Wednesday, June 29, 2016

75. Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

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Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo Collage

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!  

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted a taco recipe.  If any of you have been following my posts at all, you might know that I am in the middle of a taco recipe creation project.  It's been interesting.  I've had my ups and downs with it.  I've been putting off posting this recipe (I made the tacos a day or two after my last one), because after I post it, I have to move on.  To the next one.  And the next one.  Ha ha.

I think I just needed a mental break.  I'm just about ready to start up again.  However, it's become clear to me that I am not going to finish in a year.  I have twenty-five more recipes to go, and just over a month left in my original timeline.  That's almost a recipe a day.  I suppose I could finish it if I let it take over my life, but . . . no.

I'm not a quitter, so it annoys me to modify my original plan.  It's funny, though - I came up with the original plan on a whim, and it's amazing to witness the degree to which it has affected our lives.  I have to think back to my original reasons for deciding to take on such an extended project.  I suppose I did it to jump-start my blog.  Well, it's done that.  I've learned a ton in the process.  I don't regret it at all, but we have to reclaim our sanity around here!  Ha ha.  Sometimes I just want to post about . . . other things.

So, consider this the raising of my white flag to the taco gods.  I'll finish my recipes, but it might be a year and a month.  Or something like that.  It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but, hey . . . this is real life.  100 recipes.  In . . . a little over a year.  :)

Oh, right.  I was going to post a recipe!

I won't go on and on about these.  I'll get right to it.  They're very good.  They're vegetarian!  They would be great brunch tacos, though we had them for dinner!  

Here's the recipe:

Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Pico de Gallo Salsa


Serves 3-4 (about 8-12 tacos with extra salsa)

Ingredients:

For the green onion pico de gallo salsa:


2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 to 2 serrano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
One clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. salt (plus more to taste)


For the tempeh chorizo mixture :


One 8 oz. package tempeh

Tempeh for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

1 tbsp. olive oil
One clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. chipotle chile powder
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. New Mexico chile powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika (hot)
1 tsp. Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
Juice of 1/2 lime

3 or 4 eggs

Eggs for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

12 high-quality crunchy taco shells (I used Trader Joe's brand.)

Taco Shells for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

A few ounces of finely grated pepper-jack cheese

1.  Make the pico de gallo:  Place all of the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

Green Onion Pico de Gallo for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese

2.  Make the tempeh mixture:  Crumble the tempeh into a medium skillet.

Crumbled Tempeh for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

Add enough water to partially cover the tempeh.  Bring to a simmer and gently cook for about 12 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed.  Drain any remaining water.  Add the olive oil and all of the remaining ingredients except the lime juice.  Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture is well-combined, about four to five minutes.  Add a splash or two of water if it gets too dry.  Add the lime juice and remove from the heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Keep warm.

Tempeh Mixture for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

3.  Cook the eggs:  Scramble the eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat it over medium-low heat.  When it is hot, cook and stire the eggs until they reach your desired level of doneness.  We like ours on the soft side!  Set aside and keep warm.

Scrambled Eggs for Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

4.  Heat the shells:  Toast briefly (a minute or two) in a 350 degree oven until hot and fragrant.  Watch them - they can go from toasty to burned pretty quickly!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a taco shell on a plate.  Fill with some of the tempeh mixture.  Top with a small amount of the scrambled eggs and a sprinkle of cheese.  Finish with a spoonful or two of the pico de gallo.  Enjoy!

Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo (2)

These might have made better brunch tacos than dinner tacos, but we didn't care!  They would be good anytime!  :)

The tempeh chorizo mixture was super spicy!  It was fine for us, but if you don't like heat, you might want to cut down on the chile powder, especially the chipotle!

I thought all of this went together really well, and it was a great way to get the effect of chorizo and eggs without all the grease of the "real" version.  Sometimes I forget about tempeh - it's very versatile and makes a great taco filling!

As in the past, my little taco holders helped to make a nice, neat presentation.  Here's a link to some that are similar to mine if want to try them.



