Vicki James-If you love spicy sweet flavors, the crunch of vegetables and peanuts, and the convenience of a hand held meal, this recipe is for you. I recently made these wonderful tacos and I can hardly wait to tell you about them. You could also serve the filling over rice, but using tortillas makes it fun and provides a space to tuck in the crunchy raw veggies and nuts that take the recipe over the top. Using tortillas makes it possible to enjoy the whole crazy mix of flavors and textures in each bite.
The recipe serves four at two tacos each. It's not hard to make but may be a little too time consuming for dinner on a weeknight. You have to cut up a lot of ingredients, which is always a time suck. However, last time I had it on the menu, I asked the butcher to cut up the thighs into bite size pieces for me. He didn't look terribly happy about it, but I pretended not to notice. It's worth absorbing some mild hatred to cut all that prep work.
Here’s the recipe:
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
¼ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, divided
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts
¾ cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
8 corn tortillas (I used flour)
1/3 cup sliced green onions
½ medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 lime wedges
1. Place chicken in a zip lock bag with 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Marinate 30 minutes at room temperature. Remove chicken from bag and toss the pieces in ¼ cup cornstarch. Salt and pepper the coated chicken. Shake off excess cornstarch.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to pan. Swirl to coat. Add half of the chicken and sauté for 6 minutes, browning all sides. Remove cooked chicken to a paper towel covered plate. Add the other tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat until all chicken is browned.
3. Combine remaining 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce and next three ingredients in a microwave safe bowl. Stirring until cornstarch is well dissolved. Microwave on high for 1 ½ minutes until slightly thick, stirring twice. Stir in garlic. Combine sauce with chicken, peanuts and celery. Toss to coat.
4. Toast tortillas under broiler or on the griddle. Divide chicken mixture evenly among the tortillas. Garnish with green onions and red bell pepper strips, serve with lime wedges.
Dig in! They are delicious and fairly low in calories since you can have two for only 418 calories. Of course, if you're like me and are only serving two, you may find yourself sneaking extra pieces of yummy chicken. Oh well, if they don't make it into the tortilla, it doesn't really count, right?
I have to provide you with a few Vicki variations now, some of which are courtesy of the reviewers of this recipe on the Cooking Light website. I doubled the sauce and I think it's a must. I guess that, too, plays havoc with the calorie count, but so be it. Be sure to remove the bowl from the microwave and stir it every 30 seconds. It gets thick in a hurry. Depending on how it looks after a minute, you may want to cut the time to 15 or 20 seconds for the last round of cooking. This sauce is phenomenal. The depth of flavor is just ridiculous. The combination of the crisp celery, red bell pepper, and bright spritz of lime is sooooooooo good!
Also, I did not mix the peanuts in with the sauce, but saved them to sprinkle on top of each taco, for maximum crunch. Of course, you can add them to the sauce and save some to sprinkle as well.
The first time I made this recipe, I realized at the last minute that I was out of dark sesame oil. I had some hot chili sesame oil, so I used it and cut out the sambal oelek. The sauce took nearly three minutes to thicken. It was delicious, but before reviewing the recipe, I vowed to make it again. Yes, the recipe version is better, but it's nice to know you can make a few substitutions if need be.
Also, I used flour tortillas and I heated them in the microwave. So sue me.
Please make this recipe next time you can't decide between Mexican and Chinese. It will take you to a happy place nestled somewhere in between.