I’ve been saving this recipe for you.
It’s an old favorite that I’d forgotten about and hadn’t made it in a few years. Back in March, though, I found myself with a small head of Napa cabbage and half a rotisserie chicken, and my memory was jogged. “Those chipotle chicken salad tacos were awesome,” I thought. “Why has it been so long since I made them?”
It brings together wonderful summer flavors – that aforementioned barbecue tang, plus the crunch of cabbage and the green herbiness of cilantro – with ease of preparation and the convivial simplicity of assemble-at-the-table presentation. And it does all this with no application of heat at all. (Okay, except for warming the tortillas – but you can skip even that if you can find prepared tostada shells at the store.) And using half cabbage instead of all chicken lightens it for delicate summer appetites.
You need this recipe now, to be a loyal friend all summer and for many summers to come. So here it is.
Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos
Serves 4 Time: 20 minutes
Look for canned chipotle chiles in adobo in the Mexican section of your grocery store, near salsas and pickled jalapenos. The cans are small, usually about 7 ounces. Herdez and Embasa are common brands.
2 to 3 (depending on heat level desired) chipotle chiles
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons medium-quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 small head Napa cabbage or green cabbage
1.5 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1/2 rotisserie chicken)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium red onion or 5 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt, to taste
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 cup grated queso anejo or Parmesan, or crumbled feta
12 soft corn tortillas, warmed, or prepared tostada shells
Chop the chipotles very fine. Place in a bowl and whisk in the oil and vinegar. Set aside.
Thinly slice the Napa cabbage – you should have 2 cups or a little more. If using green cabbage, slice it more finely and use a little less – more like 1.5 cups. (Green cabbage is tougher and more assertive.) Mix the cabbage, chicken, carrot, onion, and cilantro. Pour the chipotle mixture over all and toss. Taste for salt (it may not need much; rotisserie chicken can be salty.) Add salt as needed and toss well.
At this point, you can serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to a day. (The green-cabbage version benefits from being set aside a few hours, as the cabbage softens up a little.)
Just before serving, pour salad into a serving bowl and top with avocado. Warm tortillas. Place feta and lime wedges in small bowls. Place everything on the table and assemble tacos as you go, finishing each off with a squeeze of lime. Wash them down with ice-cold lemonade, beer, or sangria. Relax and enjoy!