I don’t fry much at home as my wife dislikes the smell of oil, but when I do I love to make these tacos.
There are endless combinations for tacos. Slap some ingredients in a tortilla and call it a day, right? Well, yes, but no. If you want a good taco, I suggest finding a reputable taqueria and sampling each of the ones they offer. Now there are good taquerias and there are bad taquerias. It is sometimes impossible to tell the difference until you try their food. My suggestion is to use review sites such as Yelp or ask your friends.
However, if you can’t find a good taqueria or you are not near enough to one, then try your hand at making your own. A traditional taco is usually protein, onion, cilantro, and lime. A lot of places will offer a salsa or sauce to put on the taco, but it is not required. If the protein is seasoned well, then the taco should speak to you in a way that will make you want it again and again.
When making your own tacos or going out to a trendy taqueria, there are other options. Slaw and pickled items are sometimes introduced. Crema or another sauce might be drizzled on top. A big trend, for a while, was mango and some sort of hot pepper. Sweet and hot go well together because of how our palettes are composed. They flavors play off each other to give you a whole mouth taste that entices you to take another bite.
Let me start with the protein. My personal favorite taco is from a taqueria that is not far from my home. The protein is cuitlacoche or corn fungus. It is a small, grey matter that has a sort of funky smell and taste. It was paired with goat cheese and pickled red onions. It was simple, a homage to a traditional taco, but with a nice twist. I will say that I find the more you put on a taco the more people seem to like it. While a depth of flavors is nice, you should be able to build that depth with as few ingredients as possible. That being said, I did not take my own advice when crafting the tacos I am sharing with you here.
But my point is, the protein for a taco can be anything you want it to be. You could even leave the protein out and make some vegan or vegetarian tacos by substituting the protein with fungus like the cuitlacoche taco or, I once did cauliflower tacos where I chopped the cauliflower in to bite sized pieces, simmered them in beer for fifteen minutes, then roasted them with a little salt, pepper, and cumin. Leave out the cheese for your vegan friends, but otherwise a nice crumbling Mexican cheese like some añejo which is dry and salty will work wonderfully.
Now for the tortilla. Some like is soft and some prefer it hard. The choice is up to you. With soft tortillas, there is a range of options, while with hard shelled tacos, you traditionally will only find corn. My favorite option for soft tacos is actually a gluten-free tortilla made from cauliflower. I like cauliflower, by the way. They are extremely easy to make, but require a little effort.
Cauliflower Tortillas (Gluten-free, Paleo friendly)
1 small head of cauliflower, riced, or about 2 cups riced and drained. (If you don’t have a ricer, no worries. Chop your cauliflower into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until it is finely chopped, microwave it for 2+2 minutes, and then wring it out in a clean dish towel until you get as much water out of it as possible)
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place drained, riced cauliflower in large bowl. Add eggs, salt and pepper, and mix until fully incorporated.
The mixture is supposed to be little bit watery. Spread the mixture onto the lined baking sheet into 6 small fairly flat circles.
Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, flip them carefully, and place back in the oven for 5-7 additional minutes.
Once they’re done place them on a wire rack to cool slightly. You have to let them cool as this allows them to seize up a bit. If you do not have a wire rack, place a cool casserole dish that can withstand the high temperature upside down on a clean, cool spot and place the baking on top of it. You may want to give it an additional minute or three.
Heat a 12 inch nonstick pan over medium heat and place tortillas in. Do not overcrowd the pan. Do them in small batches. Brown the tortillas to your liking. I typically place mine in the pan for 2-3 minutes a side. This gives them a bit of a crunch and brings out a tiny amount of a nutty finish.
So, you have cauliflower tortillas, corn tortillas, flour tortillas, and I have seen cheese tortilla as well.
Now I will share a recipe for Fried Cod Tacos with you. These sound and look needlessly complicated, but they are not. They are truly protein, slaw, and pickled peppers. Take care when frying.
Fried Cod Tacos
1 – 1.5 pounds fresh cod loins, cut into 1” pieces
12 oz amber lager
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup Mayonnaise
2 cups red cabbage, sliced thin
2 cups green cabbage, sliced thin
½ red onion, sliced thin
2 chipotle chilies in adobo
½ lime, juiced
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
Quick pickled jalapeños
4 Jalapenos, sliced thin
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
½ cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
Oil for frying
In a medium saucepan combine vinegars and water over medium heat. Add salt and sugar and whisk until completely dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add jalapenos. Turn off heat and let cool. Put in a container with lid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
In a food processor, combine mayonnaise, pepper, adobo sauce, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until smooth.
In a large bowl combine cabbages and onion. Toss with mayonnaise dressing. Allow to sit at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
In a separate medium to large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Stir to combine. Whisk in egg and beer.
Heat 3 inches of oil in large pot to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, testing with an oil thermometer. Dredge pieces of fish in batter and fry in oil in batches. Drain on paper towels to remove excess grease. Fish should only take 5-7 minutes per piece.
To build tacos, warm tortillas in a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute per side and top with pieces of fried fish, slaw, and pickled jalapenos.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, let me know. Enjoy.