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Melissa Guerra’s Tacos de Acelgas Are Filled with Chard

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Red and white chard

The cover of Molly O’Neill’s new cookbook, “One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, $50) promises “600 recipes from the nation’s best home cooks, farmers, fishermen, pit-masters, and chefs.” That means Dungeness crab from San Ramon, Calif.; lobster chowder from Stonington, Maine; and Kansas City ribs.

Given the melting pot that is America, there are also plenty of dishes with international flavors, such as Sri Lankan Dry Potato Curry from New Rochelle, N.Y.; Israeli couscous from Party City, Utah; and Penang beef with rice noodles from Santa Fe, N.M.

What there is not in 830 pages is a single recipe from anyone in San Antonio. The closest the book comes is a recipe from Melissa Guerra, who is listed as being from McAllen. Guerra, who owns the eponymous Tienda de Cocina at the Pearl Brewery, offers up a crispy fried taco recipe with chard, or acelgas, that can be served as a snack or a vegetarian main course.

You’ll find both red and white chard at farmers markets these days.

Melissa Guerra’s Tacos de Acelgas

3 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 or 2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons corn oil, plus additional for frying, divided use
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound fresh red or white chard, washed and chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
32 corn tortillas (6-inch size works best)
3 ounces crumbled cotija cheese or shredded Monterey Jack (about 3/4 cup)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Place a wire rack over another baking sheet.

Purée the tomatoes and garlic in a blender or a food processor. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water to facilitate blending.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the purée, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While tomato purée is reducing, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook for 10 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the chard and minced garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the filling is very dry and well flavored. Remove from the heat.

Wrap 8 tortillas at a time in a clean, damp kitchen towel. Heat them in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high, until they are steamy and pliable. Remove 1 tortilla from the bundle and lay out flat. (Keep the rest well wrapped in the towel.) Fill the tortilla with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the chard and roll up tightly. Place the taco on the wire rack over the baking sheet, with the curved edge of the tortilla underneath. Dampen, warm, fill and shape the remaining tortillas into tacos in this fashion.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Place the tacos one by one in the hot oil. with the curved edge still underneath. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then gently turn oven with tongs and fry the other side about 1 minute, until crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on the paper towel-lined sheet pan.

Place all the tacos on a serving platter, pour the warm tomato purée over the top, and sprinkle with the cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

From “One Big Table” by Molly O’Neill

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