So the new nutritional guide is out telling us that we should eat more grains, more veg, less sat-fat and loads less salt.  Oh, and while we’re at it, we should cut down on our food intake, overall, as well.  While, at first glance, that sounds rather bland, once you start to really look at what you eat and what kinds of substitutions are available, healthy eating can be easier than you think.  And it doesn’t have to be as bland as it sounds!

Dinners like spicy chicken tacos are a tasty and easy way to rebalance your diet – although, they are so good, it might be hard to eat less of them!  (sorry)  These get the healthy overhaul without feeling like you’re doing penance for your sins when you substitute wheat tortillas for white or (even worse) fried corn tacos.  Another good substitution is fat-free Greek yogurt (my favorite is Total 0% by Fage) for sour cream – fantastic flavor without all the sat-fat.  Load up on lettuce and tomato & avocado salsa and you get loads of flavor as well as veggies.  There are even decent reduced-fat cheeses on the market, if you want to “push the boat out.”

For this recipe, I love using a spatchcocked chicken for 2 important reasons:  1)  if you’re stuffing flavoring between the skin and meat, spatchcocking your chicken makes it sooooo much easier than if you leave the chicken round and 2)  a whole chicken cooks in half the time since it’s flattened out, giving the heat more surface area to do its thing.  Could you just marinade boneless chicken breasts?  Of course you could – make the sauce, pour it in a bag with the breasts and go about your day before baking later in the night.  But, cooking chicken on the bone gives it so much more flavor that it really is worth the little bit of extra effort and time, if you can! 

So, what is spatchcocking, how do you do it and is it illegal?  While it does sound like something that should only be done behind closed doors by consenting adults, all it means is that you remove the backbone of the chicken and lay it flat.  All you need for this is a strong pair of kitchen shears and they’ll cut right through soft chicken bones – cut up one side just next to the spine, then down the other, saving the spine for chicken stock.  Once you’ve removed the spine, flip the bird over and press to flatten.  Tuck your legs so that the drumsticks are close to the body.  This is how it should look laid out: 

I’ve adapted this from Thomasina Miers Mexican Food Made Simple.

Spicy Chicken Tacos

  • 1 medium chicken (around 3-ish lbs)
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 dried chillies (I use dried Thai chillies)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup coriander
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.  I like to use my blender stick and cup to do this – blend the allspice, cumin, dried chillies and cinnamon, grinding well.  Add the garlic, coriander, olive oil, lemon zest and juice and chipotle paste, salt and pepper and grind again to a sauce.  Now, the fun bit – spatchcock your chicken, then loosen the skin so that you can insert the paste between the skin and the meat from the neck all the way down through the thighs and legs.  Using a soup spoon, take a little paste at a time and work from the legs towards the neck, rubbing the paste into the meat as you go.  Once you’ve done both sides, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper, then pop into the oven for roughly 50 minutes or so or until it reaches 160 F. 

While the chicken is cooking, make your salsa and chop up your lettuce, laying out your taco bar.  After the bird is cooked and has had a chance to rest for 20-30 minutes, don’t even bother carving, just use your hands to shred the meat into a nice pile, then grab your family and load up!

the taco bar is OPEN!

All you need to do is heat the tortillas over a gas flame or wrap tightly in foil and warm them in the oven.

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