It definitely helps if you want to post some taco pics on Instagram to make all of your friends jealous!  :)

Tempeh Chorizo and Egg Tacos with Pepper-Jack Cheese and Green Onion Pico de Gallo

Well . . . on to the next one.  I'm ready!  Only 25 more!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  :)

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Rosemary White IPA

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Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!

I haven't brewed a batch of beer in quite a while.  My last one was my Juniper-Rye Christmas IPA.  That was a great one - one of my favorites!

I always have mixed feelings when my holiday beer is a triumph.  I give most of it away (which I love doing), but we're often left with just a few bottles.  There's always a sense of, "Man . . . I wish there was more of that!"  Ha ha.

Well, we're not in gift-giving mode right now, so if I make a batch, it's all for us!  Well.  Mostly.  I'll still give some to my family.  Just because I like them a lot.  Even when it's not Christmas.  :)

Brewing beer during the summer has its own challenges.  It's HOT here.  It's been really hard to keep our room temperature under about 78 degrees.  That's not really an ideal temperature for fermenting beer.  There are certain styles that can do well with a warmer fermentation temperature (such as hefeweizens), but those aren't necessarily our favorites.  If I have learned anything over the last four years about brewing beer, it's that you should brew the style(s) of beer that you like to drink.  Yeah.  I think I still have several bottles of that chocolate-mint stout languishing in the fridge . . .

O.o

We like hops.  And more hops.  Therefore, it's in our best interest if I brew mostly pale ales and IPAs.  I'm fine with a little extra something to add some novelty, but I don't want to work really hard and end up with something that no one wants to drink.  Ha ha.

I got the idea for this recipe from my youngest sister.  I asked her what kind of beer I should make and she didn't even hesitate.  "Rosemary White IPA!"  All right, then.

A few weeks ago, I asked her for some taco recipe inspiration and she gave me the idea for these fun Big Mac Tacos.  That worked out well.  I trust her.  :)

This is an all-grain recipe.  It includes the ingredients and some basic instructions, but it's not a complete process for brewing beer.  If you've never done that before, I would check with your local homebrew store and get a basic brewing kit to see how the whole process works.  It took me a few batches (and some extra equipment purchases) to work up to an all-grain recipe.  There is a store called Brewer's Connection with locations in both Tucson and Phoenix.  That's my go-to spot when I want brewing supplies.  They ship!  :)

There are also a couple of great books that I would recommend if you want to learn more about brewing beer.  This one is a great overview of the basics:



This next one is an interesting read about lots of different beer styles!  It includes recipes!  Some of the beers are pretty out there, but I've gotten a lot of great ideas from this book - it's one of my favorites!



Anyway, on to the recipe!  What could be better than brewing beer on the back porch on a warm June day?  (It was June 12th, to be precise!)

Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

I used rosemary leaves from a bush that we have in our backyard.  I was really conservative about the amount, because I read (in the Radical Brewing book mentioned above) that rosemary can overpower a beer if you're not careful!  I love rosemary, but . . . O.o.  I figured I could always add more during the dry-hop process if it wasn't enough!

I thought hops of the citrusy/fruity variety would complement the rosemary, so that's what I picked.  I added a punch of Arizona mesquite honey for some flavor and a little ABV kick.  That never hurts.  :)

Here we go!

Rosemary White IPA


For a 5-gallon batch (about 50 bottles)

Ingredients:

For the mash:

4 lbs. pale ale malt
4 lbs. malted wheat
4 lb. pilsner malt
1 lb. quick-cooking oats (I just used Quaker!)
1/2 lb. rice hulls (recommended, but I forgot to buy them and had no problems)

Grains for Brewing Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

For the boil:

1 lb. mesquite honey

Honey for Brewing Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

1 oz. Comet hops (at 60 minutes out)
1/2 oz. each of Comet and Kohatu hops (at 15 minutes out)
1/2 oz. Comet hops (at 5 minutes out)
1 tsp. Irish moss (at 5 minutes out)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves (at 5 minutes out)

Rosemary for Brewing Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

1/2 oz. Kohatu hops (at flameout)

Yeast:

I used a Wyeast smack-pack (1272 American Ale Yeast II)

Extra Hops:

1 oz. each of Kohatu and Galaxy hops for dry-hopping

Instructions:

1.  Mash all grains for one hour at about 152 degrees.  (With all that grain, I used about 5 gallons of water.)  Mine started pretty hot (about 158!), but went down to around 148 over the course of an hour, so I'm hoping it'll be OK.

