Tag Archives: Tacos

Mexican Hot Dog Tacos

Mexican Hot Dog Tacos

I actually made this recipe last summer, trying to use up an excess of corn tortillas before they spoiled, and while this is a great summer recipe (I could totally see chowing down on this after a day at the pool), I also think it’s quite appropriate to share at this time of year: you know, when winter is winding down and the weather is showing hints of warming up consistently, and it’s almost time to start thinking about how we might look in a swimsuit, but we can bury our heads in the proverbial sand just a few weeks longer.

Mexican hot dog tacos

The Mexican hot dog is a crafty delicious thing that I’m pretty sure was not invented by a cardiologist, but rather enterprising street cart owners who capitalized on drunk people exiting dance clubs and wanting something a little greasy. It’s a hot dog split in half lengthwise, stuffed with jalapenos and cheese, then wrapped in bacon to seal it all up. Putting such a thing in a tortilla and dousing it with salsa to make a taco is one of the best things ever.

tomato based salsa

Bookmark this recipe for your next splurge day. I promise it’s so worth it. Enjoy!

Mexican Hot Dog Tacos

Source: adapted from Dos Caminos Tacos by Ivy Start

Ingredients:

TACOS:
6 hot dogs
2-3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
About 18 slices of pickled jalapeno
12 slices bacon
6 corn tortillas, warmed

SALSA:
Canola oil, for greasing
4 ripe Roma tomatoes (about 1 lb.)
2 unpeeled cloves garlic
1 medium white onion
1 small jalapeno
1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed
1 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, coarse stems removed
Kosher salt

Directions:
First make the SALSA: position a broiler rack about 8 inches from the broiler, or as close as you can get while still being safe.
Pour a little canola oil onto a thickly folded paper towel, then wipe it all over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and chile de arbol on the prepared baking sheet. Tomatoes and jalapeno should be skin side up. Broil until the skins are charred and somewhat blackened.
Leave the blackened skin on the vegetables and let them cool until you can handle them. Take the garlic and squeeze the flesh out from the skins over your blender or food processor. Add the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, chile de arbol, lime juice, and cilantro to the blender. Process until you get that chunky-smooth texture of restaurant salsa. Add salt to taste – you’ll need a good bit of it. Set the salsa aside to cool down to room temperature.
For the TACOS: with a very sharp knife, cut each hot dog open lengthwise, making a slit but not cutting all the way through, so you could open the hot dog like a book.
Slice the cheese into strips, then cut those strips lengthwise so they will fit nestled into the slit you just cut into the hot dogs. Place the cheese strips into the cut open hot dogs, using as many as you need to fit the entire length of the hot dog. Wedge 2-3 (depending on their size) pickled jalapeno slices into the open hot dogs. It’s fine to squish them in there. Now wrap each hot dog in 2 slices of bacon, securing with toothpicks at the ends.
Preheat your grill, indoor or outdoor is fine, to medium-high heat. I used an indoor grill for this to prevent the inevitable fiery flare-ups that would have happened (thanks to the bacon fat) on the charcoal grill outside. Drizzle or wipe down the grill with a touch of canola oil to prevent sticking, then place the bacon-wrapped hot dogs on the grill cut side up. When the cheese has mostly melted, flip the hot dogs and continue cooking until the bacon is crisped up and browned. The whole thing will take 10-12 minutes total. Remove the hot dogs from the grill with tongs, then carefully remove the toothpicks.
To serve, place 1 hot dog in a warmed tortilla and spoon some salsa over top. Serve immediately. You’ll likely have extra salsa – serve with tortilla chips for dipping and refrigerate the leftovers for a snack later.

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

I made my first batch of homemade fresh chorizo about three years ago, and I haven’t looked back once. The homemade is infinitely superior to the store-bought taste-wise, and no scary-sounding, unpronounceable ingredients either. Chorizo is almost exclusively made from pork shoulder (or so I thought!), and that cut is fatty enough that you don’t really need to hunt down fatback. Although you can, and it’s fantastic that way too!

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

But, like I said, I had always thought pork had the market cornered on chorizo, only to find out I was happily mistaken – duck chorizo is a thing! So when Fresh Direct sent me a duck breast that was misshapen and didn’t look all that great for searing and slicing, I decided to run it through the meat grinder and try my hand at some duck chorizo.

