I wrote this post nearly 2 months ago and am just getting around to publishing it. With every passing day, our situation changes a bit more. Some feelings from this moment resonate still and others already feel almost foreign, like a little part of my history.
All that most of us really want is to feel significant in some way. I for one have never wanted to be famous, but still hope that my being will have meant something in the scheme of this enormous world. The pandemic has had a funny effect on that. Individuality means less – we’re seen less, interacting in more uniform ways. We cannot travel or enjoy a lot of our hobbies. We cannot hug the people we care about. We cannot take up as much space.
The world is in this thing together, even if our experiences are far from uniform. Some people are suffering far, far more than others. Racial and economic injustices are glaring. Emotions feel fiery and guttural. But this is the first, if not only, thing in our lives that we are technically experiencing with every part of the planet. It makes us as individuals less significant, but us as a part of a bigger existence much more.
My heart is often sad in a way that is hard to describe. I’m sad for the amount of death and for the fear that’s keeping the rest of us from really living. My anxiety turns to panic for absolutely no reason at all. I happy-cry over the support at 7pm every night, when we can clap and cheer with neighbors and holler in the streets, once again taking up space for a few minutes. I feel peaceful and full of joy at times when nothing significant has happened at all, but when I think about how much I love my wife and the little life we have built. I feel grateful and present in a vastly different way. I feel real stillness at times.
I know, you clicked onto this blog because I promised you a recipe for chicken tacos. It’s coming! With fewer trips to the grocery store, it’s not easy to make up new recipes on the fly. During “The Before”, I would run to the store almost daily and grab exactly what I needed for a new dinner adventure. I would linger and dawdle as the recipe came together in my brain. These days, we (really) have to be brief and calculated when we enter enclosed spaces. We must be careful with older and vulnerable NYers walking down the sidewalk or into Gristedes. Wear masks, wash hands, give space. Every day. Doing these things honors each person I encounter during those brief moments. I will always take 30 seconds to cover my face because I value your life, even if I never see you again. That’s the way I am going to be significant.
Spicy Lime Pulled Chicken Tacos w/Tangy Slaw
Recipe requires a slow cooker and approx. 4 hours cook time
Ingredients for Pulled Chicken:
- 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
- Beef or chicken stock (low sodium, so you can control the flavor)
- 1 large shallot, cut loosely into slices
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Juice of 1 lime
- Apple cider vinegar (a splash)
- Oregano, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt, pepper
Ingredients for Tangy Slaw:
- ½ bag of mixed shredded slaw veggies (red cabbage, green cabbage, carrot)
- Zest from 1 lime and juice from ½ lime
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Dash of honey
- Chopped Cilantro (a few tablespoons)
- Garlic powder, pepper, salt
Ingredients for Yogurt Taco Topping:
- 6oz plain Greek yogurt
- Juice and zest from 1 lime
- Garlic-infused hot sauce (if unavailable, use regular hot sauce and some sautéed garlic)
- Salt to taste
- Taco-sized flour tortillas
- Fresh avocado, chopped into small cubes
This recipe calls for a slow cooker/crock pot. If you’re like me, you have a 10-year-old dinosaur of a pot with exactly 2 settings – Low and High. Mine doesn’t even have a light to tell you when it’s on or off (this is not at all a fire hazard). I love cooking chicken breast this way because after all that time in the slow cooker, the meat just falls apart. The trick is making sure you are not frugal with your flavors and seasoning.
Add the raw chicken breast into the slow cooker, cutting it in half if the pieces are especially large. Sautee your shallots and minced garlic in a small pan with a dash of oil until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Add these to the slow cooker along with the lime juice, vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of each seasoning. Add beef stock until the chicken is at least half covered. Beef broth was an unusual choice for this recipe – I only used it because I had a half-empty carton in my fridge, and, ya know, this isn’t the time to take a risky run to the store for a single ingredient. Feel free to substitute chicken stock, though the beef produced a heartier broth in the end.
Put the slow cooker on high for 1 hour, flip the chicken over, then switch to low for approx. 3 hours. Depending on the strength of your cooker, you may need to switch it back to high towards the end of the cook time. Like most old and neglected appliances, mine is unpredictable. We play a fun game of “will this be done cooking at 6pm or 8:37pm”.
While the chicken is cooking, you can mix the slaw. I let mine sit for about 2 hours, but more or less should work (based on my ‘expertise’ of having made slaw exactly one time, ever). Mix all slaw ingredients together in a bowl and add seasonings to taste and toss to coat. If you can’t find a pre-cut slaw mix, julienned carrots and finely chopped cabbage can be added individually. Cover the slaw and allow to sit in the fridge.
As you near the end of your cook time, mix together all yogurt taco topping ingredients and set aside. By now, the broth in your slow cooker should have developed a rich flavor and your chicken should shred easily with two forks. Shred the chicken without removing it from the cooker, and then allow it to cook for another few minutes in the juice.
Lightly warm your tortillas in the broiler before assembling your tacos. Remove the shredded chicken and shallots with a slotted spoon and drain well before filling the tortillas. Top with a generous spoonful of slaw (it should be super tangy by now), chopped avocado, and yogurt topping. Garnish with a little extra cilantro if you have it left over. Finally, I poured my slow cooker juice into a small bowl to dip the tacos in. I highly recommend this move if you’re looking for extra flavor and a lot of mess.
When the world appears tasteless, surround yourself in flavor. Stay scrappy and remember that nothing lasts forever. This blip in time, like the cleanliness of my kitchen before cooking tacos, will pass.
Consider donating to the Black Lives Matter movement: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
Or one of these organizations doing awesome work: https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6857/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=15780&_ga=2.187165864.1602954306.1591044385-2004584457.1591044385
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