Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos

Citrus Marinated Chicken TacosFiesta De Mayo
May is a month of celebrations. There are five birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. It’s a busy month and the official kick off is Cinco de Mayo.

For the record, I do not have one single drop of Mexican blood in me. Not even a little. (I’ve done the Ancestry DNA test. I’m pretty boring.) What I do have is an insane love for Mexican cuisine, which is why Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in my house. My husband went so far as to remind me last night that Cinco de Mayo was this Friday. As if I hadn’t already started planning? Dude, it’s like you don’t even know me…

Cinco de Mayo falling on a weekday can be somewhat problematic. Sure, the fact that it’s on Friday is a good thing since you can sleep in on Saturday. But, it makes menu planning a bit more limiting. For a lot of people, Mexican food means tacos and burritos. And, while this is a part of Mexican cuisine, there is so much more to it. Mexican cuisine has boundless diversity and flavor that varies from region to region. You could spend years trying to experience all of its nuances and hidden tastes. Which is exactly the problem. Some of the best food Mexico has to offer takes time and does not lend itself to a Friday night meal after work.

So, tacos it is with fresh tortillas, preferably homemade. (If you have never made your own tortillas, grab a bag of Maseca and give it a try. You’ll never go back to packaged.)

This Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos recipe is one I made for my very first Cinco de Mayo celebration 20 years ago. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I have been known to add a little tequila to the marinade when I’m feeling sassy…

Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos
Yields filling for about eight tacos

Ingredients
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 to 3 jalapeños, stemmed and seeded
8 cloves garlic
1 Tbs. black peppercorns
1 Tbs. salt
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems included (about 1 cup)
2 lb. thighs
1/4 cup tequila (optional)

Directions
In a food processor or blender, combine 1/3 cup of the orange juice, the jalapeños, garlic, onion, peppercorns, and salt. Puree until the peppercorns are completely
crushed. Add the cilantro and remaining 1/3 cup of orange juice and puree until smooth.

In a ceramic or glass oven-proof dish, toss the chicken with the marinade, rubbing it on to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the chicken in the pan it was marinated in until the meat easily pulls away from the bone (about 40 minutes). Set the chicken aside to cool. Pour the juices from the pan into a bowl or cup and reserve. Refrigerate the juices so that the fat rises to the top. When the chicken is cool, remove the skin and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, skim off the fat that has risen to the top of the reserved cooking juices. Use the remaining liquid to moisten the shredded chicken as you reheat it.

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