2.  Sparge at 170 degrees.  (I sparged with an additional 2 gallons of water.)  I was worried about getting a stuck sparge since I had forgotten to buy rice hulls, but it worked out just fine.  If you can get them, I would recommend doing so just to be safe.

3.  Add the honey to the wort and do a one-hour boil adding the hops, Irish moss, and rosemary as indicated.  I don't worry too much about losing volume, as I start with more liquid than I need.  I also add some ice during cooling, so it's OK with me, if it reduces a bit.

Brew Kettle for Brewing Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe


4.  Cool the wort as quickly as possible.  (I add a 7 pound bag of ice to the wort to kick-start the process.  Some people don't recommend that due to a possibility of contamination, but . . . that wort's pretty hot.  I haven't had a problem yet.  That also adds volume, but with the amount of liquid absorbed by the grains and boiled off during the boil, I still ended up with only about 5.5 gallons.)

Here's a couple of photos of my setup (taken when I made my holiday beer).  Don't laugh!  I have a copper wort-chiller, and I siphon ice water through it using my bottling bucket.

Primary Fermenting Bucket - Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe


Wort Cooling Setup - Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

5.  Pitch the yeast at about 70 degrees (or in the low 70s if that's the best you can do).

6.  Ferment at 70 (ish) degrees.  During the summer, I place my fermentation bucket in a plastic tub.  I fill the tub with cool water.

Fermentation Setup - Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

I keep my beer in a spare closet while it's fermenting.  We installed a small fan above the tub so we can keep air running on the water.  This allows the temperature of the water/beer to stay around 70 to 72 degrees, which is slightly cooler than our room temperature.

Fermentation Setup with Fan - Rosemary White IPA - Homebrew Recipe

I used to put a wet t-shirt over the bucket, but it's so dry here that the t-shirt would just end up drying out, so I'm not sure if it helped.  I decided to go without it this time.

OG - 1.064
FG - ??? - (We shall see.)
Potential ABV - mid to high 7% (ish)

As I said before, I brewed this beer on June 12th.  On June 20th, I placed the extra hops in a small (sanitized) mesh bag and threw it in the wort.  I also included a couple of sanitized marbles to help it sink.  I decided against racking into a secondary fermenter.  This is going to be a quick and dirty brew.  I don't care if it's cloudy.  :)

I tasted it, and I thought the rosemary amount was just perfect.  I decided against adding any more.

My plan is to bottle this batch a few days from now.  I might use some more of that mesquite honey as priming sugar.  (I'm always up for another way to add flavor!)  I'll let it sit in the bottles for about two weeks and then refrigerate some of it.  If we end up leaving town after that point (and turn off our A/C), then I'll refrigerate all of it.  We're going to drink this one young!

I'll post an update and let you all know how it turns out.  In the meantime, I can't guarantee what you'll get if you make this.  I have high hopes for it, though.  So far, it's pretty tasty!  I can see it being a fun, refreshing summer IPA.

I'm already looking ahead to my next batch.  I think a strawberry saison would be fun.  I would even have a bit of alliteration going on with that one.  Let's see . . . could I add another "s"?  Strawberry-Sambuca-Saison?  Hmmm.  :)

Please feel free to comment!  Be kind, though - I'm not a master brewer!  I'm more like a hipster-taco-chef.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2016

74. Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habañero Salsa

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Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa Collage

This post contains affiliate links to support my blogging addiction!

I've been wanting to do a pork taco with peach salsa for a couple of weeks now.  I don't know . . . it just sounds like a great summer taco, doesn't it?

I finally had a chance to make a Whole Foods run.  I wanted to use high-quality pork shoulder and ripe peaches, and our local supermarkets generally don't have either of those things.  I almost never buy peaches, even in the summer.  They're just . . . sad!  There's nothing worse (at least in terms of produce) than a mealy, flavorless peach.  Ugh.  I've had pretty good luck with the tree-ripened peaches at Whole Foods, though.

