6 Takes on taco recipes

Nov 23, 2009 at 2:22 p.m. ET

Instead of the same old ground beef tacos why not try making something a little more authentic. Tacos are the pride and joy of Mexico, so keep up that tradition with these gourmet versions of your favorite tacos.

Taco Tips

The tortillas: Probably the most essential part of the taco is the tortilla. If at all possible use authentic homemade soft corn tortillas (you can buy them in any Latin grocery store or if you are really ambitious, you can make your own). Store-bought flour tortillas simply do not hold a candle to the real thing. If you have no choice but to use store-bought, then try to choose corn over flour but tortillas that are made with Maseca are best (a type of corn flour).

Fillings: Ground beef is the traditional American filling for tacos, but in Mexico, the fillings can be just about anything, with the most classic being fish, shellfish, chicken, chorizo, beef, pork, and vegetables. Typically each region will have a different approach to tacos which results in a multitude of options. Each protein or vegetable can be marinated in a delicious sauce, like citrus, herbs, or peppers or they can be breaded and fried. Any way you make them, make sure the filling is the centerpiece of the taco and that you take care in creating it.

Garnishes: Almost just as important as the filling is the garnishes. You don't have to just use the typical salsa, sour cream, and cheese for garnishes, instead try using things like leeks, potatoes, poblanos, avocado, celery, or pineapple. You can get creative blending flavors with the main filling and the garnishes for a tasty taco experience. One of my favorite combos is the classic fish taco with beer battered shrimp, roasted habanero, and a delicious coleslaw. Or if you want to stay vegetarian go with sautéed wild mushrooms and zucchini, manchego cheese, and steamed onions.


Rosemary Marinated Chicken Taco
Makes 4 tacos
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt to taste
1 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
16 ounces chicken breast
4 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon diced onions mixed with 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
Chipotle salsa (recipe below)

1. Combine rosemary, thyme, garlic, and salt together in a large bowl; whisk in oil and lemon juice then add chicken. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight or for 2 to 3 hours.
2. When chicken is ready, place on grill and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until fully cooked through. When finished, shred chicken into bite size pieces.
3. To serve, top corn tortillas with chicken, then onions and cilantro, and salsa.
Chipotle Salsa
Makes 4 servings
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup oven roasted onions
2 oven roasted garlic cloves
4 canned chipotle peppers
Lemon juice, to taste
Salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until chunky and combined.

Beer Battered Shrimp Taco
Makes 6 tacos
1/2 lime
8 ounces large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4 ounces cold beer,
vegetable oil
1 ripe avocado, peeled
Salt, to taste
Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
3/4-1 1/2 teaspoon water or milk
Fresh cilantro, to taste
6 fresh corn tortilla
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Red cabbage
1 tablespoon diced onion, mixed with 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1. Squeeze lime juice over shrimp and place in refrigerator while making the batter.
2. Combine flour with baking powder, cayenne, oregano, salt, and pepper. Whisk beer in well to avoid clumping; chill until ready to use.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet to 365 degrees F. Pat dry shrimp then dip shrimp in batter and place in hot oil. Remove shrimp and drain on paper towels; repeat with all shrimp.
4. To make avocado sauce, add avocado, salt, and lime to a blender; pulse until coarsely shopped then add water or milk until desired consistency is made and blend in cilantro if desired.
5. To serve, place shrimp on tortillas then top with avocado sauce, Tabasco sauce, cabbage, and onions and cilantro.

Carnitas Tacos
Makes 6 tacos
2 pounds boned pork shoulder, cubed
1/2 quart beef broth
2 cups chunky tomato salsa either prepared or homemade
6 corn tortillas
Peanut Chile Salsa (recipe below)

1. Add pork, broth, and salsa to a large pot; pour enough water over to fully cover the meat. Cover pot with a lid and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and bring to a simmer; cook for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is tender, season to taste with salt.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drain meat and place on a baking sheet in chunks; bake 20 to 25 minutes or until browned.
3. To serve, place pork on tacos and top with peanut chile salsa.

Peanut Chile Salsa
Makes 6 servings
1 cup canned chipotle peppers
1 tomato, grilled
1 cup toasted peanuts
1 garlic clove
Salt to taste
Liquid from canned chiles plus water if needed

Combine chiles with all ingredients except water in a blender; season with salt; add liquid and water as needed to blend until smooth.

Carne Asada Tacos
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef sirloin, cut into strips
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
Crushed red pepper to taste
1 lime
1-28 ounce can tomatillos
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded
4 tablespoons canola oil
1-10 1/2 ounce can low sodium beef broth
6 corn tortillas
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped

1. Season meat with salt and peppers; squeeze lime juice over meat and let marinate 30 minutes in refrigerator.
2. Meanwhile, add tomatillos and jalapenos to a blender or food processor and blend until pureed.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and add tomatillo mixture and beef broth, stirring and cooking for 20 to 30 minutes or until thickened. Spoon sauce into a bowl and reserve.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and sauté some of the beef in it until cooked through. Using the rest of the oil, cook remaining beef.
5. To serve, place beef on tortillas and top with tomatillo sauce, onions, tomatoes, and avocado.

Wild Mushroom Tacos
Makes 4 servings
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
15 ounces wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
4 small corn tortillas

1. Mix cumin with chili powder, garlic, and 2 tablespoon oil; add mushrooms and stir well; let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a skillet and sauté mushrooms 6 to 8 minutes or until tender and heated; season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Mix tomato with onion, pepper, lime juice, and cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. To serve, top tortillas with mushrooms and tomato mixture.

Chorizo & Cheese Tacos
Makes 4 tacos
1 pound chorizo, removed from the casings and crumbled
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1 teaspoon garlic
1 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
8 corn tortillas
4 tablespoons Cojita cheese

1. Saute chorizo in a hot skillet for 5 to 6 minutes or until browned; add onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes then add garlic and cook a few seconds. Take pan off of heat and reserve.
2. Mix tomatoes with onions, peppers, lime juice, and cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. To serve, top tortillas with chorizo and tomato mixture then sprinkle with cheese.