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Wow. Yeah. It’s phenomenal! I opted for tacos, and I wanted to keep the tacos themselves on the simple side to really showcase the chorizo. So I’d been thinking a cabbage slaw, but saw these giant Brussels sprouts at the market and since Brussels sprouts are little cabbages, I decided to try it.

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

As duck chorizo is and very well should be a thing, so should Brussels sprouts slaw. It was really fantastic! A tad more flavor than regular green cabbage, but it definitely didn’t overpower the duck flavor. This is definitely a repeat-worthy meal here. Enjoy!

Duck Chorizo Tacos with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Source: Duck Chorizo is from Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook by Harold Dieterle; the rest is from yours truly

Ingredients:

CHORIZO:
1 lb. ground duck, doesn’t matter what cut just make sure the skin and fat is ground along with the meat
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs sweet paprika
4 tsp chili powder
2 tbs ground fennel
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs sherry vinegar
Kosher salt

SLAW:
4 giant Brussels sprouts or their equivalent, trimmed, halved, and very thinly sliced across
Juice of half a lime
Kosher salt and black pepper
Slight drizzle of olive oil

8 corn tortillas, warmed
Minced cilantro, for garnish
Crumbled Cotija cheese, for garnish

Directions:
To make the CHORIZO, place the duck, garlic, paprika, chili powder, fennel, oregano, sherry vinegar, and kosher salt to taste in a large bowl. Stir to incorporate, then refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
Right before you’re ready to cook the chorizo, make the SLAW. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts to a mixing bowl and add the lime juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and set aside until serving.
Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a slight drizzle of olive oil (the duck has plenty of fat!) and once it’s hot, add the duck. Cook, crumbling with a spoon and stirring, until the duck is cooked through. Let cool just slightly before assembling the tacos.
To assemble the tacos, fill a warmed tortilla with the duck chorizo, then top with slaw and garnish as you like it – I kept mine simple with a little minced cilantro and crumbled Cotija cheese. Serve immediately.

Asian-Style Duck Tacos with Plum Pico de Gallo

Asian Style Duck Tacos with Plum Pico de Gallo

I think most of us in the US would agree that peaches tend to be the heavyweight champions of stone fruit season. But if that’s indeed true, then I’d say that plums are the minor league champs, and deserve their day in the spotlight. And I for one get very excited when these underrated champs reach their peak high season! My local grocery store has them on full display, right there on the sidewalk, both black and red varieties looking proud, plump, and delicious.

black plums

I knew I wanted a savory application for the beauties, and thanks to me buying twice as many corn tortillas than I needed last weekend, tacos began to make a lot of sense. (Due to the excess of corn tortillas, we’ve actually been eating a LOT of tacos around here lately).

plum pico de gallo

I must admit, I’ve never before warmed to the idea of “fusion tacos” – but, well, when you’re eating as many tacos as we have been lately, the idea starts sounding better and better. So that’s where Asian style duck tacos come into play. These are reminiscent of a Peking duck. They marinate in a basic Chinese style combination of garlic, ginger, soy, and hoisin.

Asian Style Duck Tacos with Plum Pico de Gallo

The plums actually stand in for, rather than accompany, the traditional tomatoes used in pico de gallo, which gives the salsa a fruitier and very bright taste. Its texture is maybe *slightly* softer than traditional tomato-based pico. But the plums complemented the duck beautifully. I hope y’all will enjoy these!

Asian Style Duck Tacos with Plum Pico de Gallo

Source: adapted from Dos Caminos Tacos by Ivy Stark

Ingredients:
TACOS:
1 large (1 lb.) duck breast, trimmed of excess skin and fat, patted dry
½ cup red wine (I used a pinot noir)
½ cup soy sauce
2 tbs hoisin sauce
½ tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1 chile de arbol, crumbled or chopped
1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, sliced
¼ medium red onion, coarsely chopped
Slight pinch of kosher salt
4-6 corn tortillas, warmed
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

PLUM PICO DE GALLO:
½ lb. ripe plums (can be red or black variety), pitted and diced
¼ cup finely diced fresh cilantro
¼ medium red onion, finely chopped
2 tbs finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 serrano chile, minced (seeded if you want the salsa to be less hot)
1 large garlic clove, minced
½ tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp sugar, optional
Kosher salt, to taste

