The Battle for Healthy Carnitas de Pollo - Tex Mex Chicken Carnitas

¡Hola! Welcome back friends for another holiday - Cinco de Mayo! This often misunderstood holiday is largely celebrated in the U.S., tempting many of us to indulge in Mexican cuisine and spirits as we pay tribute. Unbeknownst to many, this holiday celebrates Mexico’s victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May, 5th 1862. This does not reflect its independence but more so the push back against occupation and accrued debt. This particular battle was a turning point for the country and bolstered confidence among its people. Carnitas, little meats, is a traditionally pork dish that is prepared by either braising or simmering the meat in lard, oil, or rendered fat. Today, I want to pay tribute to pushing back and seeing if we can make this traditional dish healthy, vibrant, and something of a twist on an old recipe. Let the battle begin!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves: 6-8, ~depending on use

Chicken Carnitas

  • 3 lbs skinless, boneless chicken (white & dark), left whole
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbsp ground chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 can (10 oz) can of tomatoes and green chilies

A great tool for making this dish is the tried and true, dutch oven. Seriously, it’s the best. If you don’t have one, don’t fret, you can use a baking dish in the oven, iron-skillet for the stove-top, pressure cooker, and even a slow cooker. Tenderness and outcome may vary some but you will achieve desired results. For the purpose of this recipe, I’ll be using a dutch oven. Did I mention how great it is? Okay, let’s get cooking!

Let’s dive in with a bit of mise en place (French culinary term for: everything in its place), and chop up the onion and garlic cloves. Heat up the dutch oven over the stove to medium-high heat and add oil once it’s heated (Using water, you can gauge heat by testing with a few drops of water and hearing that sizzle). Start by adding onions to the pot and stir for about 2 minutes and then turn down to medium, following up by adding the garlic. Continue to stir for an additional 5 minutes, avoiding any burning or high heat to the garlic. Proceed by adding: cumin, coriander, chili powder and salt, continuing stirring for an additional 1-2 minutes. Continue by adding water, soy sauce, lime juice, the can of tomatoes & green chilies, and continue to stir. Take out chicken from the refrigerator and submerge whole pieces into the mixture that has been concocted.

Bring chicken and our delightful mixture to a simmer and cover over the stove on medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Time will vary if you are using all white meat, think about 5-10 minutes less.

While the chicken is cooking in the simmering cauldron of deliciousness, this would be a good time to continue the mise en place of our desired dish - tacos! This dish can be used for a variety of Tex-Mex dishes; enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, empanadas, sliders, and honestly the list goes on. Don’t limit yourself to what is possible, but for this recipe, stay calm and taco on.

Chicken Tacos

  • Prepared or reheated chicken carnitas (stove-top skillet is preferred)
  • Tannenbaum’s - Pineapple, Rosemary & Turmeric
  • Mission - Carb Balance Spinach Herb - Flour Tortillas
  • Shredded cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Green onions
  • Arugula
  • Pineapple
  • Radish
  • Red Onion
  • Or any toppings you love for your favorite taco!

Once the chicken is done, remove from the dutch oven and let it rest for several minutes on a clean cutting board. I recommend using gloves for shredding the chicken. Shredding the prepared chicken can be achieved by using a fork or simply breaking apart the meat with your gloved hands. I like to be hands on so the gloved method is preferred but there’s really no wrong way to go about this step.

If you’re preparing this dish for a recipe later on, make sure you keep the yummy juices with the chicken so it doesn’t dry out. Remember, carnitas are usually prepared in a fat and their own juices so it’s imperative to keep all of the ingredients cultivated together for desired flavor.

Let the chicken cool down a bit more and prepare your tacos by heating up your store-bought flour tortillas. I chose Mission’s - Carb Balance Spinach Herb, opting for smaller portions and a vibrant green color. You can heat the flour tortillas in a stove-top pan or in the oven. I chose the oven because you can trap moisture by wrapping them in foil, while heating up the taco casing. I did mine at 350℉ for 5-10 minutes. Take tortillas out of the oven and plate immediately before heat is lost. They will be pliable but not for long. That’s why mise en place is valuable, you save time and you’re ready to go when the tortillas come out of the oven. This is the best part, building your taco! I’ve listed a series of ingredients I used but there is absolutely no limit to what you can incorporate.

 

We battled for a healthier version and, after taking a bite, I think we can call this a victory. Enjoy friends!

El que a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le acobija. - If you get close to those who will teach and stimulate you, you’ll do well.

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"How do I choose flavors? I really don’t know. I started off with apricot because I like apricots. Then it becomes a game to see what other fruits would work. My wife likes strawberries, so I did some strawberry. It just comes to me."

HARVEY TANNENBAUM, ON PREFERENCES