Happy National Taco Day!

It’s National Taco Day (National Taco Day is October 4)! Tacos are a popular mexican food that predate the arrival of Europeans in Mexico. You can have tacos many different ways. According to Wikipedia, there’s a few traditional styles:

  • Tacos de Asador (“spit” or “grill” tacos) may be composed of any of the following: carne asada tacostacos de tripita (“tripetacos”), grilled until crisp; and, chorizo asado (traditional Spanish style sausage). Each type is served on two overlapped smalltortillas and sometimes garnished with guacamole, salsa, onions, and cilantro. Also prepared on the grill is a sandwiched taco calledmulita (“little mule”) made with meat served between two tortillas and garnished with Oaxaca style cheese. “Mulita” is used to describe these types of sandwiched tacos in the Northern States of Mexico, while they are known as Gringa in the Mexican south and are prepared using wheat flour tortillas. Tacos may also be served with salsa.
  • Tacos de Cabeza or head tacos, in which there is a flat punctured metal plate from which steam emerges to cook the head of the cow. These include: Cabeza, a serving of the muscles of the head; Sesos (“brains”); Lengua (“tongue”); Cachete (“cheeks”); Trompa(“lips”); and, Ojo (“eye”). Tortillas for these tacos are warmed on the same steaming plate for a different consistency. These tacos are typically served in pairs, and also include salsa, onion and cilantro with occasional use of guacamole.
  • Tacos de Cazo for which a metal bowl filled with lard is typically used as a deep-fryer. Meats for these types of tacos typically include: Tripa (“tripe”, usually from a pig instead of a cow); Suadero (tender beef cuts), Carnitas and Buche (Literally, crop, as inbird’s crop; here, it is fried pig’s esophagus.)
  • Tacos sudados (“sweaty tacos“) are made by filling soft tortillas with a spicy meat mixture, then placing them in a basket covered with cloth. The covering keeps the tacos warm and traps steam (“sweat”) which softens them.

Tacos de suadero (grey) and chorizo (red).

  • Tacos Al pastor/De Adobada (“shepherd style”) are made of thin pork steaks seasoned with adobo seasoning, then skewered and overlapped on one another on a vertical rotisserie cooked and flame-broiled as it spins (analogous to the Döner kebab used in Greekrestaurants to prepare gyros).
  • Tacos dorados (fried tacos, literally, “golden tacos”) called flautas (“flute”, because of the shape), or taquitos, for which the tortillas are filled with pre-cooked shredded chicken, beef or barbacoa, rolled into an elongated cylinder and deep-fried until crisp. They are sometimes cooked in a microwave oven or broiled.
  • Tacos de pescado (“fish tacos“) originated in Baja California in Mexico, where they consist of grilled or fried fish, lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla. In the United States, they remain most popular in California, Colorado, and Washington. In California, they are often found at street vendors, and a regional variation is to serve them with cabbage and coleslaw dressing on top.
  • Tacos de camarones (“shrimp tacos“) also originated in Baja California in Mexico. Grilled or fried shrimp are used, usually with the same accompaniments as fish tacos: lettuce or cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado and a sour cream or citrus/mayonnaise sauce, all placed on top of a corn or flour tortilla.

But we’ve come far from the traditional tacos. While you can still get the traditional taco in most Mexican restaurants, we’ve also come up with the breakfast taco, the puffy taco, and fusion tacos (i.e.; Chinese-Mexican Fusion).

And as we all know, tacos are awesome greasy finger food. A loaded taco can pack a lot of calories and fat, and for those of us on a healthy lifestyle can’t eat that everyday (except as your treat or indulgence if you allow yourself one every now and then), so we’ve got you covered. Here’s a recipe for a delicious healthy taco that still packs a punch in flavor and still resembles the traditional tacos without the extra calories and fat.

SPICY CHICKEN SOFT TACO

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup dark beer, preferably Mexican
  • 12 soft corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups salsa

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 300°.

2. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the bay leaf, oregano, chipotle chiles (or another mildly hot fresh chile, seeded and finely chopped), onion, and vinegar. Allow to marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

3. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté chicken for about 10 minutes, or until brown. Turn the chicken and cook for another 20 minutes or until tender and cooked through.

4. Splash in 3/4 cup beer, a little at a time. As the chicken cooks, add more beer as needed to keep chicken from drying out. Test for doneness by making an incision with a knife; no pinkness means the chicken is done. (Or test with a meat thermometer; internal temperature should be 170°.) Remove chicken from skillet and allow to cool slightly.

5. When the chicken is nearly done, wrap 6 tortillas at a time in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a 300° oven for about 5 minutes or until warm. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Line a basket with a napkin, and place warmed tortillas in basket.

6. Deglaze the pan with remaining 1/4 cup of beer. Cook for 2 minutes. Pull the chicken off the bone into bite-size strips. Toss with the pan juices and scatter the chopped cilantro over the top.

Serve with a light slaw or salad! Enjoy!

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