Tacos Al Pastor are usually made with pork rather than chicken. And usually the meat is sliced thin and wrapped around a large skewer, then grilled on a spit. To me it resembles the way gyro meat is cooked. I love these tacos but for me, it’s really not feasible to make them the traditional way, especially for just the two of us. The sauce used to marinate the chicken has many of the ingredients of a Mexican adobado sauce, including dried chiles, achiote paste and pineapple juice. I made enough to put up in the freezer just like I do for red or green chile sauce. I didn’t have pork on hand but did have a large chicken breast that I thought would be a good compromise. I brushed a good amount of the sauce over the chicken and let it marinate overnight. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to grill it outdoors since it is Winter after all, but we were blessed with a day full of sunshine that made it possible. Who knows when we will have another day as nice as this! I heated the grill to about 325 degrees. The chicken was quite thick and needed to cook a bit slower and longer to keep the moisture inside. It took about 25 minutes to reach the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees. I turned it often so as not to burn the marinade, but rather let it caramelize and seal in the juices of the chicken. These chicken tacos taste so good paired with a citrusy tropical pineapple and mango salsa and a spritz of lime juice. With quite a bit of sauce left over for future recipes, I’ve been contemplating all the possibilities in which to use it. I’ll keep you posted . . .
First comes the sauce. There are many recipes using different chile combinations, however I went with Ancho chiles (which are dried Poblano’s) and New Mexico dried chile. I used these chiles because they are so flavorful. If you want some heat, add some chile de arbol or even some chile pequin. Place the chiles in a pot filled with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, place a lid on top and let steep for 30 minutes
While the chiles are steeping, roast 1/2 onion and 4 cloves of garlic wrapped in aluminum foil with a drizzle of olive oil. Separate the layers of the onion apart so that they will roast more quickly. Set in a toaster oven for 10 – 12 minutes until they are soft and translucent.
The safe internal temperature is 165 degrees. I left this on the grill for approximately 25 minutes at 325 degrees. Turn it often in order to caramelize the sauce rather than let it burn off. It’s almost like a glaze at this point. Let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
Also add a few wedges of lime to spritz a little juice on the tacos just before you take that first bite. The combination of spicy chicken with citrusy tropical flavors will heighten your taste buds to a new level!
Chicken Tacos Al Pastor
6 New Mexico Red Chiles (stem and seeds removed)
2 Ancho Chiles (stem and seeds removed)
1 whole Chipotle Pepper (from a can of Chipotle en Adobo Sauce)
4 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
1/4 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 cup Reserved Chile Liquid
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Pineapple Juice
2 tablespoon Achiote Paste
2 teaspoons Salt
1 – 2 Large Chicken Breast (makes 8 – 10 tacos per breast)
Pineapple Mango Salsa, recipe follows
Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles. Place in a pot with enough water to cover chiles and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and place a lid on top to steep the chiles for approximately 30 minutes.
Tear off a piece of aluminum foil large enough to hold 1/2 onion and 4 cloves of garlic. Separate the layers of the onion so that they will roast more evenly. Drizzle olive oil over the onion and garlic. Wrap the aluminum foil around them and place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven or toaster oven for 10 – 12 minutes. The onion should appear soft and translucent and the roasted garlic should be soft and appear brownish.
Place the soaked chiles in a blender along with the onions, garlic, chipotle pepper, bay leaves, black pepper, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, reserved chile liquid, pineapple juice, anchiote paste and salt. Blend on high speed until the mixture is well combined. Strain sauce discarding the pulp and peel. Refrigerate or freeze sauce until ready to use.
Liberally baste the chicken breast with sauce. Place plastic wrap over chicken and marinate overnight or at least 6 – 8 hours. Heat a grill to 325 degrees. Grill chicken turning every 5 minutes for approximately 25 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing.
Heat a small skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Add tortillas one at a time. Heat on both sides adding olive oil as needed. Blot tortillas with paper towel and set in a tortilla warmer.
Fill tortillas with Al Pastor Chicken topped with Pineapple Mango Salsa and a spritz of lime.
Makes 8 – 10 tacos per chicken breast.
Pineapple Mango Salsa
1 cup diced Pineapple
1/2 cup diced Mango
2 tablespoons diced Red Onion
1/2 – 1 Habanero Pepper, diced small (add according to how much heat you want)
1 tablespoon Cillantro, roughly chopped
Spritz of Lime Juice
Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate until needed.