Please excuse the pun – it’s just that I’m always looking for ways to make grilled chicken a little more exciting (who isn’t?), and sometimes an intriguing title or analogy helps entice the family into trying an “exciting” new dish. (This is marketing at its best.) My clan might not be ready to embark on the culinary voyage of “Chicken Souvlaki with Coriander, Turmeric and Mint”, but call something a taco and they’ll be pulling out their Premier cards for early boarding privileges.
Since this recipe can take you on a sensory journey to exotic, faraway lands, I was tempted to dub it “Marco Pollo”. (Get it? Spice trade explorer? “Pollo” for chicken?) OK, so maybe not – but do Marco proud and try these unusual spices. The chicken is most flavorful if allowed to marinate overnight, or even for a day or two. If you’re lucky enough to have some cilantro plants going to seed in your backyard, use the fresh green coriander (seeds) for even more flavor. Or if you just can’t bring yourself to purchase turmeric and coriander seeds for a recipe, leave them out. (In this case I’d add a teaspoon of ground cumin and/or chopped cilantro stems to the marinade instead.) And yes, this is YET ANOTHER application for my famous/infamous cilantro lime sauce. The yogurt marinade adds great flavor and helps keep the chicken moist (as long as you don’t overcook it), but a drizzle of cilantro sauce really makes the dish.
This recipe serves 6-8, but don’t reduce the recipe if you have fewer people to feed – the leftovers make a great lunch salad. Chop up the chicken and add to chopped romaine; toss with leftover cilantro sauce as the dressing and top with crumbled pita chips, if desired.
Mo-Rockin’ Chicken Tacos
(Adapted from Sarah Raven’s “Chicken Souvlaki with Cilantro”, as featured in House Beautiful, May 2011.)
- 6 large chicken breasts, cut into 2” cubes
- 6-8 warmed naan bread (or flat pita bread)
- 1 recipe Cilantro Lime Sauce
- Shredded romaine and chopped tomatoes (optional)
- 1 small bunch of mint, chopped (approx. 1 cup, packed)
- Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (fresh or dried), crushed
- 1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek, fat-free OK)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Cilantro Lime Sauce:
- 1 small bunch cilantro, washed & dried (approx. 2 cups packed)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 small clove garlic, pressed/minced
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup reduced fat sour cream or fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Few drops agave nectar or honey
Make the marinade:
Add all the marinade ingredients to a large Ziplock bag. Squish to mix until combined and yellow (from the turmeric). Add chicken cubes and seal bag. Refrigerate for several hours or up to 2 days.
Make the cilantro sauce:
Add all sauce ingredients to food processor, or beaker if using stick (immersion) blender. Pulse and puree until smooth. (Add a little more olive oil to aid processing, if necessary.) Adjust seasoning to taste (i.e., another pinch of salt or drop of agave/honey). Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cook the chicken:
Remove the chicken cubes from marinade and thread onto skewers (metal or water-soaked bamboo). Heat a grill to medium-high or preheat a broiler. (To help prevent sticking, make sure grill grates are clean and oiled just before grilling – or, start out by cooking the skewers on a piece of foil for a few minutes; then slide them off onto the grill grates to finish.) Grill/broil for about 10 minutes total, turning a few times to ensure even cooking.
Warm the naan or pitas:
Warm the naan by placing directly on the grill for a few minutes, until soft and lightly toasted. (Can also be warmed in the oven.)
Push the chicken off the skewers (if desired) onto a serving platter. Pass chicken, warmed naan, shredded romaine, sliced tomatoes and cilantro sauce family-style so everyone can assemble their own “taco”.