Hmmm.  What goes with pork?  And peaches?  Bourbon - of course!  (Well, maybe not "of course", but you can see how my mind works!)  I wanted a spicy, rich, slightly sweet sauce to cover the pork and I decided that bourbon was just the ticket to make it pop!

Here I go with the stovetop smoker again.  I almost braised the pork in a Dutch oven, but once I thought about smoking it, I just had to do it.  Pork shoulder, peaches, and bourbon?  Why wouldn't you want a little smoke in there, too?  If you don't have a smoker, you can still make this.  In that case, I would just brown the pork on all sides in some olive oil and then proceed with the recipe.  You could even add a little bit of liquid smoke if you felt like it.  If you don't have one, though, consider clicking the link below and ordering one!  It's well worth it.  We've had ours for about four years and we use it all the time!  If you'd like more details about it, check out this review that I wrote a couple of months ago:  Cameron's Original Stovetop Smoker - A Review.



I also highly recommend the following cookbook, which has a lot of recipes that feature this type of smoker, along with a lot of basic instructions for cooking all kinds of different foods, including vegetables!



Anyway, since I need to start another taco recipe in about an hour (which will be number 75), I'll just get right to it.  I need to finish this post!

Here's the recipe:

Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habañero Salsa


Serves about 4 (about 8 tacos, depending on your pork shoulder) 

Ingredients:


For the smoked pork shoulder with ancho-bourbon sauce:


2.5 lb. pork shoulder, generously seasoned with salt and pepper

Pork Shoulder for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped

Peaches and Onions for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. bourbon
A couple of sprigs each of fresh parsley and thyme
1/2 tsp. salt

For the fresh peach-habañero salsa:


2 ripe medium tomatoes
2 ripe peaches
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 habañero chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

Habanero Chile Pepper for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Four scallions, cut into taco-size lengths

A few oz. grated or crumbled cheese, your choice (I had leftover queso fresco, so that's what I used!)

Queso Fresco for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

8 to 16 corn tortillas, depending on their size and whether you plan to double them up

Instructions:

1.  Start the pork shoulder:  Place the seasoned pork shoulder in a stovetop smoker.  Rather than using the lid, cover tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Smoke over medium-low heat (with 2 tbsp. oak or hickory chips) for about 40 minutes.  Start timing when you can see wisps of smoke.  Remove the smoker from the heat, and allow the pork to cool a bit on a heatproof surface in a ventilated area (preferably outside).  Preheat the oven to about 275 degrees.

2. While the pork is smoking, make the sauce:  Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.   Add the onions, lower the heat to medium low, and cook until they are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add all of the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Cook gently for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced slightly and thickened.

Sauce for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

Remove the woody stems of the thyme sprigs, trying to leave behind as many of the leaves as possible.  (The parsley stems are fine.)  Blend the mixture with a hand blender until fairly smooth.  If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can carefully transfer the mixture to a high-powered blender (or regular blender) and blend until very smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings and set aside.

3. Finish the pork:  After the brisket has smoked, cut it into two large pieces and place it in a shallow baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray  Smother it in the sauce.

Pork and Sauce for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

Cover with foil and bake for about 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

4.  While the pork is cooking, make the peach salsa:  Place all of the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce

5.  Prepare the tortillas to your liking:  There are a few different ways you can do this.  When I am making tacos with soft corn tortillas, I heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  I place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  I heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.

Corn Tortillas in a Cast-Iron Skillet for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

After each one is done, I place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil and place them in a 250 degree oven until I'm ready to assemble the tacos.  

6.  Transfer the pork to a cutting board and slice/pull into small pieces, discarding the fat.  Return to the sauce.

7.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  (You can double them up if your tortillas are thin.)  Top each tortilla with a piece of scallion.  Place several pieces of the pork down the center of each tortilla (on top of the scallion).  Spoon on some of the salsa.  Finish with a sprinkle of the crumbled (or grated) cheese.  Enjoy!

Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

We loved everything about these!  The sauce was just what I wanted - lots of flavor, some spice, a hit of sweetness . . . :)

The salsa was pretty simple, but I think it was a perfect complement to the pork.  I almost added some shredded cabbage, but I'm glad I didn't.  I really liked the way that the pork and salsa were both able to shine.  The little crunch from the scallion and the sprinkle of mild cheese was just perfect.  Nothing else was needed!

My only issue with these was, once I got rid of the fat, there wasn't as much meat as I had hoped.  I guess that's what you get with pork shoulder.  Oh, well.  I threw a lot of fat away.  We could have served two more people, but that's about it.  I got enough pork for about eight (filling) tacos.  You could do this with pork loin and you'd get more meat, but it would also be leaner and potentially a little tougher.  I guess it's a trade-off, right?

Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa (2)

They were delicious, though.  The recipe took some time from start to finish, but none of the steps were difficult.  It would be a fun project for a weekend afternoon.  There was lots of downtime!  

So . . . I had to try a little nip of bourbon on the side.  Ha ha.  I knew it would be the perfect accompaniment.

Bourbon for Smoked Pork Shoulder Tacos with Ancho-Bourbon Sauce and Fresh Peach-Habanero Salsa

Yes, that's the bourbon I used in the recipe, much to my husband's dismay.  Ha ha.  Well . . . what can I say?  We didn't have any bad bourbon.  Now, I wouldn't be ridiculous and use Pappy's (if you're lucky enough to have some), but you can use whatever you've got on hand.  Standard well bourbon of some kind would probably be fine.  :)

I would highly recommend these.  Next year, I might even make them on Derby Day!  Now, there's an idea!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 10, 2016

73. Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

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Slow Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

With the mercury up in the stratosphere this week, I figured it was a good day to dust off my slow cooker again and give it another try!

When I want to slow-cook something, I almost always gravitate toward my Dutch oven.  We do have a couple of crock pots - one smaller and one large.  I usually use them to keep something warm for a party.  For cooking?  Not so much!

I was thinking about making margarita chicken.  Lime, agave nectar, TEQUILA . . . what's not to like about that, right?  I almost decided to grill the chicken, but then I remembered the slow cooker.  I created a barbecue chicken taco recipe a few months ago, and that turned out good, so . . . why not?

In general, I used the ingredients that I use to make margaritas.  I decided to use orange juice rather than Cointreau or Grand Marnier.  I figured there was no need to use such expensive ingredients if they're just getting mixed in with a bunch of other things!

We'll see how this turns out.  I'm sitting here smelling the chicken simmer away as I type this.  I'm not totally sure that the poultry seasoning, liquid smoke, and margarita ingredients will jell the way I want them to, but I have high hopes.  I'm going to keep the rest of this recipe simple, as there is already a lot going on!  A little bit of lettuce, cheese, and an extra squeeze of lime should do the trick!

One other important thing to note about this post - this is the first time I've tried taking pictures with a DSLR camera and not my phone!  I've been trying to learn a little bit more about photography lately (a little more than the NOTHING that I knew before), and I had some fun trying different settings and angles this time.  If the look of my photos is a little inconsistent this time, that's why!  I'm still shooting under my kitchen lights . . . but . . . one thing at a time, right?

I've got a ways to go until I finish this project, but I'm only 2 recipes away from 75!  That's huge.  Al that point, I'll only have 25 more to go . . . and about 7 weeks to do it.  Wow.  Going back to school in mid-August might end up feeling like a vacation at this rate.  Ha ha!

Here's the recipe:

Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos


Serves 4 to 6 (about 12 to 18 tacos, depending on how much chicken you use and how big your tortillas are)

Ingredients:

For the margarita chicken mixture:


1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 cups diced tomatillos (about 4 to 5 medium; about 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice)
About 2 and 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken (I used a mix of organic breast and thigh meat.)
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tequila
2 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

Ingredients for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

12 to 18 small flour tortillas

A few leaves of romaine lettuce, thinly sliced

Sliced Romaine Lettuce for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

About 4 to 6 oz. finely grated pepper-jack cheese

Grated Pepper Jack Cheese for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Lime slices, for garnish

Sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

1.  Start the chicken mixture:  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.  Add the onions, lower the heat a bit, and cook until they are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Onions Sauteing for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

2.  Place the onions, garlic, and all remaining chicken mixture ingredients into a slow cooker.  (Leave the chicken pieces whole - they'll be easier to remove later!)

