This is a summation of our Taco week with Mark Miller’s “Taco” book. A few basic things to get out of the way first: 1) We needed many ingredients that were not at a standard grocery store, but a specialty Hispanic food store. 2) The tacos require several steps prior to sauteing, sometimes roasting the pepper to peel, multiple items to chop, dice, or julienne, smoking spices, or squeezing limes or lemons. 3) The actually cooking time is short and so is the eating, since they are small and you basically just pound them down one after another. It was hard not to prevent yourself from popping them into your mouth with only a two large bites. Typically, we take 30-40 minutes to eat each night, but during the taco week we consumed them quickly. We tried to hit all areas of taco filing, including, egg, vegetable, poultry, fish, and red meat. However, we had to drop one of the chicken tacos because we couldn’t locate nopales. Overall, Miller’s “Taco” book is fantastic and offers a wide variety of options to the traditional American taco!
1st Taco: “Bacon and Egg with Red Chile and Honey” with the “Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce” for Sunday breakfast. The bacon caramelizes with the honey and red chile powder and sit on a bed of fluffy puffed eggs. It is topped with julienne strips of roast red pepper, chopped cilantro and the chilled tomatillo-avocado sauce. A critique on myself, I could have cooked the bacon a little longer, because it did not provide the crunchy texture contrast that was expected. The key to this taco is the accompaniment, otherwise it would have been similar to something I have previously created. With fresh tomatillos and a perfectly ripe avocado it steps up the average breakfast taco. On a Scale of 1-10, it gets a 6.5.
2nd Taco: “Squash Blossoms with Green Chiles and Cheese” with Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce.” The chilies in the recipe included poblano, jalepeno, serrano, and green. Two of them required the seeds left in which gives the dish a bit of heat. This filling is not for the spice sensitive. A couple of years ago, I discovered the squash blossoms at the farmer’s market and would stuff them with various cheese and herb mixtures. But, this recipe intrigued me because they become part of the taco filling. Epazote was an ingredient, I had never used or heard. According to the source it decreases flatulence after a rough meal. Perhaps this ingredient should be used more in bean dishes! Unfortunately, I could only locate it dehydrated, but it has an interesting scent. The fresh herbs added to the dish were marjoram, basil, and cilantro. Marjoram created perfume fragrance that dominated the smell and taste of the filling. I found it a bit harsh, so I would reduce the amount of marjoram next time. The filling had beautiful hues of yellow and green with speckles of white from the chile seeds and graded queso Oaxaca. The tomatillo-avocado sauce dripped out onto our fingers as we gobbled up the delicious vegetarian tacos. The yellow squash provided enough substance to a non-meat meal. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 9.
3rd Taco: “Seared Tuna Taco with Roast Pineapple and Habanera Pepper Sauce.” For this we used the fresh albacore tuna, we previously mentioned (plug in previous post). The tuna was sliced into 1/2 inch sections and then rubbed with a dry mixture of red chile powder. It is quickly seared on both sides. The pineapple rings were caramelized on a low stove temperature and then mixed with the lime juice, roasted habanera and fresh coriander. Since this taco contained the hottest known pepper to man-the Habanera, we fully expected it give a kick in them mouth. But, the caramelized pineapple toned down the heat from the pepper. While this taco was good because of fresh ingredients, it scored the lowest because of our execution-we overcooked the tuna and could have carmelized the pineapple more. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 6.
4th Taco: “Classic Ground Beef with Guajillo Chile with Salsa Fresca.” What I love about this classic taco is no use of a taco seasoning package. What the hell is in that, anyway? This is what a standard taco should taste like. We used our Kitchen Aid mixer to grind the beef shoulder and cooked until brown. Then, you added the re-hydrated Guajillo chiles, tomatoes, and white onion and create a stew-like texture. There were a couple other red chiles used and some of the mexican oregano. The freshest ingredients of the Salsa Fresca are necessary-heirloom tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, lime juice- to make the best topper. Combining all the ingredients makes for the best beef taco. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 8.
5th Taco: ” Chicken with Chorizo”. This taco turned out to be one of the easier tacos to prepare using only a blender and one pan, and also one the most delicious from the book. These tacos contain a green marinade which balances the red chile in the chorizo. We served them with the queso fresco, and you can also garnish them with quail eggs sunny side up. We have included the recipe (adapted) below. Scale of 1-10, it gets a 9:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 poblano chile
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 gloves garlic
1 teaspoon green chile powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and grounf
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1 nuch green onions, root ends trimmed and cut into large pieces
1 1/4 lbs of chicken breast (we used de-boned thighs as we feel like they have more flavor), cut into 1/2 strips
6oz Mexican pork chorizo bulk or links
1 tablespoon veg oil
1/2 white onion
8 crispy yellow corn tortilla shells (we used Don Pancho corn tortillas)
In a blender, place the water, lime juice, chiles, garlic, cilantro, green chile powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, salt, parsley, and green onions and puree until smooth. In a bowl pour the marinade over the chicken strips. Let set for 1-3 hrs. If in links remove the skin from the chorizo and break it up, and in a large skillet over med. heat saute the onion until carmelized about 4-6 minutes.
Add the chorizo to the onion and cook, stirring until the sausage is cooked through, around 8 minutes. Remove the sausage pan from the pan and set aside, leave the fat in the pan. Remove the marinated chicken strips and drain off the excess liquid. In the same pan as the chorizo was cooked, saute the chicken, turning once or twice, until the chicken is a light golden color and cooked, around 9 minutes. Remove from the heat or keep warm until ready to serve and stir back in the chorizo/onion mixture.
To serve, divide the filling between the warmed tortillas, top with queso fresco, and Salsa Fresca, then serve. We ate these tacos Hair of the Dog, Blue Dot, Imperial IPA. A hoppy, piney, citrus-like beer which balances the spicy attack on the palette.