Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes by Mark MillerTacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes by Mark Miller

Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes

byMark Miller, Benjamin Hargett

Paperback | April 1, 2009

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¡Ay, que rico! Tacos—real tacos, with soft or crispy corn tortillas, succulent fillings, and snappy salsas—are a revered street food on both sides of the border. In TACOS, Mark Miller adds a chef's sensibility to this vibrant primer for building delicious and authentic tacos.
The heart of a great taco is its filling, and TACOS brims with filling recipes for chicken, fowl, pork, beef, lamb, game, seafood, vegetable, and breakfast tacos. Miller's recipes are a satisfying balance between impeccably rendered classics like Carnitas (crusty fried pork shoulder), Rajas and Cheese (strips of roasted poblano chiles with melting queso Oaxaca), and Beef Ranchero (with its smoky-spicy sauce), and fresh, sophisticated riffs like Chicken with Apples and Goat Cheese, Baja-Style Tempura Fish, and Roasted Tomatoes and Pumpkin Seed Pesto.
Rounding out the book are luscious photographs; thorough instructions for making soft tortillas from scratch and crafting them into crispy variations; recipes for salsas and accompaniments such as Guacamole and Refritos ("refried" beans); and a suite of essential techniques, like roasting chiles and blackening tomatoes. Each filling recipe provides suggestions for the best tortilla choices, salsas and sides, and beverages to complement the tacos—giving you all you need to make your next taco experience as authentic, inspired, and downright delicious as even the most well-seasoned taquero could make it.
Mark Miller is the acclaimed chef-founder of Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has started and owned thirteen different restaurants on three continents from 1979 to 2008. He is the author of ten books with nearly 1 million copies in print, including Tacos, The Great Chile Book, The Great Salsa Book, and Coyote Cafe. Mark currentl...
Title:Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired RecipesFormat:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 8.49 × 8.6 × 0.43 inPublished:April 1, 2009Publisher:Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/RodaleLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1580089771

