A Dinner in the Life of a Freestyle Cook

Lime and avocado will always give you a fresh, light flavor.Freestyle lime chicken tacos with fresh guacamole

I wanted something really yummy for dinner, but I didn’t want to put in much effort.  I mean, even less effort than usual.  I had avocados and a bag of key limes, so I would use those.  One of the kids asked, with pleading eyes, if I would be making guacamole.  That decided it for me. Guacamole it would be, which of course meant a Mexican menu.

I must add, in my kitchen everything is done “Freestyle.”  This means that I cook as I like it to taste, and with the method that I feel like using.  I substitute ingredients, combine or omit steps, and alter flavors.  My Mexican is usually lacking anything spicier than garlic.

So with what I had on hand and my preference for non-spicy Mexican food, dinner was going to be lime chicken tacos.  I got an idea of how to be extra lazy and fulfill me wish.   About half an hour before time to cook the chicken, I got out the electric skillet, placed the thawed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs smooth side down in the cold pan, and squirted lime juice over them. I used enough to just cover the bottom of the pan, then salted each thigh with Kosher salt (I only use Kosher or sea salt, Hawaiian is my favorite,) and zested the  limes over them.  Yes, I was marinating the chicken in the cold cooking pan. I know! Lazy, right?

A Short, but Important, Rant

Now, before you start freaking out about bacteria, let me explain.  Americans get crazy about food safety.  “Better to be safe than sorry” has become, “Better to live in fear and insulate ourselves with rules we make up as we go.” Yeah, kinda long and not nearly as catchy.  Compared to other countries, we don’t trust nature to feed us, and we use preservatives that they prohibit.  (I’ll rant more about that in a later post.) I think this is because we’ve gotten so far from handling real, unprocessed foods that we’re afraid of anything without chemicals.

If you cook fresh, untainted chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll be fine.  So, why do people get hyper about throwing out marinades?  Up until a few years ago, the rule was to boil it for five to ten minutes.  Now they say throw it out.   Here’s my question.  If the meat itself can be cooked to kill the bacteria, why can’t the marinade?  So, I boil my marinade.  I’ve always done this.  I do throw out marinade that has been used overnight because it isn’t appetizing any longer. The sauce gets cloudy and full of gunk when it’s boiled.

Back to the Story

Now on to the rest of the story.  While the chicken soaked up the lime juice, I made the laziest guacamole ever.  I hope my Auntie Esme and cousin Claudia don’t see this; I might get disowned.  I prepped the avocados and smashed them with a fork, then stirred in chopped green onion,  lime juice and some salt.  Not authentic, but perfect for my yummy, lazy dinner.  After about 20 minutes of marinating, I turned the skillet on to medium, put the lid on and let the chicken cook in the lime juice, flipping it after about six minutes.  It was an added bonus that I needed no oil because I was poaching them in the lime juice.

It was simple to put tortilla chips, lettuce, shredded cheese and plain yogurt on the table with the guacamole while the chicken cooked. (If you’ve never tried plain yogurt in place of sour cream, you really must.  Greek is best.)   I found myself with a little extra time, so I heated the flour tortillas in a dry pan, folded them in half and put them on the table, covered with a clean towel.  The chicken was quickly shredded, and we were ready to eat.  Some of the kids don’t like tortillas, so they made lime chicken taco salads instead.  It took maybe half an hour.  It could have taken less, but I was being lazy.

It was so nummy!  I wish I could make it again tonight, but I’m out of avocados. And limes. And chips.  That’s okay, I’ll come up with another yummy, lazy dinner.  That’s what Freestyle Cooks do!

Lime Chicken Tacos And Fresh Guacamole                                                                1 regular lime yields approximately 2 TB of juice.  Use the zest! It delivers a far bigger flavor punch than the juice.

Ingredients    

  • 6             boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 2-3 lg. breasts, halved lengthwise
  • 3             limes (Fresh is always best, but bottled works if it’s what you have)
  •                coarse salt
  • 4-5 sm  avocados, pitted, scooped into a bowl and mashed
  • 1 or 2    green onions, sliced thin
  • 8-10      flour tortillas
  • 1 lg        Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 c         shredded cheese
  • 1 c          plain yogurt (Greek is best, it’s smoother and less acidic than regular)
  • 1 bag     restaurant style tortilla chips

Directions

  1. Place the chicken smooth side down in a pan large enough to lay them single layer. Squirt lime juice over each piece and into the pan. Lift the pieces to allow a bit of juice to coat the pan underneath.  Zest one lime onto chicken.  Sprinkle coarse salt over each piece.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine mashed avocado with juice and zest of ½ lime, sliced green onions and salt to taste.  **Just before calling everyone to dinner, taste test and adjust lime and salt if needed.
  3. Prep lettuce and cheese if necessary. Put lettuce, cheese, yogurt and tortilla chips into bowls if you do that, and place in your serving area (or fridge if it’s going to be a while.)
  4. After the chicken has marinated 20 minutes or so, turn the heat on to medium/medium high and cover. (It will depend on your stove.  My stove requires low/medium low at this point, but it’s a stupid stove.  You want a gentle simmer, not a hard boil.  Heat too high = tough, stringy meat.)  Turn after 6 minutes of simmering, sprinkle with a little more salt, and cover again.
  5. While the chicken cooks, heat the tortillas.  Heat a dry pan slightly larger than the tortillas over medium heat.  One at a time, heat a tortilla until just starting to blister, then flip, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. After another 30 seconds to a minute, fold the tortilla in half and place on a serving plate.  Cover with a clean towel after each addition.  After all are heated, place in serving area, still covered.
  6. When the chicken is cooked through, no longer pink in meatiest part, remove from heat.  If you feel like it and have the time, let rest about five minutes before shredding. The juices will redistribute and the shredded chicken will remain moist.  Then, shred, or slice chicken very thin.  Combine with a few tablespoons of the pan juices and serve.
  7. To assemble, dump all the stuff except for the chips in a tortilla, fold it up and chomp down. Well, you can put the chips in there, too if you want. That might be good.  I think I’ll crunch some up and do that next time.

Alternatives:  shredded cabbage would be an excellent substitution for the lettuce. It’s wonderful tossed with a little lime juice and a bit of honey. It adds crunch and a touch of sweetness to the tangy lime.

Sour cream in place of the yogurt. Sour cream is heavier in texture and flavor, but it will still be light and fresh tasting.

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7 Responses to A Dinner in the Life of a Freestyle Cook

  1. Sue Smart says:

    I want to try this recipe, but I think I will add some roasted green chile peppers for a hotter taco. I really like the Freestyle Chef. You should seriously consider trying out for a show on the Food Network!

    Like

  2. I made this tonight, tweaked just slightly for our family. It was so yummy and simple, thanks for sharing! 🙂 And thank you for suggesting plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream ~ I love it!!

    Like

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you liked it. To be honest, I would have tweaked it a bit too if I hadn’t been feeling so lazy. I hope you’ll enjoy more of my recipes, too. I’ll keep posting as long as people keep eating. 🙂

      Like

  3. Pingback: A Sample from My Freestyle Cooking Class – With Recipes! | Life is Delicious

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