Last week I had the privilege of hosting my dear friend Anna for dinner and a sleepover. Now, I know a sleepover sounds a bit like we’re still in 6th grade, but bear with me. We started out at a little spot down the street from her office near Dupont Circle where she filled me in on the struggles she is facing in her relationship and her life at the moment. The $3 beers we were drinking were delicious and helped to calm the nerves, but they were just not going to soothe the soul in the appropriate way. I decided that Anna needed to be properly taken care of, so I promptly scooped her up, took her home with me, and got her settled in some sweatpants with a delicious Woodchuck cider while I proceeded to figure out what to make us for dinner.
Given that she’s been suffering from a breaking/broken heart I knew she hadn’t been eating well for several weeks (we’ve all been there), and didn’t want to get too fussy. Also, it was already about 8:30 pm, so I didn’t want to cook something that was going to take too long and have us eating right before bed. With my awesome 90’s Pandora station feeding us nostalgic hits from Oasis, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Smashing Pumpkins, I poked through the fridge and pantry to figure out what I had on hand, and more importantly, what I could turn it into. With a chicken breast, a fresh tomato that my mom stuck in my car as we’d left North Carolina the day before, flour tortillas, and a couple of bell peppers I decided to do an easy twist on my favorite chicken enchilada filling. I’ll call this one Broken Heart Chicken Tacos because, in Anna’s words, it was “delicious soul food that helped to heal my broken heart.” Now if that doesn’t make you believe in the ifoodyou philosophy, I don’t know what will!
This is a great recipe to use when you want to feed 2-3 people but perhaps don’t have a lot of your protein – in this case, chicken. A little goes a long way and it’s super filling. I served it with some simple sautéed summer squash flavored with a little onion and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. The squash could easily be popped on top of the tacos as well.
Broken Heart Chicken Tacos
1 thawed chicken breast (preferably organic as I find it to be more tender for this recipe)
1 onion, diced
½ bell pepper thinly sliced (I used pieces from 3 different colored peppers)
1 large, ripe tomato, diced
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock or broth (more if necessary)
½ to 1 small can of diced green chiles
Olive or vegetable/canola oil
Salt and pepper
Warmed flour tortillas
Warmed sour cream
Shredded cheese – Mexican four-cheese blend works best
Use a fairly large sauté pan for this recipe as it really does end up being more food than you think. The idea is that is becomes a quick stew that tenderizes the chicken, which is then shredded in the pan and soaks up all of the sauce. A great one pan dish!
Add a glug of oil to the pan and heat to medium high heat. Add diced onion and bell peppers, season with salt and pepper, and stir periodically for 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly caramelized. In the meantime, dice the chicken breast into about 6 cubes. When the veggies are ready, scoot them over to the side of the pan, add a bit more oil, and then add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and turn to cook on each side until lightly browned. Keep an eye on the heat and the veggies as you don’t want them to start burning while the chicken is cooking. When the chicken is browned add the fresh diced tomato, lightly season, and cook until the juices start to simmer. Stir in the tomato paste (to really amp up that tomato flavor), then add the green chilies and chicken stock. Cover and bring to a simmer. The chicken will take 15-20 minutes to cook and tenderize.
About half way through you should add the spices. I generally do not measure these as my taste for the spices range from day to day. I start with paprika and chili powder, add a bit more cumin to really give it an intense aroma, then finish with a sprinkle of cayenne. You can make these spicy or not, and even add a pepper like a jalapeno to the sautéed vegetables in the beginning. Once the spices are added and stirred in, continue to simmer for another 7-10 minutes with the lid on.
When the chicken is fork tender, remove the pan from heat and use two forks to shred the chicken. In the process the chicken will soak up most of the remaining juices and you should be left with a delicious filling for your tortillas.
Serve family style with warmed tortillas, sour cream, and shredded cheese.
If you’re interested in taking the next step, you can turn this filling into baked enchiladas. Dunk the tortillas in canned enchilada sauce, fill with chicken, roll up, and place next to one another in a baking dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and pop in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. The cheese should be melted and golden. Serve with sautéed vegetables and Spanish rice.