Directions:
Place the duck breast in a large, resealable plastic food storage bag. In a small mixing bowl, combine the red wine, soy sauce, hoisin, lime juice, peppercorns, garlic, cinnamon stick, chile de arbol, ginger, and onion. Pour over the duck breast and close the bag. Massage the bag so that the duck is completely coated in the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and let marinate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
Get the duck out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to start cooking so it can come up to room temperature.
Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat and let it get as hot as it’s going to get before you start cooking the duck.
Meanwhile, remove the duck from the marinade and wipe off any excess. Using a VERY sharp paring knife, score the skin on the diagonal in one direction, then rotate the duck and score the skin on the diagonal going the other direction, so you have a cross hatch pattern all over the skin. Season very lightly with kosher salt. Place the duck in the cast-iron skillet, skin side down. Cook until the skin is crackly-crispy and the fat has rendered. This will take about 15 minutes total, and you may need to adjust the heat upwards or downwards, depending on how well the fat is rendering. You want it hot enough to do its thing but not hot enough to burn the duck or cook the inside meat too quickly. Periodically you will need to carefully remove the duck with tongs to a cutting board and drain off the rendered fat. If you don’t do this, you’ll be pseudo deep-frying the duck by the end and it will taste greasy.
Once the fat is rendered, flip the duck breast over and cook on the meat side until its internal temperature reads 130 F, about 10 more minutes. Remove the duck to a plate, loosely tent with foil and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
Prepare the PLUM PICO DE GALLO: combine the plums, cilantro, red onion, garlic, mint, serrano chile, lime juice, sugar if using, and salt. Taste for seasoning, as you may need to add more salt. Adjust as necessary.
To assemble, place the duck on a clean cutting board and slice as thinly as possibly across on the diagonal. Place a few duck slices in each tortilla, then spoon on a helping of plum pico de gallo. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Serve the leftover pico de gallo with tortilla chips if you wish.

Braised Goat Tacos

Braised Goat Tacos

I’m an animal lover anyway, but I harbor a special love for goats. Not sure why, but then again why not? The babies are just beyond adorable, and I love that obnoxious free spirit they all seem to inhabit in spades. As I heard a farmer put it once, “goats have… opinions.” There’s a little farm out on the North Fork of Long Island that allows you to stop and bottle feed their baby goats; one of the funniest and most fun things to do in the area. One of them ate my scarf.

Braised Goat Tacos

So I suppose if you feel as I do, it would be strange to eat goat meat, and maybe that’s part of why I hadn’t tried it until recently. But, after reading up on it, I discovered that Americans are one of a few countries that don’t eat it, and that may not be a good thing. There are many compelling yet admittedly preachy reasons for carnivores to incorporate more goat and less cow into their diets (click here if you’re interested in finding out more). So, I figured let’s try it!

Braised Goat Tacos

Okay, sold. It’s delicious and no, it doesn’t taste like chicken. It doesn’t taste like beef. Or lamb. It’s its own thing – it tastes like goat! And goat is extremely tasty – very earthy and with a slight almost sweetness that you don’t find in beef or lamb. Just delectable, really.

Braised Goat Tacos

Recipe notes: you’re looking for around 3-4 pounds of goat meat. So if your goat meat includes bones, take that into account. The meat I found looked like garden variety stew meat, but each piece actually had some bones on it (it reminded me of pork neck or oxtails). I still don’t know what cut of meat it was (and apparently the store clerk didn’t either!). But basically, you’re slow cooking the meat until it’s very tender and can be shredded. So boneless stew meat chunks are fine, as is meat on the bone, as mine was. Enjoy!

Braised Goat Tacos

Source: adapted from Michael Symon’s Carnivore by Michael Symon

Ingredients:
1 cup white wine or sherry vinegar
1 cup plus 3 tbs olive oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbs cumin seeds, toasted
1 tbs coriander seeds, toasted
2 tsp ancho chile powder
¼ tsp chile de arbol powder (can sub in cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes)
2 tbs packed brown sugar
3-4 lbs. goat meat (see note above), cut into stew chunks
1-2 bottles Mexican beer
1 (15 oz.) can crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes
Corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges, for serving
Fresh cilantro, for serving
Crumbled queso fresco, for serving

