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Cinco de Mayo: Chicken Tacos with a Pantry Red Salsa

Posted May 05 2010 12:00am

May 5: I'm reposting this recipe for Cinco de Mayo!

In the winter I crave bold flavor. Yes, I enjoy winter stews and root vegetables, but come the end of January, I miss the fresh flavors of summer. That's where a good salsa comes in---a salsa that primarily utilizes pantry ingredients. A good salsa will take you places and lend a hand when mealtime creativity is becoming a bit lackluster.

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This salsa makes a hearty dip for chips and an excellent sauce. In this case, I placed the salsa in my crockpot with chicken thighs and walked away. When I came back much later, I found exultingly tender chicken in a scrumptious sauce.

A few notes:

On the heat scale, this salsa is not very hot. Ancho chiles are milder than Guajillo chiles. New Mexican and Californian chiles can be substituted, as well. 

*Use good quality canned tomatoes here. I recommend Muir Glen , though Safeway & Whole Foods have their own organic store brands that are good, too. Canned tomatoes of excellent quality are important because the canned tomatoes make up a large percentage of the salsa.

The pepitas add both flavor and substance to the salsa-----a stick-to-your-chip texture you want in a salsa! However, if you cannot find them, they may be omitted.

The salsa can be frozen for later use as a sauce...

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Pantry Red Salsa

5 dried Ancho or Guajillo chiles

28-oz can whole tomatoes* (see note above)

1 large bunch fresh cilantro

1/2 white onion

4 cloves garlic

juice of 3 large limes

1/2 C. toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1/2 tsp. salt

Method: Soak chiles in boiling water for at least 30 minutes. When soft, remove stems and seeds. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth ( my blender completely purees the pepitas---a food processor might leave them a little chunky). If using as a dip, allow the salsa to sit a bit to allow the flavors to blend. Makes over four cups.

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Chicken Tacos

3 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, rinsed and trimmed of fat

2 C. Pantry Red Salsa

1/4 C. chopped cilantro

juice of one lime

Corn Tortillas

Taco Fixins... such as avocado, tomatoes, black beans, and sour cream.

Method: Place the chicken thighs and the salsa in a crockpot or dutch oven set to medium low and cook for approximately four hours; until cooked through and falling apart. While in the pan, use two forks to shred the meat. Sprinkle lime juice and cilantro over meat to serve.

Spanish-style rice

Add 1/3 C. salsa to white rice and cook the rice using your favorite method (rice cooker, etc). Don't reduce the liquid; the salsa is in addition to it.When done, fluff with a fork.

Make tacos! Mmmm.


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