Chicken Tinga Tacos

File this one under successful mistake:  what happened when we screwed up a recipe but somehow ended up with a dish that was even better than the original. Because we like a good chicken and rice dish (this one is a particular favorite) and we’re fans of smoky, spicy Southwestern flavor, we figured that this recipe for chipotle chicken and rice would be a winner. So why is the title of this post “chicken tinga tacos” instead of “chipotle chicken and rice”? Because someone mistakenly used brown rice instead of white rice the first time she attempted the recipe, which meant that the dish had to cook a lot longer for the rice to be done, causing the chicken to become tender enough to shred with a spoon (and us to eat dinner about two hours late). On that night we realized that the slow-cooked chicken and rice mixture would be far better suited as a taco filling than a main course. And not just any taco filling—we accidentally created a recipe for chicken “tinga,” which generally refers to meat slowly cooked in a chipotle sauce and served shredded in a taco or on a tostada. The first night we ate our happy accident, all we could think about was how good it would be wrapped in a white corn tortilla with minced onion, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. I will probably never be fearless in the kitchen, and my cooking will definitely never be perfect, but it’s comforting to know that sometimes it turns out that a mistake is just what the recipe needed.

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Grilled Peri-Peri Chicken Thighs

In response to a reader request (Hi Jill!), this post is more recommendation than recipe. If you’re interested in the most uniquely spicy and tangy grilled chicken that you’ll likely ever eat, do yourself a favor and order a bottle of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce. We first encountered this addictive flavor at a Nando’s restaurant in London many years ago, and we were hooked after just a few bites of flame-grilled chicken marinated and basted in their signature sauce made from African bird’s eye chiles. Although Nando’s has restaurants all over the world, none of their locations are close enough for us to get our fix as often as we’d like. So we do the next best thing and make our own version at home. All you need is chicken, your choice of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce, and barbecue sauce to tone down the spice a bit (unless you can handle the heat from straight-up PERi-PERi – we can’t.) We promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Turkey Sausage, Peppers & Onion One-Pot

We’ve never made stuffed peppers and rarely, if ever, eat them, but the phrase “deconstructed stuffed pepper” immediately came to mind when we tasted this delicious one-pot dish. Except we like this version way better than the traditional stuffed pepper, since the ratio of pepper to sausage to rice is more evenly balanced, and the deconstructed version is really easy to make (and eat). We adapted this recipe and used turkey sausage and brown rice to make it a little more healthy without sacrificing any of the flavor. This new favorite earns a spot in our weeknight meal rotation, especially during winter months when we’re craving a big pot of Italian comfort food.

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Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup w/ Dill

Whether we like it or not, winter is coming. (Hint: We don’t like it much.) Given the ghoulish Halloween weather featuring snow and sleet blowing sideways in howling, gale-force winds last week, one might argue that winter has already arrived. As we drag the heavy coats out of the closet and dust off the scarves and hats, we feel more prepared to face the long winter months ahead with this comforting soup in our repertoire. The happy trio of chicken, lemon and dill transforms a simple soup into a special dish that conjures thoughts of sunshine to help brighten the dreaded coming days when the sun sets by 4:30 p.m. We adapted the original recipe by adding a few more veggies — an extra leek, a carrot and some spinach — to make the soup as nutritious as it is delicious. Bring it on, Winter.

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Chicken Enchiladas w/ Salsa Verde

When we lived in Texas, we didn’t cook enchiladas at home very often because there were so many readily available restaurant options, most of which were far superior to anything homemade. But since moving to the Midwest, where Tex-Mex is neither abundant nor appetizing (except for this place, which we were thrilled to discover just opened about two weeks ago), we’re on our own when we crave our favorite Texas fare. So when Dan noticed tomatillos at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago, we decided it would be a good time to attempt enchiladas verdes at home. If you’ve never had them (I feel bad for you), enchiladas verdes are basically enchiladas (cheese and whatever other filling you like—onion, chicken, pork, beef, etc—rolled in corn tortillas and baked) with a green sauce on top. Done well, the sauce is anything but basic, with a bit of tang from the tomatillos, heat from a jalapeno, and complexity from onion and garlic. When researching Tex-Mex recipes, one of our go-to resources is Homesick Texan, whose recipes are equally authentic and delicious. Her salsa verde recipe is no exception and provides just the right flavor combination to scratch that Tex-Mex itch. Since we didn’t have any leftover cooked chicken or pork to use in the enchiladas, we adapted this recipe to season and cook the chicken for the filling. There’s still nothing quite like the real thing (especially from here), but these enchiladas are the perfect homemade substitute until our next trip back to the Lone Star state.

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Three Cup Chicken

We love Asian food and eat it at least 3 to 4 times per month. In addition to favorites at local restaurants (the sole fish fillet in chili bean sauce from Lao Sze Chuan, wasabi shumai from Coast Sushi, and pretty much anything with kimchi in it from Joy Yee’s Noodles, to name a few), we have several go-to homemade Asian dishes that we often crave: Korean chicken, ponzu sea bass, beef & broccoli stir-fry, and Thai coconut curry soup. When we saw Ching-He Huang make her “Three Cup Chicken” on an episode of her show “Easy Chinese,” we had to try it as a potential addition to our homemade Asian recipe repertoire. It’s easy to make with ingredients we typically have on hand (since we cook Asian food at home fairly often): cooking oil; garlic; ginger; chicken thighs; soy sauce; rice wine (also called mirin); toasted sesame oil; brown sugar; and basil. The recipe needs a bit of tweaking to achieve the thickened, slightly sticky sauce that characterizes this dish, but it has just the right mix of Asian flavors we enjoy, and we’ll definitely make it again.

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Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken

Martha Stewart’s got nothing on our sister-in-law in Brooklyn. When we recently visited her, Dan’s brother and their adorable boys, she made her own version of Martha’s slow-cooker buffalo chicken recipe, and we were most impressed. After just a few bites, we knew it was a crave-worthy dish that would be added to our regular meal rotation. And we were excited to share it with pretty much anyone we know who cooks and happens to like the spicy, tangy goodness that is buffalo sauce. Our first attempt turned out a little more BBQ than buffalo (I think because I went off-recipe and used chicken stock instead of water to de-glaze), but we loved the classic, low & slow cooking that resulted in tender, juicy, flavorful “pulled” chicken without the use of a smoker or grill. After minimal prep steps of browning the chicken, sauteing the onions and mixing up the sauce ingredients (which can be adapted to the spice and tang levels of your liking), the slow-cooker does all the work, making this dish as easy as it is delicious. We envision ourselves making buffalo chicken often this summer—setting it up in the morning to cook for hours while we read/relax/play at the (lakeside) beach, then strolling home to a mouthwatering dinner that requires no more effort than shredding fork-tender chicken, spooning it onto buns and opening a chilled bottle of Rose wine. As Martha herself would say, “It’s a good thing.” Indeed.

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Roast Chicken Thighs w/ Pancetta and Olives

Are olives a food group? If not, I personally think they should be. I could incorporate olives into just about any dish and be happy (except for Asian food, that would be weird). Their briny flavor complements all kinds of main ingredients, including chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. My love of these little fruits compels me to try pretty much any recipe calling for olives, including this one, which was even more compelling because it also calls for pancetta (Can you tell I’m a fan of all things salty?) The olives and pancetta are enhanced by their Mediterranean food friends olive oil, garlic, thyme and oregano; the red pepper flakes add a nice kick; and all of the components combine to elevate otherwise bland roast chicken to a flavorful new level. The only change I would make is to add more olives. Just kidding. Not really.

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