Last summer I found some clever taco serving dishes, with ridges to make the taco shells stand up. Quite convenient for filled tacos which otherwise are left to flop over on your plate, spilling their contents or to live in your hand until you eat the whole thing. I came up with this recipe to create taco vessels that can stand on their own, or perhaps sit on their own is more accurate since these shells are shaped like little cups.
With these you will be free to set them out for guests to fill without the need for fancy taco serving dishes (actually they are plastic and cheap, but anyway… you won’t have to buy any!)
Another aspect of this recipe that I hope will be helpful is the chicken for the tacos gets to simmer away in the slow cooker in a mixture of spicy seasonings. This year Cinco de Mayo is on a Friday and most folks have to work on Fridays. Imagine leaving the chicken in the crock pot to cook while you get your work day finished.
Prepare the taco cups and toppings the night before, and you can zip home from work and get taco cups together in a flash.
They make a tasty appetizer for a Cinco de Mayo gathering at your place – just add some Mexican beer, or better yet have your guests bring the beverages. (You know they’re going to ask you what they can bring – so take them up on the offer!)
These taco cups would also make a fun Cinco de Mayo dinner for your family! Just add a side of seasoned rice or beans to round out the meal. Whether you make these for friends, family or both, don’t forget to switch on some music to set the mood – a mariachi music station on Pandora perhaps, or one of my favorites Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass!
To save time, you can opt to serve the chicken and toppings in regular, store-bought taco shells.
- 2 pounds boneless chicken breast
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic-pepper-salt blend
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 24 small corn tortillas (6-inch)
- Extra virgin olive oil to brush on tortillas, or olive oil spray
- 2 Fresh tomatoes, seeds removed and diced
- 2 cups fresh shredded lettuce
- 6 scallions, white ends removed, diced
- 2 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 cups salsa
Pour the chicken stock, lime juice and olive oil into the bottom of a slow cooker or crock pot.
Trim any chunks of fat or sketchy bits from the chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the cumin, chili powder, garlic-pepper-salt, oregano and red pepper flakes. Rub this blend into the chicken breast to coat all of the sides. Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker and cover. Cook the chicken on the low setting for 4 to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Have a 12-cup regular-size muffin pan ready. Flip it upside down and spray the outside of the wells with nonstick spray.
Place a stack of 3-4 corn tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave them for about 20 seconds until they are very soft. Drape a softened tortilla over one of the wells and tuck the ends around it. Repeat this process with 11 more tortillas to cover the rest of the wells. Spray or brush olive oil over the surfaces of the tortillas. Place the pan in the oven and bake the cups for about 20 minutes, until the cups are crisp. Remove the taco cups to a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas to make a total of 24 taco cups.
When the chicken is done in the slow cooker, remove it to a cutting board: reserve 1/2 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker and discard the rest. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to shred it or chop it: the chop should be small enough to make it easy to add to the small cups - you should have about 4 cups of cooked, chopped chicken. Place the chicken back in the slow cooker and toss it with the reserved liquid. Set the slow cooker to Warm and cover, until you are ready to serve the taco cups.
Have the toppings - chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, chopped scallions, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream - ready in small dishes for your guests. Place about two tablespoons of the chicken into each taco cup and place them out on a serving platter for guests to take and top.
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