Directions:
In a mixing bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the vinegar, 1 cup olive oil, garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, both chile powders, and brown sugar. Add the goat meat to a large (gallon-size) resealable plastic food bag, then carefully pour the marinade over it. Seal the bag, then squish it around to coat the meat thoroughly. Set the bag in a bowl or baking dish and stick it in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Season each piece with salt. Reserve the marinade. Put a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the remaining olive oil. Brown the meat, making sure not to crowd the pan, about 3-4 minutes per side. Work in batches if necessary.
Once all the meat is browned, add it all back into the pot, plus any accumulated pan juices. Now add the reserved marinade, 1 bottle of beer, and the tomatoes. The liquid should almost cover the goat meat. Add some or all of the remaining beer if necessary. Bring to a nice boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and cook around medium-low for about 2 hours, until the goat is very tender and can easily shred with a fork or your fingers. Depending on your cut of meat, this might take only 90 minutes or it might take as long as 3 hours. You want to keep this at a gentle simmer the entire time – enough to actually cook the meat but not hot enough so that it scorches. I checked on mine every 20-30 minutes and gave it a stir to keep it on track.
Once the meat is cooked, remove from the heat and let the goat meat cool in the pot. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones, shred it, and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Discard the bones and fat.
Strain the liquid into a smaller saucepan over low heat and warm it back up. I found it necessary to do 2 strains: once through a fine-mesh sieve to discard the solids, and then I ran it through a fat separator. While I’m not averse to a little animal fat, this particular goat netted a quite-ridiculous amount!
Spoon the warm sauce over the shredded meat. You probably won’t need all of it, you just want to coat and moisten the meat. Taste it here for seasoning and add more salt if desired.
Serve in the warm tortillas garnished with lime wedges, cilantro and queso fresco.

Margarita Fish Tacos

Margarita Fish Tacos

We continue our delicious, tequila-filled MARGARITA WEEK – woohoo!! – with something that is actually light and healthy and won’t get you sloshed. Surprised? It’s true. The fish for these tacos is seared in a cast-iron skillet, no breading or deep-frying; the tortillas are corn, which are much lighter than flour, and there’s no cheese, because cheese on a fish taco is just weird (in my humble opinion).

The fish is quickly marinated in tequila and lime juice to give it a margarita flavor. The end result is subtle but definitely there. A mild green salsa is the perfect match for not overpowering the margarita flavors, and I used shredded red cabbage as a topping, but you could just as easily opt for lettuce. Matt and I both loved this one. Made us feel like we were in Mexico. Or on a beach. Or on a beach in Mexico… It’s awesome. Enjoy!

margarita fish tacos

{One year ago: Giant Cinnamon Rolls with Buttermilk Glaze}

Source: adapted from Look + Cook by Rachael Ray

Ingredients:
2 oz. silver tequila
Zest and juice of half a lime
¼ tsp orange zest
2 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp chili powder
¾ lb. cod, pin bones removed and cut into 2 pieces to make it more manageable, if necessary
6 corn tortillas, warmed
Shredded cabbage or lettuce
Green salsa, your favorite store-bought brand is fine, or homemade

Directions:
Combine the tequila, lime zest, lime juice, orange zest, orange juice, garlic, olive oil, Old Bay, and chili powder in a shallow bowl or small baking dish, like a pie plate. Add the fish and turn several times to make sure it is thoroughly coated. Let sit for about 5 minutes, but not much longer.
Preheat your cast-iron skillet to medium-high. Add the fish pieces and cook, turning once, about 3-4 minutes per side. It is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
When the fish has cooked through, remove it to a plate. Let it rest 1 minute, then flake it apart into big chunks with a fork.
Assemble the tacos: place some fish chunks in a tortilla, then top with salsa and cabbage. Serve immediately.

Tacos de Lengua #SundaySupper

Tacos de Lengua

I’m ba-ack – to Sunday Supper, that is! The holidays got a little nutty so I took a break, but I’m very happy to be participating once again. This week we are *slowly* ringing in the New Year. Slowly – get it? Yup, slow cookers! All the recipes this week are crock pot friendly and quite appropriate for all the cold weather we’re having. I considered it a perfect excuse to check one off my cooking bucket list – making beef tongue tacos! (Lengua is Spanish for beef tongue.)

