Buffalo Chicken Tacos

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On my ongoing mission to EAT ALL OF THE TACOS, I decided to try buffalo chicken tacos this week. Because why wouldn’t I want more buffalo chicken errrthing in my life? I used the ingredients list from Carlsbad Cravings, but pretty much did my own thing after making the buffalo sauce because I didn’t like the cooking method. I cooked the chicken differently than the recipe because I have a strong dislike for pan-frying meat and always prefer to bake meat when I can. I pretty much only stir-fry chicken at this point. Baked chicken is just the best, okay?

To get this recipe started, I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and put all of the marinade ingredients in a small bowl: Frank’s hot sauce, lime juice, garlic powder, chili powder, kosher salt, cumin, paprika, onion powder, freshly ground black pepper and maple syrup (the recipe called for honey, but I only had maple syrup — I use maple syrup in place of honey all the time and it never fails me). I stirred all the ingredients and added a little more hot sauce, because what’s the point of having buffalo chicken if it isn’t spicy?

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Note: if you disagree with me and end up adding too much buffalo sauce, just add a little more maple syrup or honey to cut the heat level down. I’m not judging.

Then I took two chicken breasts and placed them on a cutting board, and beat that meat until it was about half as thick. (In hindsight, I should have listened to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” while doing this, just for some laughs. Please do this on my behalf. And report back.)

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It was pretty cathartic to do this too, by the way. I made this recipe on Monday, so it was a super way to release those beginning-of-the-week frustrations. I pounded way harder than I needed to, because it was fun. Who says cooking can’t be fun?!

I placed my beaten meat in a gallon-sized bag and added 1/4 cup of the buffalo marinade, and pushed the meat around in the mixture until the chicken was well coated.

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The recipe said to let the meat hang out in the bag for a few hours at least, but I never have time to do that (I work, people), so I waited like five minutes maybe. If you have the time, of course let it marinate for longer.

Then I put the remaining buffalo sauce mixture in the fridge. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t done that because it really cooled down my chicken, temperature-wise. It’s clearly not going to spoil within twenty minutes, so there’s really no point in putting in the fridge (which the original recipe said to do).

Next, I took the chicken breasts out of the plastic bag and put them in a foil-lined baking pan…..

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….and put it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. While the chicken was baking, I sliced up some celery, diced some avocado and crumbled some Cotija cheese. This is the kind I like:

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Once the chicken was finished, I lowered the oven’s temperature for the hard-shell tacos. Like my last taco recipe, I just used a combo hard shell/soft shell taco pack because I enjoy variety — and also because Coborn’s was having a super sale on my favorite brand.

Once the chicken had cooled down a bit, I diced the chicken into super-small pieces and put it in a small pot. Since the buffalo sauce was cool (in fact, it was cold), I decided to heat the chicken and buffalo sauce on the stove top once the taco shells were ready. I had to do this because I opted out of pan frying in the first place. No regrets!

When the hard- and soft-shell tacos were done baking and frying, I assembled my tacos with chicken, celery and Cotija cheese (Wayne used the avocado instead of celery. I couldn’t bring myself to try avocado on these.). These are mine, sans avocado:

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I skipped making the suggested ranch sauce from the original recipe, which I kind of wish I would have made. The tacos were tasty, but I think they really needed the ranch. Live and learn!

I somehow had some buffalo chicken left over, so I actually made a super-tasty buffalo chicken spinach salad for lunch the next day. I just used spinach, celery, chicken and ranch dressing to make the salad (I still couldn’t bring myself to add the avocado, so I ate the leftover avocado as a side). The salad was way better than the tacos, I have to admit. So that’s why I’m thinking you need the ranch!

Still, I’m going to try these again for sure, and with ranch next time. I also think the buffalo chicken would work really well in a burrito with black beans, corn and ranch. I’m definitely going to have to make some more buffalo chicken salads to bring some happiness to my regular sad-salad desk lunches.

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Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Ingredients

1 lb chicken breasts

1 celery stalk

1 avocado

1 c Cotija cheese

hard and/or soft shell tacos (I love combo packs for some variety!)

Buffalo Sauce Marinade

1/4 c Frank’s Hot Sauce (add more or less according to your heat preference)

2 tbsp honey or maple syrup

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  2. Using a meat tenderizer, pound chicken breasts until thin. Place chicken in a gallon-sized plastic bag and add 1/4 cup of the marinade. Close bag and mix breasts and marinade around in the bag until well combined. Note: let chicken chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight for best results.
  3. Place chicken breasts in a foil-lined baking pan and cook in the oven for 35-45 minutes.
  4. While the meat is cooking, slice up celery and dice avocado. Set aside. Crumble Cotija cheese and set aside.
  5. Once the chicken has finished cooking, remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Finely dice chicken and place in a bowl. Set aside.
  6. If using hard-shell tacos, reset oven temp once chicken is finished cooking and heat according to the package’s directions. If using soft-shell tacos, fry each tortilla in a small pan. Cook tortillas on both sides until each side is slightly browned. Note: keep an eye on the tortillas, because they burn quickly if left unattended.
  7. Once tortillas are ready, heat chicken in the microwave or on the stove top until the chicken is hot again. Stir in the remaining buffalo sauce until well combined. Add more buffalo sauce if desired.
  8. Compile tacos with desired ingredients. Enjoy!

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