|I grew up on the east coast near New York City. There were plenty of ethnic foods to try, and being a budding foodie even then, I was somewhat adventurous. My palate was certainly different then (not in a good way). One of the adventures was to eat "Mexican food". It came from some cookie cutter chain and didn't have very much flavor, but that's what I learned to know as Mexican food. After college, I moved to the Southwestern United States for a few years and had a whole new culinary experience with Mexican cooking. Ah, I thought, that is what Mexican flavors are all about! That's also where I learned about my love for real tacos and burritos.
Photography by Ed Anderson © 2009
Fast forward to today and I still crave my taco or burrito fix from the local Taqueria. For some reason though, I tend not to cook with many Mexican flavors at home. It might be because when I browse cookbooks there's a big fancy French dish, or an elaborate Italian meal, or something great to grill or barbeque, and the simple but delicious taco gets left behind. I think that might change though.
Mark Miller's new cookbook, simply titled, Tacos, is full of beautiful photography with big flavored, every-day tacos. All the recipes are accessible and relatively easy to cook. There's even a section in the back with definitions and descriptions of the various types of hot peppers and their preparations for the Mexican flavors throughout the book. The descriptions for the peppers are good, but as a visual person, I wish he also had pictures. For those meat challenged foodies, Mark has a wonderful selection of vegetable tacos. Do you have too much zucchini from your garden? I do! Give the Squash Blossoms with Green Chiles and Cheese a try. Of course, there are incredible sounding Tacos that run from chicken, to seafood, pork, beef, lamb, and even game. Not to stop there, there's even a few breakfast dishes - how about, Bacon and Eggs with Red Chile and Honey Tacos? What a great way to start the day.
One of the things I like about the book layout is that each recipe provides a suggestion for the type of tortilla to serve with the taco, what to accompany with the taco, and even what varietal of wine may go best. I wish more cookbooks did something like that.
Mark primarily concentrates on tacos, but the various sides and salsas do add variety and help make a complete meal. I'm able to buy relatively fresh tortillas at the local neighborhood shops, but if you can't do that or you're adventurous, there are recipes for tortillas too. One of the other great things is that the recipes are varied. At first I expected to see a taco with chicken, and then the same with beef, and then the same again with pork. I was pleasantly surprised that each recipe is unique and is intended to meld with the flavors of the given proteins. You can obviously mix it up and use a different protein than what's suggested. One thing to keep in mind when cooking from Mark's recipes is that the serving sizes vary quite a bit, a recipe such as Chicken Tinga makes 15 servings, while most of the recipes, like Chicken with Apples and Goat Cheese, make 8 servings.
Chicken with Apples and Goat Cheese
Reprinted with permission from Tacos: 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes by Mark Miller, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House.
Makes 8 tacos ~ Heat level <1 ~ Prep time 30 minutes
Tortillas - Soft yellow corn tortillas or flour tortillas
Accompaniment - Tomatillo-Árbol Chile Salsa
Drinks -Dry Riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris
- 1 poblano chile, oil-roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons green chile powder
- ¾ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground
- 1 cup unfiltered apple cider
- 1½ cups cored, peeled, thinly sliced Gala, Jonathan, or Fuji apples (about 2 apples)
- 6 ounces semidry goat cheese, crumbled
- 8 (5½-inch) flour tortillas (page 16), for serving
- Garnish: lightly toasted pine nuts , basil pesto, sun-dried-tomato cheese spread, or grated cheese like asadero, Cotija, Romano, or Parmesan
Here in New Mexico, we have a number of really good goat-cheese producers who sell their products at farmer's markets. Spanish settlers originally introduced goats to the region along with the craft of making goat cheese. For Mexican recipes, I prefer the flavor of goat cheese to American cheeses made with cow's milk. Mexican cooking is rich and needs the counterpoint of a sharp cheese for balance and lively taste. Cow's milk cheeses are usually too creamy and flat in flavor, absorb too much of the flavor accents from a dish, and lack a certain acidity and sharpness common to Mexican cheeses. New Mexico also has great apples, as good as those I grew up with in New England. At an elevation of 7,000 feet, Santa Fe experiences very cold nights in the fall that "crisp" the apples and set the juices. The sweet juiciness of apples is a perfect match to the mild creaminess, tang, and richness of goat cheese. You can use the goat cheese as a garnish, if you prefer, rather than mixing it into the filling.
Cut the prepared poblano chile into ¼-inch-thick strips (rajas); set aside. Mash the garlic and about 1 teaspoon salt together with the side of knife to make a paste; set aside.
Season the chicken breasts with a little salt. In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces lightly on both sides, 2½ to 3 minutes per side. Decrease the heat to medium; add the garlic paste and sauté 30 seconds (do not let it burn). Stir in the green chile powder, oregano, and apple cider. Cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced to a syrup and the chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Slice the chicken breasts into ¼-inch-thick strips and return the strips to the pan along with the apples and the rajas. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately or keep warm in the pan until ready to serve.
To serve, lay the tortillas side by side, open face and overlapping on a platter. Divide the filling equally between the tortillas and top with salsa and garnish. Grab, fold, and eat right away. Or build your own taco: lay a tortilla, open face, in one hand. Spoon on some filling, top with salsa and garnish, fold, and eat right away.
¡Ay, que rica! Tacos--authentic tacos, with soft, warm corn tortillas, succulent fillings, and snappy salsa--are a cherished street food on both sides of the border. Mark Miller adds a chef's sensibility to a lifetime of taco eating and making to this collection of 75 recipes for building delicious and authentic tacos. From classic to creative and from breakfast-friendly tacos to complementary salsas and sides, this new book contains all things taco!
Available at Amazon.com
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.