Tacolicious Guajillo Short Rib Tacos

Tacolicious Tahoe.  That’s at my house these days.   These tacos and an Achiote Chicken have been my breakfast and dinner for several days.    Who could ask for anything more?

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Tacolicious is one of my favorite restaurants in the SF Bay Area– and sure, it’s easier to sit outside on Chestnut Street, sipping a beer and waiting for someone to bring me a taco, but it’s less crowded here.  I can start the barbecue (my new summer oven) put the ingredients together in a dutch oven, pop them in the barbecue, open a beer, watch a movie, or  sit outside reading and noodling in the sun.  Guajillo short ribs are ready for tacos about 3 hours later.

If you’re coming over for dinner this summer, that’s what I’m serving.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 8 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless beef short ribs
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle Negro Modelo or other dark Mexican beer
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
  • Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, salsa of choice, and lime wedges, for serving

PREPARATION

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Working in two batches to avoid crowding, lightly toast all of the chiles in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, until fragrant but not blackened. Set them aside on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches to avoid crowding, add the meat and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until the pieces have formed a uniformly browned crust. Add more oil to the pot as needed to prevent scorching. As the pieces are ready, set them aside on a plate.

Add the onion to the same same pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until it starts to brown. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Pour in the beer, add the toasted chiles, and turn down the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the chiles have softened and are pliable. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and reserve the pot. Add the cumin, pepper, oregano, salt, and water to the blender and blend the mixture on high speed until smooth and the consistency of cream, adding more water if needed to thin the mixture a bit.

Return the seared meat to the pot and pour in the chile mixture. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.

Remove from the oven and, using tongs or a couple of forks, shred the meat in the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with the tortillas, onion, cilantro, salsa, and lime.

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Chicken Chilaquiles

My colleague and friend, Hector, is an amazing cook.  He makes killuh salsas with complex flavors, tacos de papas, tacos de anything at all and the best chilaquiles I’ve ever had.

chilquiles

The past couple of summers he and his wife, Belen have come up to Mark and Tony’s home in Sonoma, and we’ve celebrate his hard work in the Vineman Triathlon with a few friends.  In spite running a marathon, swimming 2.4 miles, and biking 112 miles, Hector still made breakfast for all of us while sipping on a michelada.  This is where I fell in love with chilaquiles minus the eggs.

This is not his amazing El Pato sauce recipe, but instead a 20 minute meal that I can make midweek.  I make half a recipe and it’s perfect for two meals and a lunch. Taste the tomato sauce in the blender to determine how much chipotle works for you.  Mexican comfort food at its best (and easiest)!!  Super worth it, Mike!

One 28-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained and 1/2 cup liquid reserved
2 chipotles in adobo
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Salt

8 ounces thick cut tortilla chips
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (supermarket)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or queso fresco

1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves

  1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes with their reserved 1/2 cup of liquid and the chipotles; blend until almost smooth.
  2. In a very large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add two-thirds of the onion and cook over moderately high heat until browned around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tomato puree and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock and boil the sauce over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat.
  3. Gently stir the tortilla chips into the sauce, making sure they are well coated. Top with the remaining onion, the shredded chicken and the Parmesan cheese. Dollop the sour cream over the chilaquiles, sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Mexilicious Rice

When I left home and had to figure out how to cook for myself, one of my staples in my limited repertoire for a “fancy” dinner was a box rice product called Herb and Butter rice — but I can’t remember the company name.  It wasn’t Knorr — or Rice-a-Roni . . . but I can see that box in my mind as clear as day.  My OTHER favorite rice from the same company was what they called “Spanish” rice.

A lot of years have passed , and I now have a favorite scratch recipe for Mexican rice.  This makes quite a lot, but it’s what I pack for my work lunch for a few days after I make it.  It’s easy to make, and as always, fresh ingredients–the best you can find — take any recipe from meh to amazing! ARRIBA!!

mexican-rice

Ingredients:

12 ounces tomatoes, very ripe and cored
1 medium white onion
3 medium jalapenos
2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup canola oil
4 minced garlic cloves
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste (may omit if using canned tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 lime

Directions:

1.  Adjust rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350.
2.  Process tomato and onion in processor or blender until pureed and thoroughly smooth. Transfer mixture to measuring cup and reserve exactly 2 cups. Discard excess.
3.  Remove ribs and seeds from 2 jalapenos and discard. Mince flesh and set aside. Mince remaining jalapeno. Set aside.

