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Bring the Bold Flavors of Street Tacos Into Your Home Kitchen

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Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Tacos de hongos (Mushroom Tacos)

Like to use smaller chiles for their great flavor and heat. Here’s a tip from celebrity chef Roberto Santibañez: Don’t seed those smaller chiles.

Anyone who has seen  Santibañez in action knows that he wants smaller peppers, from serranos to habaneros, cut up with the seeds and veins intact. That means a little extra heat, but that’s the point of the pepper, he says.

I was reminded of that when reading his recipe for Mushroom Tacos, which appears in his new cookbook, “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95), written with JJ Goode. The ingredient list calls for three chiles, serranos or jalapeños, “including seeds.”

Whether you include the seeds or not is up to you, of course. What will impress you, however, is not the chiles so much by themselves but the great array of street-food recipes in the book, such as the two recipes that follow for Mushroom Tacos and Tacos of Poblano and Bacon. One bite of either and you’ll likely return to this book often to make everything from Duck Carnitas Tacos to Tortas with Chicken in Green Mole or a Cucumber-Ginger Margarita.

For those of you who are diabetic or just avoiding corn and flour tortillas, you can use cabbage leaves or lettuce to wrap your taco fillings in, like I’ve done. They’re a great low-carb substitute.

Mushroom Tacos (Tacos de hongos)

“A little effort,  a lot of flavor. Multiple varieties of mushrooms (try cremini, oyster and shiitake) make for an even more exciting combination of textures, but even plain old portobellos become something special with the addition of chile, herbs and a touch of butter. Without the tortillas and condiments, you have a side dish that goes well with just about any taco or tamale you can dream up.”

Use a little oil at the end, instead of the butter, and you can make these vegan.

1/4 generous cup olive or vegetable oil
Generous 1 cup diced white onions
3 fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, finely chopped (including seeds)
3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds fresh mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh epazote leaves or 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Mushrooms cooking for tacos.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pan over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions, chiles and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, toss very well to coat in the oil and cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked through and lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the salt and cook for 2 minutes more, then stir in the butter and epazote until the butter has melted. Season to taste with salt.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with crumbled queso fresco and sliced canned pickled jalapeño chiles or tomatillo-chipotle salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

Tacos of Poblanos and Bacon (Tacos de rajas con tocino)

“Crispy bits of bacon and a web of melty cheese nite strips of roasted poblano chiles in this incredible mixture that needs no salsa or topping. That said, tomato salsa certainly wouldn’t hurt and, if you really want a rich treat, stir in cheese until it melts.

1 1/4 pounds fresh poblano chiles (about 3 large)
6 thick-cut slices bacon (about 6 ounces), coarsely chopped
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 pound Chihuahua or provolone cheese, shredded (optional)

tacos, tortasRoast, peel, seed and cut the poblanos. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium-high heat, add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat slightly once the bacon renders its fat, until the bacon is uniformly golden brown and slightly crisp, about 8 minutes.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat, then add the onion to the pan. Cook the onion, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook 1 minute, then add the poblanos, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Cook until the poblanos are warmed through, about 3 minutes.

Add the cheese, turn off the heat, and toss until the cheese is melted.

Taste and season with salt, if necessary, since bacon varies in saltiness.

Serve alongside 10 warm corn tortillas and top with a smoky tomato salsa.

Makes 10 tacos.

From “Tacos, Tortas and Tamales: Flavors from the Griddles, Pots and Streetside Kitchens of Mexico” by Roberto Santibañez with JJ Goode

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