Salsa Verde: There’s just something special about it.
It’s tangy, spicy, creamy and limey. It has a depth of flavor that I can’t beat with any ol’ red salsa. And this recipe, based on J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s fabulous Chicken Green Chile Tacos, is my favorite salsa verde. (My husband even said, “Best salsa verde I’ve ever had.” Oh yeah.)
So what do you do after you whip up this delish salsa verde? You add in some shredded chicken thighs, and let this happy mixture bubble along on the stove. Spoon into your favorite tortillas with cilantro, avocado, cotija cheese and a generous squeeze of lime, and you’ll have some drooling diners at your table.
Let’s get this party started. This Chicken Tacos with Salsa Verde party.
First up: Gather your salsa verde ingredients. I went with two Anaheim peppers, three tomatillos, one-quarter of a medium yellow onion and 3 cloves of garlic. If you want more heat, use more (or spicier) peppers. If you’re not big on tomatillo flavor, cut it back to one or two tomatillos. Whatever makes you happy.
Line a baking sheet with foil. Husk and halve your tomatillos, peel your garlic cloves, and peel and cut your onion into large wedges. Place whole peppers, halved tomatillos, peeled garlic cloves and onion wedges onto baking sheet. Drizzle with vegetable oil.
Broil for 7-10 minutes, turning veggies occasionally, until evenly charred. Watch closely – things can get out of control pretty quickly under the broiler. Remove from oven and let cool.
While veggies are cooling, work on your chicken thighs. Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season both sides of six chicken thighs with kosher salt and pepper. Brown chicken thighs in two batches, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for six – seven minutes on each side or until golden. Keep in mind, you don’t need to cook these all the way through right now. The chicken will cook thoroughly in the sauce in just a bit. Remove chicken thighs from the pan and set aside. Remove excess fat from Dutch oven. Deglaze the Dutch oven with one cup of chicken broth. Keep warm while you finish the salsa verde.
Charred pepper peels ain’t no good. So peel the skin off the peppers, and toss it. Also remove stems and seeds from your peppers. Place the broiled peppers, onions, tomatillos and garlic in a food processor. Add half a cup of cilantro leaves, one clove of fresh garlic, two tablespoons of fresh lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Grind it up and give it a taste – adjust seasoning as necessary.
It’s good, right? Let’s make it better.
Pour the salsa verde back into your Dutch oven. Mix with the chicken broth you added earlier. Add chicken thighs back to the Dutch oven. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove fully-cooked chicken to a cutting board and let cool.
When the chicken thighs are cool enough to handle, separate meat from skin and bones. Discard of the skin and bones if you must (dang, I HATE to see a good, crispy piece of chicken skin end up in the trash). Shred chicken thigh meat, and toss it back in the salsa verde. Cook for a few more minutes, until warmed through. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Munch time! Now when it comes to tacos, I think it’s easiest to let everyone assemble their own. That way there won’t be any, “Mine had too much onion!” or “Why didn’t you put more tomatoes on mine?” Let your guests handle their taco business, and you handle yours.
And what a tasty business it is. Enjoy!
Adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
- 2 Anaheim peppers
- 3 medium tomatillos
- 1/4 of a medium yellow onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 4 limes
- 6 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)
- Taco-sized tortillas (corn or flour, your choice)
- Cotija cheese
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- Broil the salsa verde ingredients: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Remove husks from tomatillos, and cut tomatillos in half. Peel 3 of the garlic cloves. Peel onion, and cut into large wedges. Place whole peppers, halved tomatillos, 3 peeled garlic cloves and onion wedges onto baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Broil for 7-10 minutes, turning veggies occasionally, until evenly charred. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Prepare chicken thighs: Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In two batches, brown chicken thighs for 5-7 minutes on each side. Remove chicken thighs from the Dutch oven and set aside. Remove excess fat from Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium low, and deglaze the Dutch oven with 1 cup of chicken broth. Keep broth warm while you finish the salsa verde.
- Prepare salsa verde: Remove and discard skin, seeds and stems from charred Anaheim peppers. Place broiled Anaheim peppers, onions, tomatillos and the 3 garlic cloves in a food processor. Add half a cup of cilantro leaves, 1 clove of fresh garlic, the juice of two limes, and salt and pepper to taste. Grind in food processor until well-mixed. Adjust seasoning of your salsa verde as necessary.
- Pour your completed salsa verde into the warm Dutch oven. Mix the salsa with the chicken broth. Add chicken thighs to the Dutch oven. Bring the salsa to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove fully-cooked chicken thighs to a cutting board and let cool.
- When chicken thighs are cool enough to handle, separate meat from skin and bones. Discard skin and bones. Shred remaining chicken thigh meat, and add it back to the salsa verde. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, until mixture is warmed through.
- Serve chicken taco mixture over tortillas. Garnish with cotija cheese, avocado slices, chopped onion, diced Roma tomatoes, chopped cilantro and lime wedges.