4.  Place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear- about 1 1/2 minutes. Shake rice vigorously to remove excess water.This step removes the starch from the rice so it will be dry and fluffy in the finished dish.
5.  Heat oil in heavy bottomed oven-safe 1o or 12 inch straight sided sautee pan or Dutch oven with tight fitting lid over low-medium heat about 2 minutes. Drop a few rice grains in, and if they sizzle, the pan is ready. Add rice and fry stirring until rice is light golden and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Be careful that the oil doesn’t get too hot too fast or the oil will splatter.

6. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and 2 minced jalapenos and cook , stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.
7. Stir in broth, pureed mixture,tomato paste, and salt. Increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.

8. Cover pan and transfer pan to oven to bake until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 30-35 minutes. Stir well after 15 minutes.
9. Stir in cilantro, minced jalapeno to taste, and pass lime wedges separately.

The Legendary La Vic Orange Sauce

There are three La Victoria taquerias in San Jose — I’m not completely in love with their tacos as my favorite taqueria is around the corner from my house.  But this . . . .this delectable orange sauce . . .  kicks boring to the curb!!!   I have been known to put it on grilled corn, rice, grilled chicken, shrimp, pork and beef, veggie tacos, and I’ve added it to my salad dressing.  There is always a little squeeze bottle of this in my fridge.  Get off the bus, Bobby Flay.

la vic

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients

2 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into 1/2″ thick rounds
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. packed chiles de arbol, stemmed
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 T. kosher salt

Directions

  • Faux Chef’s Note:  Taste as you go as you add the chiles de arbol!  The chiles we buy differ wildly in terms of freshness and taste.   Add just enough to give you the hear you like.  I’ve added 1/2 cup and loved it — and another time the same measure made the salsa like eating molten lava.

Position a rack on the top level of the oven, about 4 inches from the broiler.  Turn on the broiler, then line  baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the tomatoes cut side down and the onion slices on the prepared baking sheet and broil 10 to 12 minutes until veggies are soft and a bit charred.  Let cool to room temperature.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and cool for about 3 minutes until browned, turning the cloves several times.  Now add the chiles, turning them a few times for 1 to 2 minutes until they just start to darken.  Take care they do not burn.

Transfer the chiles and the garlic to a blender, pour in the vinegar and water and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes until the chiles soften. Add the roasted vegetables and any juice in the pan and the salt and puree at high speed until smooth.

Turn down the blender speed to low and SLOWLY pour the rest of the vegetable oil in a small steady stream so that the sauce emulsifies.  The end result should be slightly thick.  Store in an airtight container  in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Ciao Down Fish Tacos

I didn’t know I loved fish tacos until only a few months ago.  I met some friends at Cascal, and we ordered several small plates, and after I had one of the fish tacos with a cucumber and jalapeño margarita, and that’s all she wrote —  that’s all I wanted the rest of the evening.

LOVE these– my first attempt — easy to make and paired with the Italian salsa (yeah — I know — ITALIAN-Y!! Check out the capers!) and the infamous La Vic orange sauce, they  made me feel very Mexi-Italian.  This recipe goes nearly to the top of my faves.

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PICO DE GALLO:

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes, not overly ripe, medium dice
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced small (about 1/2 cup)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

FISH TACOS:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup medium ground semolina flour (super important to the recipe because it makes the batter crunchy after the fish is cooked)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bottle lager beer
  • Canola oil, for frying (you’ll need at least 4 to 8 cups)
  • 2 pounds tilapia or cod cut into small finger size pieces (otherwise they won’t fit in the tortilla!)
  • Twelve 4-inch soft corn tortillas or smallest size available
  • 2 cups shredded lettuce, for serving
  • 1 avocado, sliced, for serving
  • Lemon wedges for serving

DIRECTIONS

For the pico de gallo: Mix together the tomatoes, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, cilantro and onions in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
For the fish tacos: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, semolina flour, baking powder, sea salt and some pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the beer and set aside. 

