Growing up in rural Maine, my exposure to Mexican food was limited to Taco Day at school. You all know what I am talking about. Hard shells that were more like cardboard than actual food, chopped up iceberg lettuce, flavorless tomatoes and El Paso-seasoned ground beef (still working off that sodium). And I LOVED them. Taco Day was like Christmas, something that we would all look forward to for weeks.
So, when I arrived in California after college, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. Taquerias on every corner. It didn’t take long to figure out that all tacos were NOT created equal. Gone were the days of the Taco Day tacos. Instead, I found my favorite little spots that used only the freshest and most flavorful ingredients. And quickly became a regular.
These days, I have less opportunity to fly-by my favorite taquerias the way that I used to. Instead, I have started creating my own tacos at home. And they look NOTHING like the tacos of my childhood. Instead, they are fresh, light and full of flavor – much like the tacos that I get from my favorite spot down the street.
Kitchen Note: I suggest using corn or whole wheat tortillas. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am yet to find a whole wheat tortilla that doesn’t have a subtle hint of shoe leather going on. Not that there aren’t good whole wheat tortillas out there, I just haven’t found them yet. If you have, please share. I am always on the hunt.
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 3” cubes
2 cups vegetable or beef stock*
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tablespoon cumin
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
4 cups cabbage, very thinly sliced (a mandoline works best)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
¼ cup Greek yogurt
zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoons lime juice
½ tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon cayenne
4 ozs queso fresco
Cherry Tomato Salsa
12 corn or whole wheat tortillas
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the beef to the pot, turning often until all sides are lightly browned, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the broth, onion, garlic, cumin and cayenne. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cover and continue cooking until the beef is tender, about 1½ hours. Once the beef is tender and beginning to fall apart, remove from the heat and break up remaining cubes with the back of a fork.
- Meanwhile prepare the slaw. Combine the olive oil, vinegar, yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, honeyand cayenne, mix well. Gradually stir in the cabbage and season with salt to taste. Set aside in the refrigerator to cool until you are ready to serve.
- Prepare the Cherry Tomato Salsa.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil, limiting the number of tortillas to 4-6 per foil packet. Place the tortillas in the oven until they are warmed through, about 10 minutes.
- Top each tortilla with a generous spoonful of beef, cabbage slaw ans salsa. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy.
Kitchen Tip: The great thing about tacos is that there is no hard and fast rules on how to make them. Try experimenting with toppings. A few delicious ideas include: