Who doesn’t love a good taco? Personally, I think tacos are among the most fun foods to eat. I love getting to choose my own toppings and that you can pack so many fresh flavors into a small, handheld package. We have taco nights fairly frequently in our home, so I’m always brainstorming tasty and seasonal taco filling ideas to keep things interesting.
Chicken tacos might sound a bit dry and boring, but not this one! This chicken taco filling is tender and packed with flavor, thanks to a dose of homemade roasted salsa and the low-and-slow magic of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. I always spring for chicken thighs as they’re generally quite economical, not to mention a flavorful and forgiving cut. They only need a few hours in the slow cooker to turn tender and shreddable; and leftovers don’t dry out in the fridge.
While you could use a storebought salsa for this recipe, I definitely recommend trying this roasted version. Roasting the vegetables adds sweetness and smokiness to the salsa, and this recipe makes enough for both the chicken cooking liquid and for topping your tacos (and probably a bit left over to go with your favorite tortilla chips!).
Serve these tacos with your favorite toppings — I particularly like avocado slices, shredded cabbage, extra salsa and cilantro, and a touch of sour cream.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
For the roasted tomato salsa:
3 lbs fresh tomatoes (~10-12 medium)
1 medium red onion, skin removed
1 medium white onion, skin removed
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded
1 head of garlic
1 bell pepper
1 large handful of cilantro, chopped (both leaves and stems)
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Freshly squeezed lime juice (1-2 Tbsp), salt, and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450F with a rack in the upper third. Cut a deep “x” into the tops of the tomatoes and onions. Cut the jalapenos in half and deseed. Cut bell pepper into quarters and deseed. Peel and separate garlic cloves.
Arrange vegetables in a single layer in a large roasting pan or baking sheet (I used the Paderno Stainless Steel Multi-Roaster). Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
Roast for 10 minutes. Switch oven to broil. Broil for ~2 minutes or until vegetables are lightly charred. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
While vegetables are cooling, generously season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, sear on both sides over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside.
When vegetables are cool enough to handle, pulse in batches, along with dried oregano and cilantro, in a food processor or blender until desired consistency (I like to leave it a bit chunky). Taste and adjust seasoning with apple cider vinegar, lime juice, salt, and pepper.
Spread sliced onion, jalapeno, and garlic on the bottom of the Paderno 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Arrange seared chicken thighs in a single layer on top. Add enough roasted tomato salsa so that chicken pieces are just barely poking through the top. Reserve and refrigerate remaining salsa.
Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until chicken is fork-tender. Remove and shred chicken, then stir back into the cooking liquid.
To assemble tacos: Warm tortillas in a dry skillet or in the microwave. Spread a layer of shredded chicken on the bottom of each tortilla and top with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!
Before we round the corner into September (!!), I have one last ice cream recipe for you. Churning frozen treats has definitely been my summer 2019 obsession — I’ve been making frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, eggless ice creams, and custard ice creams as fast as we can consume or share each batch. It’s just so addicting (and delicious)!
I’ve especially enjoyed trying to incorporate various seasonal fruits into ice cream. While either sorbet or an eggless (“Philadelphia”) ice cream base has been my modus operandi when incorporating fruit — I find the lack of eggs helps the fruit flavor shine through better — this time I was going for a peaches and cream vibe and wanted a bit of extra richness. I used the same buttermilk custard base from the toast and jam ice cream, but added in a honey-sweetened roasted peach puree. Swirls of peach jam amp up the “peachiness” while sprinkles of crisp oat streusel add texture and nuttiness. It’s like eating a peach crisp a la mode!
A few notes:
This makes a fairly large batch of ice cream — probably the largest amount my home ice cream maker can handle. If you have a smaller machine you will want to churn in two batches (or reduce the recipe by 25-30%).
The oat streusel recipe is adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home and makes way more than you need for this batch of ice cream. But! It freezes beautifully and I have absolutely loved having a big batch on hand to layer in other ice creams / sprinkle on sundaes / snack on. So I definitely recommend just making the full batch and patting yourself on the back later.
My favorite containers for storing ice cream are these Cambro 1-quart Poly Rounds. They don’t take up a lot of room in the freezer and they’re the perfect size for a typical home batch. But you can use a loaf pan, empty yogurt container, or similarly-sized freezer-safe vessel. Whatever container you choose, I recommend sticking it in the freezer while you are churning your ice cream to help minimize melting!
Make the buttermilk custard base: Combine the cream and buttermilk in a large measuring cup.
Combine 100g (1/2 c) of sugar, dry milk powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl and whisk well. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and remaining 25g (2 T) sugar and whisk until the yolks are lighter in color, about 1 minute.
In a medium pot, combine the corn syrup and half (1 1/2 c) of the buttermilk/cream mixture. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth. Set the pot over medium heat and cook stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved (about 3 minutes). Remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking the yolk mixture and continue to whisk constantly while slowly drizzling the hot liquid into the yolks.