I first tasted beef tongue about a year ago in a restaurant. It came on a small plate as a hash, and we all loved it. Making it at home immediately went on the list. I’m quite pleased to discover and report that this is a very easy dish to make at home. The beef sits in the slow cooker with a few aromatics for 8 hours, then it cools slightly and you remove the skin and dice it. Then you simmer it just a few minutes in the sauce and you’re done!

slow cooker beef tongue

Now, you may have noticed that I didn’t post any pictures of the tongue whole. That’s because, well, the cooked tongue, pre-skinning and dicing, well, just looks like a giant penis. I wish I was kidding. But it really, really does. As in, men wish they were… okay never mind. But anyways!

Once you get it peeled and diced, it’s not so disturbing (or phallic) and things are pretty smooth sailing from that point on. I know this recipe probably isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re even a slightly adventurous eater, I’d highly recommend trying this, it’s really quite tasty. Matt ate three tacos in a row. Oh, and this doesn’t have to be tacos; I loved it on tortilla chips, which makes me think it works as a dip of sorts, or possibly as nachos, too. Whichever way, enjoy!

Beef Tongue Tacos

Source: adapted from Muy Bueno by Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, Veronica Gonzalez-Smith, and Evangelina Soza

Ingredients:
2 ½ – 3 lbs. beef tongue (make sure it’s raw, not cured)
3 cups water
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 tsp kosher salt

SAUCE:
1 tbs olive oil
½ a medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 (15 oz.) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican
¼ tsp ground chile de arbol
8 corn tortillas
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Crumbled Cotija cheese, for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Place the beef tongue, water, onion, garlic and salt in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours.
You’ll know the beef tongue is ready when the skin has turned white and a sharp paring knife pierces it easily. Remove the tongue and let it cool to where you can handle it. Peel the outer skin off. Use a sharp paring knife to help if necessary. You will also need to cut off the fatty and funky looking underside part. Basically, it’s the part that looks like the testicles. I know that’s crude, but if you’re making this dish following these directions, you’ll know *exactly* what I’m talking about.
Once the tongue is skinned and trimmed, dice into ½-inch cubes and set aside.
Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the strained stock into a fat separator. If you don’t have one, then refrigerate it so you can skim the fat off.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the olive oil to a 10-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, and place it over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion has softened. Shut off the heat and scrape the veggies into your blender. Add the tomatoes, ½ cup of your reserved stock, cumin, cinnamon, chile de arbol, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree until very smooth, 1-2 minutes. Pour the sauce back into the skillet. Add the diced tongue and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer about 5 minutes to warm the tongue through and thicken the sauce slightly. It should not be runny.
While the sauce is simmering, warm the tortillas and keep them in a tortilla warmer if you have one, or in a foil packet.
To serve, fill a tortilla with some of the beef tongue mixture, then garnish with cilantro and cheese, if desired. I used both garnishes, and I could go either way on the cheese, but I highly, highly recommend using the cilantro. It really adds a needed fresh, grassy note.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the fabulous Sunday Supper team!

Ease into 2014 with these great slow-cooker and crock pot ideas from the Sunday Supper Group!

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Spaghetti Squash and Black Bean Tacos

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Growing up, I had my fair share of tacos. Okay, probably more than my fair share. But they came in three, and only three, different flavors: steak, ground beef, and chicken. And that’s it. Well, okay, there were a few breakfast tacos thrown in there too, but my non-breakfast tacos came in only those three versions. If you also grew up in Texas, you’re nodding along. If you grew up elsewhere, it’s possible that you find that odd.

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Yet it’s true – Texans love their tacos, but we aren’t very adventurous with the fillings (at least we weren’t in the 1980’s). I was well into my twenties when I tried my first fish taco, and when I told my mom about it, her reaction was along the lines of “You ate what???”

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So …. drum roll please … this was my very first vegetarian taco. (Yes, the breakfast tacos always included bacon or sausage, so those cannot be counted.) I had seriously never eaten one before I made this recipe! I don’t know if I should feel proud or ashamed. But when and where I grew up, vegetarian tacos were simply not done.

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I’m glad I have broken that mold and tried one. It won’t be my last meat-free taco. I found it delicious and light, full of familiar Mexican flavors but without the Tex-Mex grease that occasionally hitches a ride to the tortilla. There was definitely some love there.