ISBN - 13:9781580089777

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Read from the Book

The Art of the Taco I had a New England childhood and was always interested in food, cooking, and particularly markets. They were and still are an adventure for me. I loved to go shopping with my mother at our local First National, which still had sawdust on the floor in front of the butcher department. Then there was the exotic Italian grocery with its massive, overflowing window displays of every product from their sun-drenched culture (so anti-Puritan in New England!), the stores for salami and sausages, the Jewish delis for pickles and lox, and the fishmongers for live lobsters with huge claws that crawled along the bottoms of the deep cold-water tanks. I spent summers far away from New England in a more exotic culinary culture, in Mexico at a large hacienda near Guadalajara owned by family friends. In charge of the kitchen were three generations of cooks from one family - grandmother, mother, and daughter whose food and sauces were sublime, a revelation to me. In the early mornings they would go to the market to buy the fresh masa for the day, the sweetest, most colorful fruits, the ripest fresh vegetables picked just hours earlier from local gardens, cuts of meat butchered from whole animals. I’d always tag along on this food adventure. When the day’s shopping was finished, we always had time for a taco - the street snack everyone eats when they’re not at home or when they don’ t have the time or money to sit down at a restaurant. The women were as picky about tacos as they were about the ingredients for the daily meals. I would see all of the taco stands at the marketplace lined up. But my local taco guides were almost fierce in their determination that we would eat only from their favorites. "This is the best for pork," they’d say, urging me to a particular stall. I would soon have a wonderful taco of carnitas in my hand - succulent browned pork pieces with a touch of green cilantro and spicy roasted tomatillo-árbol sauce, all wrapped with a fresh corn tortilla. It was so different from the bologna on soft white bread that I was used to back at school. This food was alive, colorful, aromatic, tasty, crunchy, juicy, flavorful - as if I had crossed a new frontier of food experience. The tacos were always simple things - delicious aromatic stewed or grilled meat, a few leaves of cilantro, a bit of chopped white onion, a modest spoonful of spicy salsa, the freshly griddled tortilla lightly coated with cooking juices and tasting intensely of roasted corn. Cupping the taco in my hand, I sensed the warmth of the tortilla pulled seconds ago from a hot comal. It was a snack prepared as I watched, made as fresh as could be with ingredients often purchased just moments before at the same market. And everyone around me – adults, children, workers, tourists, business people – was buying, eating, and enjoying a taco just as I was, and then getting on with their day. When the market was over, the food eaten, the customers back home, at school, at work, the vendors closed up. Street food as I knew it in the United States was never prepared on the spot. Vendors didn’t cook, they assembled. Hot dogs and buns came from the factory and were kept warm in steamers, relish was portioned from a jar. Ice cream was scooped from tubs in a freezer or sold already packaged. Nothing was cooked from scratch in front of me. The tacos at the market were fast food unlike any I’d ever had in Boston. There are taco trucks in parts of Boston today, as there are in any major American city with a large Hispanic population. But I never saw any growing up, certainly not on Cape Cod or in Maine, where we spent short holidays. But times have changed, and the taco has become an accepted part of American food culture. As a matter of fact, my good friend (and great chef) Ken Oringer opened a taqueria across from Fenway Park not long ago. My market tacos were always finished in a few drippy mouthfuls. I loved how good they tasted, but just as much I loved the whole taco experience  - it was fun, immediate, social, a constantly changing community of fellow taco eaters. No matter that some of us might also patronize expensive restaurants or had a cook at home. Or that others barely got by day to day. For one moment, in one place, we gathered round to eat something that costs almost nothing, sharing the setting, the culture, and the tastes of that particular place. Even today, part of what I love about eating tacos in Mexico is that it’s still a shared cultural and aesthetic experience, an agreement on what good food is and, in particular, what good tacos are all about. As I’ve traveled through Mexico in all the years that followed, I’ve learned which of the taco stands to head for in any particular place, the ones that tell me where I am and where I can eat good local cuisine better than any guidebook. It’s that special sense of place that comes with eating local food in a particular environment, a comfortable "grounding" of where I am. When I think about the Yucatán, and in parti­cular its capital, Mérida, it’s going to be the pork taco stand at the market, where you must go early, no later than 8 AM, or they will sell out of their specialty, the fantastic cochinita pibil - marinated suckling pig cooked overnight in a pit, served with an escabeche of red onions flavored with oregano and a little fiery habanero salsa. There is no other place that makes it like that one, where I’ve gone for thirty years. I wrap it all up in a warm corn tortilla and know that I’m now in Mérida. In Ensenada, it’s the vendor who comes in from the countryside only between 8 and 10 in the morning and sets up outside the lumber yard. He sells thirteen wonderful kinds of tacos from his flatbed truck, slow-cooked with meat from his own herds of goats and sheep. And all the local carpenters, construction workers, and passersby like me show up to buy and to eat them together. In Guadalajara, it’s the stand in a hard-to-find, way-out neighborhood open only from 7 to 10 in the evening, which prepares a very special taco made from cow’s udder - taco de ubre. When I’m in Mexico City, it’s the one just off the Zocalo that makes fish tacos cooked a la plancha (on a griddle), served with this wonderful salsa brujo (witch’s salsa). Tacos are as much a part of daily social life in Mexico as the Catholic Church. In all parts of Mexico, taco carts - puestos - spring up on every block, are crammed onto sidewalks, dot the plazas, litter the roadsides. In every little town or pueblito inevitably there will be a house or two with a taco truck as a semi-permanent fixture in the yard. The trucks may not have moved in years, but in the evenings they come alive to serve up Mexico’s most popular snack food to the people of the town. I can picture the taco stands being rolled into place in the evenings - a custom practiced all across Mexico. Fires are lit and counters wiped. Smoke rises lazily in small, crackling plumes, and the pungent aroma of chiles roasting over open flames permeates the air. Most of Mexico lies within the tropics. As the heat of the day fades, the streets fill up with people of all ages who stroll and mingle. Kids rush outdoors