The first time Leo and I drove from the Cancun airport to Mahahual to dive Chinchorro we grossly underestimated how long it would take, how hungry we would get along the way, and thankfully how much gas the rental van would need. By the time we got south of Sian Ka'an nature preserve – where you turn onto the very scary little road that takes you back to the coast – we were out of gas and starving. We pulled into a gas station and there was a woman with a comal and some pots and things assembling little taquitos, which her daughter carried over to all patrons in a flat basket and offered for sale. Those little tacos were the best thing ever, and I think they saved our lives. Here is my version … I realized I don't provide measurements on the toppings – those are to taste …
olive oil for the pan
1 small yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1.5 ounces (a half of the standard box) achiote paste
2 cups low salt chicken broth
juice from 1 large navel orange
juice from 2 limes
1 ancho chili
1 cup Masa Harina (corn flour - NOT corn meal!)
1/2 cup water (plus more probably)
diced sweet onion
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT - a tortilla press
Step 1Heat the oil in a large heavy pot. Peel and chop the yellow onion and add it to the pan. After 2-3 minutes add the garlic. Season the chicken with a little salt. Push the onion and garlic out to the edges and add the chicken. Allow it to brown for a little bit.
Step 2Meanwhile, mash the achiote paste and a little broth together in a bowl - this makes it easier to incorporate later.
Step 3One the chicken had browned a little, add the broth, orange and lemon juice, and achiote mixture. Stir it all around. Rip the ancho in half and throw the whole thing in there. I left the seeds, you may want to remove them - but really anchos are not usually very hot at all. Give everything a good stir, turn the heat down and put the lid on askew so it can reduce. Cook the chicken until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, and you can easily shred the meat with two forks. Mine took a little over an hour on low heat.
Step 4Shred the meat, if you left the stem on the chili then find and remove it.
Step 5Dice the sweet onion and toss it with lime and cilantro. Peel core and dice some pineapple. Slice the avocado and squeeze some lime over it so it doesn't rust.
Step 6Mix the masa and water - start with a 2 to 1 ratio, then add water a little at a time until the dough will form a ball but is not too sticky. Heat an iron griddle or skillet to VERY hot.
Step 7Tortillas - cover the bottom of the press with a sheet of plastic wrap. Form a walnut sized ball of masa dough, put it on the press, cover with another sheet of plastic, and press. Don't squash it to death just press semi firmly. You should have a nice small tortilla. Put it on the HOT iron and cook for 2-4 minutes per side until it just starts to get nice brown spots. Repeat for as many tacos as you are going to eat.
Step 8Assembly - put a dollop of your chicken on each tortilla, then top with onion, pineapple and a slice of avocado. Repeat as often and necessary and/or desired.