Margarita Chicken Mixture for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos


Turn the heat to high and cook for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is very tender.  If your slow cooker is larger than mine, you might want to reduce the cooking time.  Mine took about an hour or so just to start simmering!

3.  Remove the chicken pieces from the slow cooker.  Using a knife and fork, pull/shred the chicken into small, bite-size pieces.

Using a hand blender, blend the sauce that remains in the slow cooker until smooth.  Place the chicken back in the slow cooker (in the sauce) and keep warm.  

Margarita Chicken Mixture for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

4.  Prepare the tortillas to your liking:  I prefer to heat mine in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.  After each one is done, I place it on a sheet of aluminum foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.

Flour Tortillas for Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos

When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil.  You can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven if you wish, but I didn't bother as this was my last step!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon some of the chicken mixture down the center of the tortillas.  Top with a small amount of the lettuce.  Sprinkle on some of the grated cheese.  Finish with some chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lime and maybe even a drizzle of sour cream.  :)  Enjoy!

Slow-Cooker Margarita Chicken Tacos
If I'm going to use the better camera, I should be a little less sloppy about chopping/sprinkling my cilantro!  Oh, well. 

These worked out pretty nicely!  As I said before, I wasn't sure about the tequila, poultry seasoning, citrus, and tomatillos all melding together, but they really did!  Once I added the garnishes, it was even better!

My husband loved them!  We were full after two, but we almost ate more because they were so good.  After dinner, I promptly transferred the rest of the filling to a freezer container and stashed it away for another day.  I need to make different tacos tomorrow!  Ha ha.  We'll be looking forward to those down the road, though.

The sauce is rather . . . saucy.  Thin.  Whatever you want to call it.  I'm OK with that.  You could add something to thicken it up if you want, though I'm generally not a fan of adding thickeners.  I'd rather put the sauce in a pan and place it on the stove (before the shredded chicken is added) and reduce it for a little while.  It's up to you (of course).  I thought it was fine.  I just used a slotted spoon.  They're just a little bit drippy, but it didn't bother us!


These have a great flavor.  I don't know if it screams "MARGARITA".  If I gave you one of these and didn't tell you what it was, you might not guess it without a hint or two.  It would probably be the kind of situation where once you knew they were margarita tacos, you'd nod your head and say, "Yeah, I can see that."  They have everything you need - a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of tang, an extra layer of flavor from the tequila . . . :)

I think I'm gradually bonding with the slow-cooker.  I usually like to keep checking on and poking at my food.  This time, I reminded myself that it wasn't necessary.  A slow-cooker is so slow (at least to me) that nothing's going to burn.  It was kind of nice to walk away and not worry about it for a while.  Well, I did go back and stir it a couple of times.  I had to.  Ha ha.

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

72. Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

Yum
Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

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With less than thirty recipes to go until I finish my taco project, it's getting more and more challenging to think of tacos that aren't too similar to those that I've already made!  From the beginning, I've wanted each one to be an original creation - something delicious and a little different, but still a recognizable taco.

Well, that's still what I want.  It's not impossible; it's just . . . yeah.  It is what it is.  Ha ha.  :)

Since Steve and I thoroughly enjoyed my first try at rolled tacos, I thought I'd revisit that process and try some different flavors this time around (of course).

I thought of doing potato rolled tacos.  But . . . how could I make them interesting?  All of a sudden, the answer occurred to me.  I've had a spicy, savory, carbolicious pastry wrapped potato creation that's kind of similar to a taco.

A samosa!  :)

I love Indian food.  I love Mexican food.  I love how some of the flavors overlap!  Cumin, cilantro, mint, chiles, and tamarind are equally at home in both cuisines.  I realized that this would be a perfect opportunity for a fusion taco!

