Leave it to Simon and I to go on a hike, to be in nature, and be more active in efforts to become healthy, functioning members of society—and discuss what kind of tacos I should make the entire time. Well, not the entire time. I was continuously scanning for signs of mountain lions and snakes—I’m not paranoid…really! For some reason yesterday, I just felt like I was being…watched. We did come across a pissed off rattlesnake obscured by a bush, furiously warning us to back off. But in truth most of the conversation was geared towards food and good thing it was because that’s how these spicy, smoky, and sweet chicken thigh tacos came to fruition.
Seriously though, how rare (or not) are mountain lion sightings? Do you think I could take one? I’m pretty scrappy. We hiked in a different area than we usually do. A trail overgrown and plentiful with shrubbery and trees behind which one could execute some quality stalking. It was so peaceful and deserted and provided me with ample opportunities to plan meals, or contemplate becoming one.
Back to tacos. Though I despised dark meat as a finicky child, I now prefer chicken thighs because they are far more flavorful and juicy especially when roasting. I wanted to cook them at lower temps for longer until they practically fell off the bone when you glanced to long in their direction. For the sauce I used a smoked BBQ sauce, some chipotle peppers, and my favorite Heritage Distilling whiskey. I love cooking with alcohol I think it makes all the difference in certain dishes. Heritage Distilling’s Dual Barrel Rye Whiskey added the perfect depth to very basic sauce.
My inspiration for this was a sort of slow-roasted take on fajitas. Chicken, onions, and peppers, all wrapped up in warm flour tortillas topped with a little queso fresco to balance out the heat. These were fairly spicy—this coming from the girl whose on occasion eaten hot Cheetos for breakfast—but they could have been spicier. I only caution you because taste is subjective. If heat is a concern, leave the chipotle peppers whole and remove them after, or leave them out all together.
These take minimal prep and only a little time to make—but most of that is inactive time where you can enjoy a cocktail while your oven does all the work. Perfect for Taco Tuesday or any Cinco de Mayo celebrations you may be hosting this week!
Leave a comment below about your favorite ways to cook chicken thighs or any mountain lion wisdom you’d care to pass on!
- 4 bone-in skin on, chicken thighs (about 2 lbs.)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. cumin
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- ¼ cup Heritage Distilling Dual Barrel Whiskey
- ¾ cup BBQ sauce
- 2 Chipotle peppers in adobo, diced (plus 3 tsp. of the adobo sauce)
- ¼ cup water
- 1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 Anaheim chili, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- 1 lemon, sliced, seeds removed
- Flour tortillas
- Chopped cilantro
- Queso Fresco
- Lime wedges
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Cut any excess fat off the chicken thighs and pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat oil in a cast iron or ovenproof skillet on medium high heat.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper, paprika, and cumin.
- Place chicken skin-side down in skillet, cooking until skin is golden, about 5 minutes.
- Flip chicken with tongs and cook a few minutes more.
- Remove chicken and set aside.
- Deglaze the pan with whiskey, scraping up any bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Turn off the heat and add in the BBQ sauce, chipotle peppers and sauce, water, peppers, garlic, lemon slices, and onion.
- Mix well so everything is coated before adding the chicken back to the pan.
- Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes, uncovered, basting with sauce occasionally.
- Then reduce the temperature to 275°F and bake, covered, for another 45 minutes.
- The chicken is done when it is tender and easily falls off the bone.
- Remove chicken, peppers, and onion from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Discard the lemon slices. Remove the bones and skin from the chicken thighs and shred with fingers or forks.
- On the stovetop over medium heat, reduce the liquid in the skillet by half before adding the chicken and veggies back in. Stir to coat with sauce.
- Serve with warm flour tortillas (I like to char mine on the stovetop), cilantro, queso fresco, and lime.