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So let’s talk spaghetti squash for a moment. I love it, and I think it’s cool. I love how it starts out as this hard, uncompromising lump of a vegetable, and then turns into silky, tender strands of yumminess with just your fork once it’s cooked. I love doing the fork shred thing, it’s so fun! As much as I love it though, I wasn’t sure how spaghetti squash was going to fare in a Mexican staple. But Mexicans do use lots of squash in their cooking, so it was quite a good fit. The taste was vegetarian, but the texture was so hearty it almost felt like eating shredded meat. I would definitely make this meal again! Try it, (even you Texans), and see what you think.

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Source: lightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:
3 lb. spaghetti squash
Olive or canola oil
2 tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Kosher salt and black pepper
16 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed until pliable
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz. crumbled Cotija or queso fresco
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges, for serving

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Brush a baking sheet with oil and place the squash halves face down. Discard the seeds. Roast the squash for 40 minutes.
Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool slightly. Working over a bowl, use a fork to scrape out the flesh in strands. Discard the skin.
In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Pour over the squash and toss gently to coat. Taste the squash and adjust the seasonings if need be.
To serve, take a warm tortilla and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of black beans, 2 tablespoons of the spiced squash, 2 teaspoons of cheese, a couple pinches each of onions and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges.

Gas Station Pork Tacos

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When you grow up with something, you tend to take it for granted.  You don’t realize that it’s special, or unique, or even downright weird.  It makes for a somewhat, well, insular situation.  And often, it takes someone wholly outside the situation pointing out the oddities to make you realize that whatever you took for granted is special, unique, or downright weird.  Culinarily speaking, that’s what marrying a non-Texan did for me.  It made me realize that the cuisine there is very special, and maybe, just maybe, sometimes a little odd.

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Matt not only didn’t grow up in Texas, he never set foot in the state until we were seriously dating each other.  Seeing Texas through his eyes has been quite an experience for me.  It’s been somewhat enlightening, occasionally frustrating, but mostly just funny.

“How can you not know how to square dance?  Didn’t you learn that in elementary school gym class?”

“Where are all the highway signs saying ‘Don’t mess with Pennsylvania’?”

“At the wedding, we’ll have to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe!  Oh, you’ve never even heard the song?  Huh?!”

“Really?  Your gas stations didn’t sell freshly made tacos?”

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Yep, some gas stations in Texas have little kitchens in the back and they sell freshly made tacos. Some of them even have an area where you can sit down to eat them. Now to be clear, not all gas stations in Texas sell freshly made tacos – not by a long shot. In fact, most of them don’t. But a few of them in Dallas do, enough that it’s become kind of a Texas thing. Enough so that the natives can walk into a gas station that smells like a delicious taqueria and think nothing of it. And enough so that born and bred Texans like myself don’t really realize it’s weird to have a little Tex-Mex restaurant in the back of well, a gas station.

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Fortunately, I have a loving, darling husband who had no problem pointing out the oddity of it all. So in response, I just made him some pork tacos that are reminiscent of those you would find in a gas station taqueria. He still thinks the idea of selling fresh, delicious tacos out the back of a gas station is peculiar. But I must add that he said this in between bites of scarfing the tacos and proclaiming them to be utterly amazing. So there you go.

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Source: ever so slightly adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain

Ingredients:
4 dried pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder
1 canned chipotle in adobo
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tbs white vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbs vegetable oil
6 jalapeno chiles
Corn tortillas, warmed
Garnishes of your choice, such as minced cilantro, salsa, guacamole, diced yellow onion, and lime wedges

Directions:
Toast the pasilla chiles in a dry, medium saucepan over high heat on each side for about 10 seconds, just until fragrant. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the chiles. Leave it over high heat until the water boils, then shut off the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes.
While the pasillas are working, rinse and thoroughly dry the pork with paper towels. Trim the fat then dice into half-inch-size pieces.
Once the pasillas are rehydrated, lift them out with tongs and place them in a blender. Add to the blender the chipotle chile, garlic, oregano, cumin, cloves, orange juice, pineapple juice, vinegar and olive oil. Blend until a smooth puree forms. If it’s not cooperating, add a little bit of the chile soaking liquid to make it come together. Season to taste with salt.
Place the pork in a large resealable plastic baggie and carefully add the chile puree. Seal the bag and squish it around so the pork is completely immersed in the puree. Set it in a baking dish or mixing bowl and refrigerate for 8 hours.
Before cooking, let the pork sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. To cook the pork, heat two large skillets over medium heat and drizzle in the vegetable oil (1 tbs for each skillet). Divide the pork equally between the two skillets and fry for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
While the pork is cooking, place the jalapenos in a single file line down the middle of a baking sheet. Turn your broiler to high. Place the pan under the broiler as close as you possibly can to the heat source without touching it. Cook for 10 minutes, turning once, until blackened and softened. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, then slice the jalapenos.
To assemble the tacos, place some pork in the warmed tortilla and top with some sliced roasted jalapenos* and whatever garnishes you like.