I have to admit, I've already experienced a successful re-imagining of a samosa.  In Veganomicon, there is a recipe for Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes (basically twice baked potatoes) that I've always loved.  I'm sure the subconscious memory of that recipe helped trigger this idea!  I'm not (and never have been) a vegan, but this is a great cookbook:



The other book that I have to mention as an influence is my favorite Indian cookbook (and probably one of my top five cookbooks of any kind) - 660 Curries!  If you love Indian food, I can't recommend this cookbook highly enough!  I understand that the Kindle edition is coming out soon.  Anyway, check it out!



I didn't copy this recipe from either of these books, but I have to mention them because I know my experience with both of them helped me with the creative process!  :)

I thought about making homemade paneer for the cheese element, but then I remembered how much of a mess I created last time I made rolled tacos!  I figured Mexican queso fresco was close enough.  If you decide to make paneer to go with these tacos, I will be very impressed!  (660 Curries is a great reference for that, by the way.)

There's one slightly unusual ingredient that you might have trouble finding - the tamarind paste.  I've found it at Asian markets before, and I've also ordered it from Amazon.  I used a different brand when I made this recipe (because that's what I had on hand), but I've used this brand in the past and I'm sure either would be fine.



So, here we go!  Everything you need for a rolled taco, right?  Guac . . . I mean, avocado-yogurt sauce, cheese, and salsa!  (I don't know . . . I couldn't call it guacamole with the yogurt in it.  Yogurt guacamole?  No.)

Here's the recipe:

Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa


Serves about 4 or 5 (about 15 tacos) 

Ingredients:

For the tamarind-chile salsa:


2 dried guajillo chiles
2 Fresno chiles

Guajillo and Fresno Chiles for Tamarind-Chile Salsa for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. white vinegar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. tamarind paste

Tamarind Paste for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

1/2 cup of the chile soaking liquid
3/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste

For the samosa-style potato mixture:


1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

Russet Potatoes for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds (or yellow)
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
1 to 2 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed and drained
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. chopped mint

For the avocado-yogurt sauce:


2 small avocados, pitted and mashed
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 tbsp. chopped mint
1 to 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

A few ounces crumbled queso fresco

Queso Fresco for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

15 or 16 corn tortillas

Canola oil for frying

Toothpicks

Instructions:

1. Soak the guajillo chiles:  Place the stemmed and seeded chiles in a 2-cup glass liquid measuring cup.  Cover the chiles with boiling water, weight them down with a small dish, and allow them to soak for about 30 minutes.

2. While the chiles are soaking, start the potato mixture:  Place the potatoes into a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and place them in a medium bowl.

Boiled Potatoes for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

Add 1/2 tsp. of the salt and coarsely mash with a potato masher.  Allow to cool slightly.

3. Once the chiles are done soaking (and while the potatoes are simmering, perhaps), finish the salsa:  Remove and reserve the soaking liquid (leave the chiles in the measuring cup.  Add the Fresno chiles, onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar, tamarind paste, 1/2 cup of the reserved soaking liquid (save the rest), and the salt.

Tamarind-Chile Salsa for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, and Queso Fresco

Blend with a hand blender until the salsa is smooth.  (Alternately, you can use a regular blender.)  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Cover and set aside.

4. Cook the vegetables and spices for the potato filling:  Heat the canola oil over medium-low heat.  Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and let them sizzle for about 30 seconds.  Add the coriander, turmeric, onion, and another 1/2 tsp. of the salt.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, and serrano pepper and cook for an additional minute or so.  Add the carrot and continue to cook and stir until it is tender but still al dente.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

5. While the filling is cooling, make the avocado-yogurt sauce:  Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and lightly mash together until well-combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Set aside.

Avocado-Yogurt Sauce for Samosa-Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Queso Fresco and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

6.  Finish the filling:  Add the cooled vegetable mixture to the potatoes.  Add the peas, cilantro, mint, and one more 1/2 tsp. of salt.  Stir everything together until it is well-combined.  If the mixture seems too dry, you can add a bit of the leftover chile soaking liquid.  (Note:  If I had it to do over again, I would do this.  The mixture needs to bind together slightly so you don't have little bits falling out while you're trying to fry the tacos!)