Scrape the entire mixture back into the pot and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (it should register ~170F on a digital thermometer). Strain into a heatproof and airtight container and whisk in the remaining buttermilk/cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least 6 hours and up to 1 week.
Make the peach puree: Preheat oven to 350F. Spread the chopped peaches in a single layer on a quarter-sheet baking pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with honey.
Bake peaches for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the released juices have thickened. (The peaches shouldn’t be browned at all.) Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, scrape the peaches and all the syrupy juices into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until cold.
Make the crisp oat streusel: Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the all dry ingredients except the oats. Add the cubed, chilled butter and rub it into the dry mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the oats and stir to combine well. Spread the mixture in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet, aiming for clumps about 1/4″-1/2″ in size.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and browned. Cool completely on a wire rack, then freeze in a ziplock bag or airtight container until ready to use.
Churn the ice cream: Whisk 1/4 tsp kosher salt and chilled peach puree into the chilled buttermilk base. Churn according to the instructions for your machine, until the mixture has the texture of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-friendly container, alternating with dollops of peach jam and generous sprinklings of oat streusel. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the ice cream so it adheres, then cover with a lid. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Ice cream will keep for up to 3 months.
Shepherd’s pie is a favorite meal in our house. Typically a casserole of meat, vegetables, and gravy topped with mashed potatoes, it’s comfort food at its finest. It’s also a dish that can take on any number of variations, depending on your mood and what’s in the fridge. For this version, I decided to go decadent by replacing the typical ground meat filling with a beef rib stew simmered in the Paderno 6-quart Slow Cooker.
Part of the magic of a slow cooker is its ability to transform inexpensive but tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth meals. Here we take full advantage of low-and-slow cooking by simmering beef ribs overnight until the meat literally falls off the bone. The simmering liquid is reduced to a luscious gravy, and the whole stew is topped off with a thick layer of Yukon Gold mash. Delicious!
A few notes:
You can easily make the stew portion several days in advance. After slow-cooking the meat, simply cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate until needed. When you’re ready to assemble the shepherd’s pie, skim the fat solids off the top and rewarm in the slow cooker on low for 1-2 hours before proceeding.
Since the stew is quite rich, I opted to make the mashed potatoes a little leaner by using the potato cooking water instead of a dairy product. If you prefer a more decadent mash, feel free to substitute milk/cream/sour cream.
Customize the stew with whatever vegetables you like or have on hand! Mushrooms and peas would be great additions (I’d add them in the last hour of cooking, or during the reheat if you make the stew ahead of time). You can also sub the apple juice for red wine or beer for a different flavor.
Beef Rib Shepherd’s Pie
For the slow cooker beef ribs:
5 lbs bone-in beef ribs, cut into single-bone portions
1 large onion, diced
Half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
2 carrots, shredded
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes)
3 dried bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 c apple juice
Salt and pepper
75g (1/3 c) unsalted butter
40g (1/3 c) all purpose flour
For the mashed potatoes:
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 in. pieces
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped chives or scallion greens
For the slow cooker short ribs:
Season beef ribs generously with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Grill or sear beef ribs on all sides. Meanwhile, in a large pot, sweat onion, garlic, and carrots in olive oil over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme for the last couple of minutes.
Deglaze pan with apple juice. Add tomatoes, dijon, and worcestershire sauce. Stir to combine, and bring to a low simmer. Once simmering, remove from heat and set aside.
Once finished grilling/searing ribs, transfer ribs to slow cooker, assembling in an even layer. Pour vegetable and liquid mixture over ribs. Add water so the liquid level falls just below the top of the beef.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bones easily. (At this point you can refrigerate the stew for several days if needed; skim the fat and reheat on low for 1-2 hours when ready to proceed.)
When ready to assemble and bake the shepherd’s pie, remove the bones and bay leaves from the slow cooker and discard. Strain the liquid into a large glass measuring cup. Transfer stew solids to an oven safe pan (I used the Paderno Classic Non-Stick Fry Pan) or casserole dish. Use two forks to shred any large pieces of meat.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Gradually add the reserved liquid, whisking constantly. Once all the liquid is added, raise heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until the gravy is thickened and reduced by about 1/3 (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Add enough gravy to nearly cover the meat and vegetables (reserve the rest of the gravy for serving).
For the mashed potatoes:
Place the potato pieces in a large pot and add cold water to cover by about an inch. Add several generous pinches of salt.
Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, turn heat down to medium low and continue simmering until the potatoes are fork-tender (10-15 minutes).
Drain the potatoes, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
Return the potatoes to the pot over low heat. Add the butter. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes, adding the reserved water as needed to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle.
Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the filling and score with the tines of a fork for texture, if desired.
Place pan on a sheet pan to catch any drips and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned and the edges of the filling are bubbling. Garnish with chopped chives or scallions, if desired. Serve with reserved gravy.