* Um, roasted jalapenos – where have you been all my life??? These were some of the best, if not THE best jalapenos I’ve ever tasted. I am definitely using this trick again and again!!

Pork Tinga Tacos

Tinga is a Mexican classic that I did not grow up eating.  So for the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what it is, exactly.  Some people say Tinga means “delicious” while others say it means “shredded”.  Personally I don’t see that they’re mutually exclusive, so maybe we can go with shredded deliciousness? Actually, Tinga is a stew of delicious, shredded meat that usually contains chipotles or some other spicy chile, and it often contains a starch of some kind (I’ve seen black beans, potatoes, and corn used). The proper way to consume it is to wrap it in a tortilla like a taco or eat it on a crispy tostada.

The dish originates from the city of Puebla, a place I’d love to visit sometime, and the same city that gives us Mole Poblano.  I’ve spent, well, really no time in the middle of Mexico, only the edges.  The first time I ventured there was with a group of lovely do-gooders, and we drove across the Texas border to Matamoros to help build better digs for a children’s home (read: orphanage, but I don’t think you’re supposed to call it that anymore).  It was quite an experience, one I will never forget.  I got to experience the infamous border patrol both directions, which everyone should try to see at least once in their lifetime.  But more importantly, we met some really amazing people and kids.  They were among the sweetest kids I’ve ever met, kids who had the most cheerful dispositions and grateful attitudes despite their very unfortunate circumstances.  Some were there because their parents, despite being very loving, simply could not care for them for a period of time, due to finances, illness, or something else.  Others had simply been abandoned.

There was one little boy, he couldn’t have been older than 4, who really got attached to me.  He spoke not a word of English, but didn’t seem to mind that I couldn’t understand a word he said.  I tried not to let on that I had no idea what he was saying, but I think you can only nod, smile and say “Really? Wow!” so many times before even a 4-year-old will catch on that you’re clueless.  He cried when I left, and truthfully, so did I.  He’d be around 15 years old by now.  I kept a picture of me holding him for the longest time, until it was quite literally stolen from me.  About seven years ago, my car was broken into while I was in the process of moving, and that picture was in one of the boxes that were taken.  Although I’ve never been back to Matamoros, I still think of him often and hope he’s doing alright.

The next two times I visited Mexico were a complete 180 from the first time.  Those visits were romantic getaways in luxury beach resorts, once to Cabo and another to Playa del Carmen.  Still, I love Mexico and have dreams and goals to see it all.  One of these days I’ll get myself to Puebla.  In the meantime, I’ll have this Tinga dish to keep me company.

Source: In My Kitchen, by Ted Allen

Ingredients:
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, fat cat trimmed
1 large yellow onion, quartered,
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tbs kosher salt
2 tbs olive oil
1 (4-oz.) link of raw Chorizo sausage, casing removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tbs red wine vinegar
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas, warmed
Garnishes: chopped avocado, lime wedges, sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro

Directions:
Put the pork in a Dutch oven with the quartered onion, smashed garlic, thyme, and salt and fill with water until the meat is just covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.
Reserving the cooking liquid, remove the meat to a platter. While the meat is cooling, strain the cooking liquid, remove the fat with a fat separator or skim with a large spoon, and pour the stock into a separate saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce for about 15 minutes. When the pork has cooled enough to handle, shred with two forks or your hands (I always find it easier to use your hands).
In the Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Chorizo and crumble with a spoon. When no traces of pink remain, add the chopped onion and garlic and let soften for a few minutes. Then add the shredded pork back in and cook, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, 1 cup pork stock, chipotle, black beans, and vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until most liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
Fill the tortillas with the pork and top with whatever garnishes suit you. Serve immediately.