Samosa-Style Potato Filling for Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  Set aside.

7.  Prepare the tortillas:  Heat a dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Place a large sheet of aluminum foil near the pan.  Heat each tortilla in the skillet for about a minute or so on each side, or until it softens and begins to brown.  After each one is done, place it on the foil and immediately start the next one.  Stack them on top of one another as you work.  When the whole batch is done, wrap them completely in the foil.  (Note:  If your tortillas are very soft and pliable, you may be able to skip this step.  I did it to avoid breaking them during the rolling process.)

8. Assemble and fry the tacos:  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Fill a deep medium skillet with canola oil until a depth of about 1 1/2 inches is reached.  Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches about 360 degrees.  

While the oil is heating, roll the tacos.  Place a couple of tablespoons of the filling in the middle of one of the tortillas.  Roll it up as tightly as possible and secure with a toothpick.  Repeat this process until all of the tacos are rolled.

Samosa Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa - Before Frying

Fry the tacos, 2 or 3 at a time, for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown all over.  Remove from the hot oil with tongs and allow to drain on paper towels.  

Samosa Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa - Frying

When all of the tacos are cooked and drained, transfer to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm.  

9.  When you are ready to serve the tacos, place three of them on a plate (for each serving).  Spoon some of the avocado-yogurt sauce on the side and sprinkle with the crumbled queso fresco to taste.  Garnish with the tamarind-chile salsa as desired (or include a small dish of it on the side, for dipping).  Enjoy!


Looks just like Nico's, right?  Or Filberto's, or Aliberto's, or one of those awesome Mexican fast food joints?  Well . . . it's NOT!  One bite, and you'll know it's something special.  Don't get me wrong, it's not that Nico's isn't special once in a while - it's just that where else will you get samosa rolled tacos?  Nowhere.  Unless you make these!  :)

We loved them!  The yogurt and mint gave the guac . . . I mean, avocado sauce an interesting freshness and a definite dairy slant that went well with the Indian flavors.  The salsa, while not super hot, was a tasty tangy/sweet/spicy combination that was just different enough to make us sit up and take notice.

Now for the bad news:  This makes a mess!  I had a lot of dirty dishes and pans to deal with.  I think that's just the price you pay for rolled tacos.  There are also a lot of overlapping steps.  I wouldn't say that this is a great recipe for beginners.  However, if you're confident in your abilities to juggle several recipe components at one time, you should be fine!

There are a couple of things I would do differently next time.  First of all, I think my tortillas were a bit on the small side.  They were hard to roll up as tightly as I wanted.  Last time, I used Trader Joe's brand corn tortillas, which were just a bit larger than the ones I used this time and those worked pretty well.  Next time, I'll make a point to use those.  If you have an option, I would go for larger and save yourself some frustration.

Also, I would definitely add just a bit of liquid to the potato mixture (and also mash my potatoes a bit more thoroughly).  You could use some of the chile soaking water, or broth, or milk, or water, or whatever.  My mixture was kind of crumbly.  The end result was delicious, but I did have peas and little bits of whatever falling out of the ends while I was trying to fry them.  That made me mad.  Ha ha.  Don't be mad; just make sure your mixture is a little more stuck together than mine was!  :)

They were worth it, though.  Look at these!  <3

Samosa Style Potato Rolled Tacos with Avocado-Yogurt Sauce, Queso Fresco, and Tamarind-Chile Salsa

One final topic of conversation:  food photography!  So . . . I take all these pictures with my phone, OK?  This is real life, people.  I make these recipes for dinner (most of the time), snap a few photos before the food gets cold, and then we eat!  No joke!  Ha ha.  I've been learning that this is probably not the best way to get awesome pictures of my tacos.

We have a rather nice camera sitting around that I have not bothered to learn how to use.  I'm going to try.  Better pictures will be coming soon.  I hope.  :)  Stay tuned!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  Is this weird or you also think that Mexican and Indian cuisines meet in the middle in a ton of ways?

Thanks for reading!