It seems like just about everyone likes tacos, especially Celiacs or those with gluten-intolerance, who find tacos generally gluten-free as long as you check the origin of the corn tortilla and the seasoning ingredients. I must admit, the typical combination of seasoned ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese stuffed into a corn tortilla is hard to resist.
Just about everyone has their favorite homemade taco recipe and most are versions of the fast food variety we all grew up on. As usual, we Americans have borrowed from another culture's traditional cuisine and transformed and exploited it into an unimaginative fast food that we simply cannot get enough of.
The original tacos were simply corn tortillas wrapped around whatever was available. This could be meat, beans, rice, poultry or eggs. Let’s for a moment get back to more of the original concept of the taco.
First, a little about corn tortillas. The best tortillas are made from masa which is made from fresh corn dough. Most commercially sold tortillas today are made from masa harina which is made from dried corn flour. Masa harina is more processed and loses some of the original's flavor and texture.
When shopping for tortillas always read the ingredients and select a brand with as few processed ingredients as possible. You might be very surprised to learn that some brands will have an entire paragraph of ingredients and others will list three to four. The only necessary ingredients are masa harina, lime juice and water. The extra ingredients are preservatives and/or flavor enhancers.
Once you have the tortillas, how do you prepare them for tacos? There are a few different ways that will produce warmed soft tacos to crisp tacos.
For soft tacos begin with a cast iron skillet, or even better, a comal, a flat, round cast iron griddle. Place the skillet on the stove over high heat and heat until the skillet is very hot. Place a tortilla on the skillet and cook until it softens and begins to curl up on the edges, turn and repeat. The whole process will take about a minute. Place the warmed tortillas in a tortilla warmer or in foil and in a 200 degree F. oven to keep warm until all the tortillas have been heated up.
You can also heat soft tortillas in the oven. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place the tortillas on an oven rack for about 3 minutes. Wrap in foil to keep warm until ready to use.
For crisp tacos, add about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to a heavy cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot and the oil starts to smoke, add the tortilla and fry for about 1 minute; turn to other side and repeat. Add more oil for each tortilla you fry.
To crisp a filled taco, stuff the taco with filling and fold over. Heat a little oil in a heavy skillet until very hot. Lay the taco on one side and fry for about 1 minute, turn over and repeat.
Whether you prefer soft or crisp, there is no end to the possibilities to the fillings you can create. In our family the old standard is seasoned meat (usually ground beef, but sometimes chicken) topped with tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and fresh salsa. However, our all time favorite taco is our Fish Tacos. These hard-to-resist tacos start with cod or halibut marinated in a mixture of seasonings like garlic, cayenne, cumin, bay leaf, cloves and chilies. The fish is then grilled until flaky then topped with cabbage and cilantro-jalapeño mayo (be sure to make extra because this stuff is killer on just about anything!), and fresh pico de gallo. Even those who profess to not like fish have been blown away as to how good these fish tacos are….a must try and a great summer feast!
Other taco favorites include:
Shrimp & Fish Tacos
Crisp Fried Tacos
Coffee Braised Pork Tacos
Chili Colorado Tacos
Tequila Sausage Tacos
- Chef Jessica