for pick-up soccer games. Food vendors, performers, and traveling sidewalk hawkers crowd downtown plazas as people come together outside. Park benches that were mostly empty throughout the day are now at a premium. Cars with huge speakers strapped to their roofs circle through the city blaring advertisements. Church doors open in preparation for evening visitors. Lines form at taco stands, attracting both workers on their way home and older people stepping out for an evening stroll. Throughout the evening, taco sellers remain busy as partygoers take to the streets. In many places, lines may be the longest during the earliest morning hours near the markets, bus and metro stops, the large office building complexes, or universities. As with all street food sites, taco stands are ephemeral by nature (or, as we would call it today, exhibiting "just-in-time logistics"). They set up in a spot convenient to their customers, open when demand is high, close when it fades. Some taco vendors operate only for breakfast at the market, others appear just at midday in the plaza to catch workers on their lunch break. In the smaller towns, Sundays are an especially good day for tacos, particularly after church, when the congregation mixes socially to reaffirm its connections to its religion and its food customs. Specialty tacos are often prepared by locally renowned cooks on weekends as a sort of community service. They may have other jobs during the week, but love to practice their specialties and keep alive the regional culinary culture, not to mention earn a little extra money and catch up on the local gossip. I want to excite people about tacos, the street food that gets my juices going every day that I’m in Mexico. I want the recipes in this book to get the point across that tacos aren’t some strange, exotic fare. They are fun, immediate, inexpensive, healthy, modern - small portions that you can enjoy throughout the day. They’re food that’s fresh, fast, economical, and easy, a good match to the rapid pace of our modern lifestyle. The sauces and salsas are rich in vegetables and seasonings. Protein - meat, seafood, poultry - is an accessory, enjoyed in smaller amounts, as in Asian cuisines. You don’t need lots of expensive equipment to make them. The techniques are simple. No years of culinary experience required (but a few years of eating tasty food help). Use these recipes to see how much fun making and eating tacos can be. You’ll find traditional favorites like Tacos al Pastor (page 76) and Baja-Style Tempura Fish Tacos (page 68) and my own taco innovations, from Thai Shrimp (page 59) to Chicken with Apples and Goat Cheese (page 46). Once you have an idea of what tacos are all about, start playing with the simple ingredients you have around. You can make a salsa out of just about anything in your refrigerator. You can create a taco from leftovers as quickly as you can throw together a sandwich made with grilled cheese, bologna, or peanut butter and jelly. And I think tacos are more fun, interesting, and healthy than any of these. Taco Basics A taco can be any filling wrapped in a tortilla (the word taco comes from the Nahuatl word ac, meaning flat, which is what the Aztecs called this food form when the Spanish arrived). But tacos aren’t just a basic preparation - take a tortilla and fill it. I see them as a way of personalizing our food, individualizing a culinary experience. You aren’t simply ordering. You are building a meal in a totally hands-on way - choosing the filling, the garnishes, the salsas, the sauces, and how much of any of them you want. You can’t really do that most of the time. Every time you have a taco, you have the opportunity for a unique culinary experience. Tacos are quick to prepare because they are modular. You "build" a taco from its elements - the tortilla, the filling, the garnish, the salsa. I remember in particular one taquero –as the great Mexican taco masters are called – who could assemble a taco in three or four seconds. He had the tortillas and meat ready – pork, tripe, brisket – which he constantly moved around on the heat. With each order, the meat went into the tortilla, and he actually threw the onion and the cilantro garnish with one hand to the taco he was holding in the other. Done! So think like a taquero. If you have the taco elements prepped and at hand, you’re seconds away from serving (or eating) one. Get to know the fillings and side dishes in this book, but don’t feel compelled to make everything from scratch. Even at the market­places in Mexico, a vendor who sells tacos with mole doesn’t always make the mole herself. She’ll go to the woman at the market who makes mole and buy it from her. Then, she’s on to the chicken lady for a bird. Returning to her little stand, she cooks the chicken and the mole and makes her tacos. Experiment with prepared ingredients. Cooked “food to go” that only requires reheating at home is an exploding category at many upscale markets. Butcher shops have more interesting meats. I’ve counted seventeen different kinds of fresh sausage made in store at the meat counter of my local Whole Foods. If you buy links that are seasoned, just grill them, crumble them up, and you’ve got your taco filling. For salsas and sauces, there’s a lot of help out there in the form of good ones that are already prepared. Frontera and Melinda’s are some of my favorite brands. Those of us who live in the Southwest can shop locally for most of the regional ingredients needed to prepare the recipes in this book. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a little homework before you start cooking. See what’s available in your area, either at the markets you visit often or at ones you’ve always wanted to get to know. You’re likely to find almost everything you need within a reasonable distance of where you live if your city includes a large Hispanic population. Check out the web sites of the retailers listed in Sources (page 167). I’ve found the Hispanic search site www.comida.com an excellent resource for information about Hispanic foods, as is www.restmex.com, the web site of El Restaurante Mexicano, a magazine for the Latin foods industry. Community-backed sites like www.chowhound.com offer tips for travelers and locals alike about where to find the best tacos or ingredients for making them. * * * Heat Levels All the recipes in this book (where appropriate) are numbered according to a subjective heat reference, 10 being the hottest and 0 being the mildest. As 60 percent of the heat in a chile is in its ribs or veins, with 30 percent in the seeds and 10 percent in the flesh, you can moderate the fire of any dish by removing the ribs, veins, and seeds of a chile, or the seeds alone.

Table of Contents


The Art of the Taco - 3

Vegetables - 20

Chicken and Fowl - 38

Seafood - 56

Pork - 74

Beef, Lamb, and Game - 88

Breakfast - 110

Salsas - 124

Sides and Drinks - 136

Ingredients and Techniques - 149

Sources - 167

Index - 169

Editorial Reviews

“While one might think of the taco as a simple street snack, Miller, chef and founder of Santa Fe’s Coyote Café, takes the Mexican favorite to a new level in this single-subject title. . . . An appealing sense of enthusiasm and authority.”
—Publishers Weekly