Chicken Skillet Tacos
We've been grilling tacos at our house nearly once a week since the weather turned nice, but there's been one problem: by the time I cut up the grilled ingredients and get ready to serve, the tacos are pretty near room temperature. For a solution, I turned to the trusty fajita pans. The cast iron keeps the hot taco fillings warm at the table. That's how this recipe for skillet tacos came about. You can use fajita pans or serve the tacos family style out of a large cast iron skillet.
Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 500 degrees with wood smoke for flavor.Butterfly the chicken by cutting out the backbone and cracking the breast so that the chicken will lay flat. Combine the dry spices in a small dish. Brush the chicken with olive oil and lime juice, both inside and out, then sprinkle all over with the spices.Place the chicken, skin-side up, in the indirect cooking zone. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic and chile to the indirect cooking zone. Close the grill hood and cook for about 35 minutes or until juices from the chicken thigh near the joint run clear. Maintain good smoke the entire time and rotate the onion and the chile occasionally.
When finished, remove all the food from the grill. Place a very lightly-oiled cast iron skillet (or fajita pans) on the grill to pre-heat in the indirect cooking zone.
Once the food has cooled enough to handle, de-bone the chicken and cut into small pieces.
Peel the tomatoes and dice to 1/2″. Use a knife to scrape away any charred skin of the chile, discard the seeds and finely chop. Remove the outer layer of the onion and discard any greens that are burnt. Coarsely chop the onion. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the peel and chop or mash.
Remove the skillet from the grill and combine into it the chicken, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chile and as much of the queso fresco as you like. Sprinkle the juice of one lime over the top and season with salt to taste. Top with the ground queso cotija.
Return the skillet to the grill over indirect heat and refresh the smoke. Heat the taco filling in the skillet until the liquids a bubbling and the edges of the top pieces are slightly browning from the smoke, about 10 minutes.
Prepare the tortillas, Mexican cream and salsa for serving at the table. When ready, bring out the hot skillet and place on a suitable trivet or hot pad. Assemble tacos family style right out of the skillet.
NOTE: This recipe is very flexible. Try adding or substituting your favorite ingredients. Halibut is a great substitute for the chicken, and fresh avocado pieces are a nice addition to the skillet. For a cheese that melts in the skillet, try Chihuahua or Spanish Manchego. Finally, if you look closely at the Tips for Quick-Grilling Ten Great Foods on our website, you will see links to a number of salsa recipes from Rick Bayless. Experiment and enjoy.
- 1 whole fryer chicken
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
- Olive oil
- The rest of the filling:
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, stems cut out
- 1 knob onion, root tip cut off
- 1 peron chile, red (not fully ripe)
- 1 head garlic, top cut off
- Up to 12 ounces queso fresco, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/3 cup ground queso cotija
- Fresh-squeezed juice of one lime
- About 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Soft corn tortillas, about 5″ diameter
- Crema Mexicana
- Salsa (see above recipe)
- Mesquite or hickory wood