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Pulled Chicken Tacos (Braised Chicken Thighs)

Chicken thighs are so dirt cheap and are soooooo tasty and juicy that they are perfect for quick cooking and braising alike.

A few weekends ago I really wanted to make some tacos for Cinco de Mayo and I decided that chicken thighs + braising = good idea.  My thought was to make a modified sofrito* as the braising aromatics and add other spices that would infuse a Mexican vibe, this is what I did to make awesomeness.

  • 8 chicken thighs skin on, bone in
  • Half of an onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 jalapeno chopped
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds (lightly crushed with a kitchen mallet or other method)
  • 2 tsp. ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbls. Tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups of chicken stock

Pre-heat oven to 300° F.

Add salt and pepper to chicken thighs.  In a Dutch oven or other heavy oven safe pot, heat up some canola oil over medium high heat (350°F ish) add chicken skin side down and fry until golden brown, 8-10 minutes, flip and fry for 5 more minutes (work in batches so you don’t crowd the pan), when done set aside and drain any excess fat that may have rendered off the thighs (leave a little though).  Put the pot back on the heat and add the onions, garlic and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and lime juice, scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, let reduce for a minute or two.  Add all the spices sans the bay leaves, stir and let get fragrant for a minutes or so.

frying some chicken

frying some chicken

 

soffrito softening up

soffrito softening up

 

adding the spices

adding the spices

 

 

Add chicken back in and add the stock, tomato paste and bay leaves.  Place into oven and cook covered for 1 – 1 1/4 hours.  The chicken will pick up all that good flavor from the braising liquid and become super tender.

braising goodness

braising goodness

 

cooling down and ready to pull/shred

cooling down and ready to pull/shred

 

Remove from oven, place chicken on a plate and cool enough to handle.  Strain liquid and reserve for later use and other application such as salsa, soup base, etc.  When cool enough, use your fingers or a set of tongs and pull/shred the chicken meat (it should fall apart) and place in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of the reserved braising liquid, discard the skin and bones.  I would suggest serve all your taco topping on the side and let people build their own tacos!

shredded heaven

shredded heaven

Top with your favorite taco toppings, I went with homemade guacamole, sliced white onion, Mexican blend of cheese, taco sauce, sour cream and garnished with cilantro on a soft tortilla ( heat the tortilla on a hot, dry skillet for a few moments)

there you have it, pulled chicken tacos!

there you have it, pulled chicken tacos!

Note:  This is one of those dishes that you could make a few days ahead, it only gets better with time!  Just reheat with a little of the braising liquid in a pan over medium heat.  You might make some awesome pulled chicken sammies with this same method.

* sofrito is kind of like a mirepoix but made out of onion, garlic and pepper, I used jalapeño for this application since I wanted a bit of heat infused into the meat.

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