National Taco Day Recipes

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking(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

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…

Gringo taco recipe

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.

Gringo taco recipe

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!

Easiest way to Grill a Mess of Shrimp

Easy Grilled Shrimp

So, I needed to grill up a whole mess of shrimp appetizers (recipe below) for a cook-out yesterday. While shopping, I found these kabob baskets on a clearance shelf for $3 each (normally about $10 for a set of two on Amazon), and had an epiphany.

What I don’t like about grilling shrimp kabobs:

  • It takes up a lot of grill space.
  • You’re constantly turning and keeping an eye on a lot of individual pieces of shrimp.
  • I always forget to soak my skewers long enough.
  • Served on the skewer (the way I like) can leave for sooty fingers, which my clients aren’t wild about.

What I like about shrimp kabobs:

  • They’re awesome.
  • They’re easy to eat.
  • They help with portion control (ie: everyone gets some, without breaking the bank on shrimp gluttons!)

So, I had a thought…what if I grilled up a bunch of these beauties at a time, and THEN added them to the skewers for serving. Problem: now instead of a dozen or two skewers to keep track ff, I have a couple of hundred individual shrimp to keep turning and moving…and quickly!

Shrimp will overcook or burn quicker than it takes to say, “Oh, S***!” Especially when marinated with an oil or alcohol base.

The solution? The kabob basket!

Kabob basket for grilling shrimpI loaded 40 large shrimp per basket, set them on the grill, and cooked about 3 minutes per side, flipping baskets (40 servings at a time) just three time each.

The best way to grill a lot of shrimp
Photo by Kristen Renner

Open the baskets, a quick flip of the wrist, and all the shrimp were in the bowl ready to skewer!

Grilling shrimp with a kabob basket
Photo by Kristen Renner

The result? Enough appetizers to keep the whole crowd happy, in less than 20 minutes, AND I was able to work on other dishes at the same time!

Then, just pop a couple of the en of each clean skewer, spritz with some lemon juice, and sprinkle the whole platter with chopped parsley.

I will NEVER grill shrimp any other way again!

Chef Perry

If you like what I’m posting, please share! If you love what I’m posting, and want to help me feed the hungry, and teach at-risk and special needs kids to cook for themselves, please consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page!

Shrimp Salmoriglio
Serves 40 (2 skewers each)

  • 1/2 cup salted capers
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 6 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • Coarse ground black pepper
  • 150 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice for spritzing
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, minced

On a cutting board, finely chop the drained capers with the basil leaves and garlic.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the lemon zest and lemon juice. Season the sauce with pepper.

Place shrimp in a large zip bag, pour in the marinade, seals and toss to coat. Let rest in the fridge 2-8 hours.

1 hour before grilling, remove from fridge and let sit on counter.

Light a grill, coals, etc

Drain the shrimp, and load as many as will fit into each kabob box, without packing them too tightly. Close the box.

Grill over high heat, turning once per side, until the shrimp are lightly charred and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.

Remove the shrimp from the box and transfer them to a platter (or a bowl, if you’re going to skewer them, 2-3 per skewer). Sprinkle more pepper on on top (optional), a healthy handful of minced parsley, and serve.

Home Chef Note: You could easily change this up to a great “South of the Border” version, by swapping the capers an basil for chili powder and minced jalapenos, limes for the lemons, and cilantro instead of parsley!

Mexican grilled shrimp

 

Tips for Perfect BBQ Chicken (Video)

Perfect BBQ Chicken Thighs Recipe
Click image for Video

Video Text:

Hey, this is Chef Perry, thanks for joining me!

Perfect BBQ Chicken Thighs RecipeToday we’re gonna talk GRILLING. Specifically, some of my favorite tips for grilling chicken. Now, while boneless-skinless chicken breasts are the current darling of the American grill, I almost always opt for thighs instead.

They have more flavor, and are more forgiving than breasts, as they don’t dry out nearly as quickly.

Perfect BBQ Chicken Thighs RecipeTip One: I always brine my chicken for a couple of hours in a simple salt & sugar brine. This adds some flavor, and helps the chicken to retain a lot of moisture.

Tip 2: With chicken, whether it’s boneless thighs, or whole drumsticks, I prefer to dip instead of brush, so I have a bowl of my favorite sauce right next to the grill.

First off, we’re going to get a 2 zone fire going under our grill (see link below). You can do the same thing with a gas grill, by turning one side on HIGH and the other side on LOW (or the outside burners on HIGH and the middle to LOW.)

Brush the thighs with a little oil, and place them on the hot side of the grill. If you brined them, don’t add any salt.

Perfect BBQ Chicken Thighs RecipeOnce they have a little char on both sides, dip each thigh into your sauce bowl, making sure to coat both sides evenly. Place the sauced thighs on the LOW side of the grill, to help set the first layer of glaze.

After a minute or two, flip them over. Once the glaze has set on both sides, dip them again. For a thick sauce, like this one, you probably only need to dip them twice.

For thinner sauces it might take 3 or 4 dips to get a really good glaze.

Put them back on the LOW side, and repeat as needed. If you like a little more char on your chicken, flip the chicken quickly back onto the hot side, just before they’re done. Be careful, most sauces have a lot of sugar, and a “little char” can quickly become a burnt mess.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich on Pretzel BunMy favorite way to serve these thighs is on a toasted pretzel bun with some homemade sesame-cilantro slaw (recipe below).

So, there you go. Any questions? Post them below, or use the contact form!

If you like this post, please share! If you LOVE these posts and want to help me cook for the hungry and teach at-risk kids how to cook, please consider becoming a patron on my Patreon Page!

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