to 6
2 pounds skin-on, boneless chicken thighs (I used chicken tenders)
2 tablespoons ground annatto seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons chile powder (preferably arbol) (I stemmed and seeded dried chiles de arbol and ground them up in my spice grinder to make my own chile powder; I used only 1 tablespoon to ensure it wasn’t too spicy, and would be family friendly)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons agave nectar
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 freshly squeezed orange juice
Corn tortillas, warmed
Put the chicken in a large, heavy duty zip top plastic bag. In a small bowl, combine the annatto seeds, allspice, turmeric, chile powder, salt, oregano, agave nectar, garlic, vinegar, and orange juice and mix well. Add the spice mixture to the chicken and seal the bag closed. Massage the contents of the bag to coat both sides of the chicken evenly with marinade. Alternatively, put the chicken in a glass or ceramic bowl, add the spice mixture, turn the chicken to coat evenly, and cover with plastic wrap. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to overnight, turning the chicken a few times to marinate evenly.
Prepare a medium fire for direct heat cooking in a grill. Bring the chicken to room temperature and remove them from the marinade.
Place the chicken, skin side down, on the grill rack directly over the fire and cook, turning after about 10 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes on the other side. If the chicken is starting to burn or cook too quickly, move to a part of the grill with indirect heat and continue to cook. The chicken is done when an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees F.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and chop into small pieces, leaving the skin on. Serve the chicken with the tortillas and toppings of your choice.
Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa
Makes about 4 cups
(From Salsas and Moles)
About 12 tomatillos, husked, washed, and dried
2 Roma tomatoes (8 ounces)
1/2 white onion, peeled but with root end intact (I used a large shallot instead)
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Turn on the fan over the stove. Line a large cast iron skillet or heavy griddle with aluminum foil and set over high heat.
Roast the tomatillos and tomatoes on all sides until well charred and soft, turning as few times as possible. Roast the onion, cut side down, until it begins to soften and has a few black spots, turning it several times. Roast the garlic, in skins, turning a few times, until black spots appear.
Cut the onion into several pieces. Peel the garlic. Place both in a blender along with the chipotles, roasted tomatillos and tomatoes (and any juices), and salt. Cover and let the vegetables steam for 5 minutes, to bring out the juices. Pulse to make a fairly smooth salsa with a little bit of texture. Add the cilantro and pulse a couple more times to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
Pour the salsa into a bowl and serve.