Tacos in general are traditionally made with corn tortillas. One nice thing about the corn tortilla is it’s naturally gluten free. Please check your labels to be sure. Some companies put weird ingredients in everything.
If you’ve tried corn tortillas and haven’t liked them before, like my mother-in-law, try using them in different ways. I’ll show you how and hopefully convert you! If my mother-in-law can be converted, anyone can. I take this as proof that miracles can happen.
A pack of corn tortillas found in the “ethnic” food aisle at your local major grocery store or at the specialty stores located on my Where to Buy page. Please, don’t get the Old El Paso brand, the home brand is actually better.
Actually, while I’m at it, please don’t buy Old El Paso anything. Have I mentioned how much I loathe baked enchiladas? No wait, I take that back. The only thing you may buy from Old El Paso are their jarred, sliced jalapeños. Ha-la-pen-yoes. Say it with me.
Chicken breast chunks seasoned in granulated garlic, cumin and pepper and “dry fried” in lemon juice (instead of oil.)
Light sour cream and cheese optional, but tasty.
1. Cut your chicken breasts into small to medium sized chunks and dry fry in your preferred seasonings and lemon juice. It doesn’t need to be fried in oil because it doesn’t need the extra fat. Like my hips. I like granulated garlic, it’s different from garlic powder which is awful, ground cumin and pepper. When just cooked, put in a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat a large cast iron fry pan on medium-high heat and coat the bottom liberally with vegetable oil. Please don’t skimp on this part or your tacos will not be crispy, only toasted.
3. With frying tongs, put in your first corn tortilla and coat in oil.
4. Flip after a few seconds, when soft. This is so that they’re pliable enough to fold without breaking.
5. Add some of the cooked chicken in a row, just off center so there’s room to fold.
6. Fold and repeat until your pan can’t hold anymore.
7. When one side is crisp, flip with your tongs and fry the other side until also crisp.
8. When both sides are adequately crispy, remove with tongs onto a serving plate with a few paper towels spread over it to drain the excess oil away. Be careful when flipping or removing, the juices from the chicken, when dripped into the oil in the pan can bubble and splash hot oil onto your hands. You’ll probably need to give your stove a wipe down after as well. I never promised they wouldn’t be messy, just easy. Like Al’s mum.
9. Repeat until you’ve made as many tacos as you need for dinner. Two medium chicken breasts should make 10-12 tacos.
When they’re all done, add cheese and sour cream if using, add your shredded lettuce and douse with Tapatio or your favourite hot sauce. But really, you should be using Tapatio. They’ll stay crisp through dinner, but should be eaten straight away.
Other topping ideas: If you don’t want to go the cheese and sour cream route, you can add a fresh tomato salsa, a salsa verde, black beans or pinto beans, diced radishes, jalapeños, cilantro/coriander with fresh onion and lime juice or any combination of these so they never get boring. If you want to use something else besides chicken, try some mince beef with the same seasoning or make some carnitas.
That’s it! Invite some friends over, crack open your favourite dark ale and enjoy!
Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is a type of braised or roasted pork in Mexican cuisine. They’re usually cooked and rendered in their own fat. They’re also delicious and so easy!
1.5 kg pork shoulder or rump
cold water to just cover
2 teaspoons salt and cumin to taste
A large cast iron pan or heavy pot
Choose a piece of pork that has a decent amount of fat on it so that it will brown properly on its own. If the piece you have is lean, you can put a little bit of vegetable oil into the pan (as opposed to lard.)
If there is skin, remove that. Cut the meat fat and all, into slightly larger than bite-sized chunks. Cover the meat with water (not too much to start, just enough to cover) in a seasoned deep cast iron pan (making this dish a few times will season a new cast iron pan well.) Add the salt and cumin and bring to boil uncovered.
Lower the heat to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the water has evaporated — between 1-2 hours, depending on the size of your pan. By this time the meat should be cooked, but not falling apart. If the meat is still hard when the water has evaporated, add more water and continue cooking until tender.
Once tender, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the meat until all the fat has cooked down. Keep turning the meat until it’s browned. It will almost look crispy. This will take another hour.
You now have carnitas! Good whole or shred by hand once cooked and add to tacos, burritos or by themselves. They’re delicious with any combination of the following accompaniments: lemon or lime juice, fresh diced onion, sliced radishes, salsa, guacamole or avocado slices, jalapeño and/or chopped cilantro (coriander) in a heated corn tortilla taco.
Carnitas taco shown with frijoles, guacamole and a tomato salsa containing diced onion, cilantro, jalapeños.