Southwest Soft Tacos

Have I mentioned that Mother has been spoiling us with homemade dinner? Ever since Rick broke his foot earlier this year, and now that we’ve also been starting a new business, making dinner once a week has been Nancy’s way of helping out – and it really is a huge help.

This week, she made slow-cooked pork butt, which became pulled pork sandwiches at first. But what to do with 7 pounds of leftover meat? A few ideas came to mind, one of which was tacos.

This recipe is a (possibly odd) fusion of flavors from traditional beef tacos and fish tacos, but it worked, so I’m writing it up here. Makes 6 tacos – serves 2-3.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked tender meat, shredded or pulled (pork, chicken, or a meat substitute)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Chili powder
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • 1 cup Green or red cabbage, wilted
  • 2 oz. Sour cream
  • Chipotle in adobo OR chipotle hot sauce
  • Salsa – your choice (I used canned peach salsa for some sweetness, but any style is fine)
  • Freshly chopped cilantro (optional)

Preparation

Shred the cabbage and salt it generously. Let it stand for a couple of hours, then wash thoroughly in a bowl with cool water, to remove excess salt. Drain and spin in a salad spinner to remove excess water.

In a medium skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the shredded cooked meat and a couple of dashes of chili powder (to taste). Cook on medium heat until the meat is warmed through. Turn off the burner but leave the pan on the stove to keep the meat warm until serving time.

Combine the sour cream with one chipotle pepper OR 2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or to taste). If using a pepper I recommend pureeing in a food processor for even heat throughout the sauce.

Thoroughly wash the cilantro to remove grit, then chop roughly.

Just before serving, layer the corn tortillas on a microwave safe plate between damp (not soggy) paper towels, and heat on high for 20-30 seconds to gently steam them.

Serve buffet style. Use a doubled layer of corn tortillas per taco for structure and top with the meat. Lay out the cabbage, chipotle sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, and let everyone assemble their tacos with the toppings they like best.

 

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos just aren’t something we can find in Vermont, so I developed my own take on these. The cooking method is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated Crunchy Oven-Fried Fish but the spice profile is decidedly more south-western. This is a great dish for two people to make together, one making the vegetables and the other preparing the fish. If cooking alone, make the vegetables and sauce first, then prepare the fish so that it’s not sitting around getting cold and soggy after coming out of the oven.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients
For the fish…
2 large fillets firm-fleshed white fish (such as Tilapia, Cod, even Catfish)
3 cups breadcrumbs (home-made from stale bread, or large Panko-style)
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 4 T. all-purpose flour
3 T. mayonnaise
1 small can chilies in adobo (used for both fish and sauce)
1 T. chili powder
2 t. Old Bay seasoning

For the tacos…
Corn tortillas
Sour cream
1/2 head cabbage
2 onions
2 bell peppers
Olive oil

Procedure
For the fish…
Preheat the oven to 350F. Set two wire cooling racks into a baking sheet to create a raised cooking platform for the fish.

Prepare the dipping assembly line before dealing with the fillets. Spread 1/2 cup of the flour in a shallow dish, pie plate, or platter with a lip on it. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayonnaise, chili powder, Old Bay seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce from the can (or to taste). When combined, whisk in 4 tablespoons of the flour until smooth, then pour this mixture into a second shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, spread 2 cups of the breadcrumbs.

Next, rinse the fish with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Cut the fillets into taco-sized pieces about 1 inch by 2 inch rectangles (they won’t actually be rectangles since fish aren’t rectangular!).

Coat each piece of fish as follows: dredge in flour, then tap to shake off excess flour; place into egg/mayo mixture and coat; drop onto breadcrumbs, scoop breadcrumbs over the top and roll to coat, pressing lightly to pack the crumbs all around. Add more breadcrumbs to the dish as needed. (I find it easiest to use one hand for flour/egg steps and second hand for breadcrumb/wire rack steps.) Set each piece on the wire rack cooking platform as you go.

Bake the fish for 14 minutes.

Meanwhile, the person responsible for the filling will…
Core the cabbage and slice it into thin slivers. Similarly, sliver the bell peppers and onions. In a large skillet, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the onions when the pan is hot. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the peppers and cabbage. Sprinkle with salt and cook for a few minutes more, until the cabbage is partially cooked but still a bit crunchy. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, make the taco sauce by whisking together some sour cream and more of the adobo sauce, to taste (you can even mash or blend these with a little milk if you like it hot!).

Just before the fish is ready, microwave the corn tortillas for 30-45 seconds, and cover with a damp paper towel to keep them warm and flexible.

To serve, place 2-3 pieces of fish in a tortilla, drizzle some of the spicy sour cream, and top with the sautéed veggies.

Yum!

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers with Guacamole ... and Gin & TonicThis is a fairly standard stuffed pepper recipe, but I wanted to write it down with the proportions I used, since I just made this off the top of my head. This goes well with fresh guacamole and a little salad on the side. Serves 2-4.

Ingredients:
2 Poblano peppers (substitute bell peppers if you can’t find Poblanos or prefer a dish without any “heat”)
2/3 cup ground pork sausage*
1 cup cooked rice
3 scallions, white and half of green parts chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 pinch cinnamon

Instructions:
Break up the sausage into small pieces and place into a non-stick frying pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Add the chopped vegetables and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Turn off the heat and add the cooked rice, mixing well to combine. The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or two if you want to make this ahead of time.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash the Poblano peppers and slice each in half from top to bottom. Carefully cut out the stem and pinch out the white ribs inside. Roll up four pieces of aluminum foil and form into rings. Place rings in a 9-inch square baking dish (or larger). Divide the filling into four equal portions and fill each pepper half. Place each filled pepper on one of the rings in the baking dish (this keeps them from tipping over during baking). Pour a little water in the bottom of the baking dish and cover the entire dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until the peppers are slightly tender and the filling is heated through.

*I used free-range, Certified Naturally Grown pork purchased directly from Walter Jeffries and his family at Sugar Mountain Farm. If you are using a pre-cooked sausage, cook the vegetables in a little olive oil first, then add the sausage and the rice together with the heat turned off. Vegetarians can substitute their favorite faux-meat product for the pork sausage.