(Excerpt from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” Available October 15, 2017. This is the first in a series of guidebooks to delve deeper into specific topics discussed in, “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” – available on Amazon.)
It’s #NationalTacoDay, baby!
We actually made these last night (my planning skills being what they are) but I figure that’s close enough…
Here are my favorite recipes for “the real thing”, as well as an awesome “Gringo” taco!
Tacos Al Pastor
This dish, developed in Central Mexico, is based on shawarma spit-grilled meat brought by the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico.
You’ve never really had Tacos Al Pastor (roast pork and pineapple tacos) until you’ve gotten then hot off the grill from a street hawker in Mexico City, but these are a pretty darn good second, for a quick and delicious dinner.
- 1 lb pulled pork shoulder
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks, divided
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
- 8 corn tortillas (6 inches), warmed
- 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Warm the pork in the microwave until warm through, and the juices have liquified.
Coarsely shred the pork (if not already shredded) mixing with the juices.
Crush half of the pineapple with a fork.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the un-crushed pineapple chunks; sauté in oil 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned, turning occasionally.
Remove the pineapple from the pan.
Add the enchilada sauce and crushed pineapple to same skillet, and bring to a simmer; stir in pork and reserved juices. Cook over medium-high heat 4-6 minutes or until liquid has reduced to a thick glaze on the meat, stirring occasionally.
Serve in warmed tortillas with pineapple chunks, onion and cilantro, and serve with lime wedges.
Now, while you should definitely try the Tacos Al Pastor, sometimes you just want a good old fashioned “American” Taco (the kind we grew up with).
Here’s how Mom did it…
Best “Gringo” Taco Meat Ever!
This is my favorite “gringo” taco meat recipe…
Now, in all fairness these aren’t “real” Mexican-style tacos (which I love with all of my chubby little heart) but a “next level” upgrade to the weekly suburbanite special that I grew up on. Pretty darn tasty, too!
The big deal about this recipe is that it doesn’t include “taco seasoning” which, in my opinion, just makes everything taste like…well…taco seasoning. If I wanted that, I’d “make a run for the border.”
If I go to the trouble of buying good, fresh meat, I want to taste meat!
I like these best the old-fashioned way: crispy taco shell, sour cream, shredded mexi-cheese, chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes and avocado.
My wife and daughter prefer flour “soft” tacos, and once in a while I get a hankerin’ for some fresh corn tortillas from the local Hispanic market.
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- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 lb. 80/20 ground beef (none of that “lean” nonsense!)
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 Tbs. ground cumin
- 1 Tbs. Chili powder
- 2 Tsp. seasoned salt (to taste)
- 2 tsp. ground black pepper
Mise en Place:
Dice onions, heat water, combine all spices.
Prepare the Dish:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook onions until just starting to brown, add hot water and simmer until all the water had cooked away (about 10 minutes).
Add the ground beef and ground pork, in chunks, cooking until it begins to brown. Using a spatula, or flat-edge wooden spoon, begin chopping the meat. Add the spices, and continue chopping until the meat is evenly browned and broken in to pieces no larger than 1/2 inch round. Stir, cover skillet, and remove from heat. Allow to rest 5 minutes, stir, and rest another 5 minutes.
Great for soft tacos, crispy tacos, burrito or enchilada filling, nachos, and taco salad!
5 More Terrific Taco Tips:
- Always warm crispy taco shells (or tortilla chips) in a 250F oven for 5-10 minutes. Warming them releases the natural oils, making them crispier and tastier.
- To jack the flavor up even more, skip the lettuce and cilantro, and buy a bag of “Fiesta” or “Southwestern” salad blend. Mix it up according to directions, and use it as you would plain lettuce in your tacos.
- If you haven’t tried “Crema” (Mexican sour cream) you should, it’s bolder and more tangy than the regular stuff.
- Like the taco shells, four or corn tortillas are MUCH better when warmed. Heat them in the dry pan, over medium heat until they just start to brown on the bottom. Flip and repeat. When the tortilla starts to puff up, remove and place inside a folded towel. If cooking in advance, or in large numbers, wrap 10-12 of the warmed tortillas in foil, and place in a 150F oven to stay warm.
- Lastly (and this is my favorite) I always mix beef and pork 50/50. Pork has tons of flavor, but is very dry on it’s own. Beef adds a richness, and the necessary fat. Together…amazing! This goes for meatballs, and meatloaf, as well!