One of the benefits of living in a culturally diverse area is that you can buy all sorts of “exotic” international ingredients at the grocery store. There’s gochujang, bitter melon, sumac and lemongrass, not to mention udon noodles, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh figs and whole dried fish – all within walking distance of my house. It’s great because it means I can actually go out and buy the ingredients needed to make the Thai dishes in Pok Pok, or the Middle Eastern recipes in Jerusalem. If you’ve read these cookbooks you’ll know what I mean!
One item that’s been surprisingly hard to find in my area is authentic Mexican corn tortillas. Obviously you can just use flour tortillas to make tacos (and I do all the time – see these chipotle tofu tacos and butternut squash black bean tacos for proof). But I’ve been educating myself on Mexican cuisine and, based on what I’ve read, real corn tortillas seem worth seeking out from a taste and authenticity perspective. Can’t hurt to try something new!
Last spring I took a stroll through the Guelph farmers’ market and in the middle of the indoor area, sitting on a wooden shelf amidst packages of pita breads and freshly grown sprouts, there they were: fresh corn tortillas! I don’t remember the name of the stall, but I’ve gone back several times since then to buy more.
Their perfect round, flat shape makes them look as though they were produced in a factory, but the ones I picked up were made by hand from nothing more than stone-ground corn, water and calcium hydroxide (an ingredient used to release nutrients from the corn before it’s ground up – thanks Wiki!). The first thing I made was tacos (naturally) but I’ve also used corn tortillas for enchiladas and huevos rancheros. They keep really well in the freezer too, so you can pull them out whenever you feel like a taco snack :)
Forget ground beef – thinly sliced grilled steak is the ultimate taco filling. I like to throw on something crunchy too, like shredded lettuce or thinly sliced radishes, plus something creamy or cheesy like crumbled feta or Greek yogurt.
Roasted jalapeños are also a nice touch and something different. My original plan was to roast a couple of jalapeños I bought on sale and whip them into a creamy, spicy green sauce with the Greek yogurt, but in the end decided to use them as a topping. The peppers were still spicy after roasting yet mellow enough to take full bites of – perfect.
And now, a question for you: if you could create the ultimate taco, what would it look/taste like?
- 4 medium jalapenos
- 4 8-oz top sirloin, skirt or flank steaks
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 12 fresh corn tortillas
- 2 cups shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
- 8 radishes, thinly sliced
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 1 lime, sliced into wedges
- Pre-heat the broiler. Place whole jalapenos on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning halfway through cooking, until blackened all over. Transfer to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap while still hot to loosen the skins. Let cool, remove skins and slice into strips. Set aside.
- Pre-heat a grill pan or barbecue over medium-high heat. Season the steak on both sides with salt and pepper and grill, turning once halfway through cooking, until done to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes before slicing thinly.
- Set out the cooked steak, tortillas, roasted jalapenos, lettuce, radishes, scallions, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and lime wedges so that each person can assemble their own tacos.