Add enough canola oil to a large cast-iron or other low-sided skillet to come halfway up the sides. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F. (Use a deep fry thermometer to be sure – or do it the grandma way and add a piece of bread to see if it fries and browns – if it does, it’s ready). 

Slice the tilapia into 1/2-inch strips or “finger”-size pieces. 

When the oil is hot, dip each piece of tilapia into the batter using tongs, allowing excess to drip off. Carefully add to the hot oil one piece at a time. Fry in batches until golden brown and the fish is cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or skimmer and drain on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. 

Meanwhile, warm the tortillas by wrapping them in foil and placing them in the oven for 10 minutes. To serve, place one piece of fish on a warmed tortilla. Top with shredded lettuce and an avocado slice. Serve with a lemon wedge, and pico de gallo.
From Gabriele Corcos

Winter Time Salsa

This Fall  I cooked some delicious Mexican food with my friends Hector and Julio.  We made a bunch of tamales, short rib tacos, chicken with an incredible mole, rice . . . what DIDN’T we make?!  And we made a bunch of yummy salsas.  From that party emerged Culo de Fuego — A couple times a month, we make two salsas and share them at brunch at work.   We’ve had tomatillo avocado salsa, habanero salsa, corn and black bean salsa, a smoky chipotle salsa, salsa fresca, queso — pomegranate –cucumber, and I can’t think of what else.   It’s been delicious and fun and mind opening.

winter salsa

 

I am not a fan of winter tomatoes, so I tend to avoid salsas  that contain them, but I was so hungry for a tomato salsa for shrimp tacos the other night that I decided to make one from canned fire roasted tomatoes — it. was. AWESOME.  I use canned marzano tomatoes all year round for Italian sauces — why not Mexican?  Super fast — super delish.

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 14 ounce cans fire-roasted canned tomatoes puréed
  • ½ cup roasted red pepper (jarred), packed
  • 1 4-ounce can green chiles (these are not spicy, just add great flavor)
  • ½ small red onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro (leaves and stems), packed
  • 6 medium green (spring) onions, cut in two inch pieces
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 small jalapeños, seeded (if you like a spicier flavor, leaves the seeds in)
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar (I just like the taste)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the juice.
  2. Combine all ingredients except reserved tomato juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse on and off until all ingredients are finely chopped and salsa is desired consistency. I like it a bit chunky, but if you like a smoother salsa, just keep pulsing. If you like a thinner salsa, add a small amount of the reserved tomato juice and pulse one more time.
  3. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with chips, tacos, or just drink it!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Makes about 9 cups, serving 6

Soup :
3 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs , skin removed and well trimmed of excess fat
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 very large white onion (about 1 pound), trimmed of root end, quartered, and peeled
4 medium cloves of garlic , peeled
2 sprigs epazote , fresh, or 8 to 10 sprigs fresh cilantro plus 1 sprig fresh oregano
table salt
2 medium tomatoes , cored and quartered
1/2 medium jalapeño pepper (I used less jalapeno because I don’t like very spicy food)
1 chipotle chile en adobo , plus up to 1 tablespoon adobo sauce  (I only used 1/2 of the chipotle, but I used 1 T. of the adobo sauce)
1 can white shoepeg corn, or your favorite fresh or frozen corn
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Garnishes :

1 lime , cut into wedges
1 Hass avocado , diced fine
8 ounces cotija cheese , crumbled, or Monterey Jack cheese, diced fine
fresh cilantro leaves
jalapeno pepper , minced
Mexican crema or sour cream

2. FOR THE SOUP: While tortilla strips bake, bring chicken, broth, 2 onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, epazote, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to boil over medium-high heat in large saucepan; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Pour broth through fine-mesh strainer; discard solids in strainer. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; discard bones.

3. Puree tomatoes, 2 remaining onion quarters, 2 remaining garlic cloves, jalapeño, chipotle chile, and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce in food processor until smooth. Heat oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering; add tomato/onion puree and 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture has darkened in color, about 10 minutes. Stir strained broth into tomato mixture, bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, about 15 minutes. Taste soup; if desired, add up to 2 teaspoons additional adobo sauce. Add shredded chicken and corn and simmer until heated through, about 5 minutes. To serve, place portions of tortilla strips in bottom of individual bowls and ladle soup into bowls; pass garnishes separately.

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