Beef Puffy Tacos

I think pretty much everyone, Texan or not, had taco night every so often when they were growing up.  I know we did.  Busy moms would go to the grocery store and buy those taco packages that consisted of crunchy corn tortilla shells, a seasoning packet, and instructions to brown some beef then top the whole thing with shredded Cheddar, lettuce and tomato.  I always loved it.  I’ve been reading through Ted Allen’s latest book, In My Kitchen, which I highly recommend.  He has a chipotle chicken taco recipe in there, which is presented as quite an upgrade from the packaged tacos he grew up eating.  He called those packages, “essentially, an insult to all of Mexico in one convenient box”.  I laughed out loud when I read that.  I love Ted Allen.  His sense of humor is a little dry, genuinely funny, with just the right amount of snark.  Funny as it is, I’m not entirely sure I agree with his statement though.  Crunchy tacos are a Tex-Mex phenomenon.  They were never meant to be Mexican food.  He is correct though, in that Mexicans would never eat a crunchy taco, nor would they ever top it with cheddar cheese.  But this taco is squarely Tex-Mex, a specialty of San Antonio.  So the convenient box may be an insult to the proper puffy taco, but could it be an insult to Mexican tacos?  I have not resolved that issue.  What I have resolved though, is that puffy tacos are supremely delicious when done correctly.  The packaged taco shells are too thick and tend to be bland.  They also don’t taste the least bit fresh.  When you go authentic and take the extra time to fry your own shells, the results are spectacular, and make a world of difference.  You get a light crunch with a fresh corn taste.  They aren’t greasy or bland.  It takes a little patience, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really easy to do.  And yes, they’re a little funky looking and mine never come out ideally.  I just say they are rustic, that catch-all word that covers a multitude of kitchen imperfections.

I take a few extra, but very quick steps for the beef filling.  I like to make sure mine is highly seasoned and very tasty.  It’s not difficult, and the ingredients are easy to come by.  I use organic store-bought salsa in this step.

As for the toppings, I have to be traditional here.  I do use some shredded yellow Cheddar cheese, because that’s how I ate it growing up.  It’s not Mexican, but it’s how it’s done in Texas and I see no reason to change it in my kitchen.  I also top with some diced tomato and shredded iceberg lettuce.  And yes, it has to be iceberg because that’s how I remember it!

Ingredients:
Olive oil
1 lb. ground sirloin
1 medium Onion, chopped
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 1/2 tbs Chili powder
1 tbs ground Cumin
1 tsp ground Coriander
1 tsp Mexican oregano (use regular Italian oregano if you can’t find Mexican)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup Beer
½ cup salsa, homemade or store-bought
8 small Corn tortillas
Canola or vegetable oil, for deep frying
For garnish: shredded yellow cheddar, shredded iceberg, chopped and seeded tomato, sour cream, pickled jalapeno slices

Directions:
Make the taco filling first. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then the beef. Crumble it with a wooden spoon or potato masher until no traces of pink remain. Next, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Stir until they have softened, about 5 minutes. Now add the spices and stir to make sure the meat and veg is coated. Deglaze the pan with the beer, and stir until it’s almost evaporated. Now stir in the salsa, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer until the texture is to your liking. I like mine to be pretty thick and saucy. While it’s expected to have some juices running down your arm whilst eating a taco, you don’t want that to get out of hand and ruin your dining experience. Turn the heat all the way to low and let the flavors marry while you prepare the tortilla shells. Stir occasionally.
Fill your deep fat fryer with oil according to manufacturer’s instructions. Test the oil with a tiny piece of tortilla you’ve broken off. If it immediately bubbles and rises to the surface, the oil is ready. If it immediately browns, your oil is too hot. If it doesn’t respond to the oil, your oil is too cold.
Place a tortilla into the oil. Take a flat wooden spatula, place it directly in the center of the tortilla and press down so the sides of the tortilla curl around the sides of the spatula. Hold it there for about 30 seconds. Release the spatula and let the tortilla continue to fry, flipping it once. The total frying time will be around 2-3 minutes per tortilla, but if yours is browning sooner, by all means take it out. Continue in batches until all tortillas are fried. Drain them on paper towels and salt lightly after each comes out of the oil.
To assemble: take a taco shell, fill with the beef, then garnish as you please. Serve immediately.