Active Prep: 30 min. Inactive Prep: 1 hr.
Difficulty: Medium
Yield: 4 servings

When I first cloned this dish in 2007 it was called Tequila Lime Chicken. Was the tequila removed from the recipe and the name to satisfy concerned teetotaling Applebee’s customers? I really don’t know. What I do know, however, is that this dish is still one of the chain’s best sellers. Upon examining the dish at the restaurant recently I discovered that the chicken is brushed with a zesty lime sauce before the Mexi-ranch sauce is applied. I’m not sure if the restaurant’s version of the dish has always included this step, but I do know that my first version of the recipe did not, so it was my responsibility and resolute duty, as a dedicated food hacker, to instantly get cracking on an improved hack of this fine dish. The zesty lime sauce clone is here now, as are improvements for the Mexi-ranch sauce and chicken marinade. At the restaurant, the dish is served with a side of delicious Mexican rice. If you’d like to do the same, you’ll find a new clone of that simple recipe here. 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon white vinegar 
2 teaspoons lime juice 
½ teaspoon Grey Poupon Dijon mustard 
½ teaspoon minced garlic 
½ teaspoon granulated sugar 
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 
⅛ teaspoon salt 
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano 
⅛ teaspoon dried thyme Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes 

⅔ cup mayonnaise 
⅓ cup sour cream 
3 tablespoons whole milk 
2 tablespoons diced Roma tomato 
2 tablespoons diced onion 
1 tablespoon white vinegar 
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro 
1 teaspoon paprika 
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 
¼ teaspoon garlic powder 
⅛ teaspoon salt 
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper 
⅛ teaspoon dried dill weed 
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin 

1 cup diced Roma tomatoes (about 2 tomatoes) 
¼ cup diced red onion 
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro 
1 teaspoon lime juice 
⅛ teaspoon salt 
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 

3 cups water 
½ cup vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon salt 
1½ teaspoons granulated sugar 
½ teaspoon garlic powder 
½ teaspoon paprika 
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
 ¼ teaspoon hickory liquid smoke 
4 skinless chicken breast fillets 
1⅓ cups shredded cheddar/Jack cheese blend 

Fried tortilla strips 
4 lime wedges 

How to prepare

  1. Combine all of the ingredients for the zesty lime sauce in a medium bowl. Whisk well, then set aside.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the Mexi-ranch sauce in a medium bowl. Cover and set this aside as well. 
  3. Combine all of the ingredients for the pico de gallo, then cover and set it aside along with the two sauces. 
  4. Prepare the chicken marinade by combining all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Pound the chicken breasts flat under a piece of plastic wrap with a kitchen mallet. Add the chicken to the marinade, then cover and chill it for 1 hour. 
  5. Preheat your barbecue grill to high about 30 minutes before the chicken is done marinating (you can also use a grill pan that is preheated over medium heat). When the chicken has marinated for 1 hour, remove it from the marinade and place it directly on a well-lubricated grill. Cook the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until done.
  6.  Assemble each dish by placing a chicken breast on a plate. Brush a little zesty lime sauce over the chicken, then spoon on some of the Mexi-ranch sauce. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup of cheese over the top of the chicken, then microwave it for 30 to 60 seconds on high heat to melt the cheese.
  7. To serve, arrange the chicken breast on top of a bed of fried tortilla strips. Serve with the pico de gallo and a wedge of lime on the side.

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