Victor Albisu thinks most of us are doing tacos wrong. He says that well-worn formula — meat, cheese, salsa, crunchy taco — is tired. "I want home chefs to step out of the box and feel more comfortable with different Latin ingredients in order to make their cooking more authentic," says Albisu.
For starters, buy soft corn tortillas as opposed to the hard shell. Give them a quick toast in oil or fat and set aside. Then, ditch the shredded cheese and introduce real ingredients — salsas, guacamole, limes, pickled vegetables, cilantro, and peppers and seasonings. “You’ve got to get your hands on the actual stuff, playing with different chilies and other peppers," he says, "like Serrano and jalapeno, different spices, to go after the heat, which is the soul of the food.”
The meat or other protein should be thought of as a bonus, something that goes hand-in-hand with the condiments rather than overwhelming the flavor. Overall, be creative and try something new. "It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone,” he says. Here are some recipes from Albisu that will help you do just that.
Taco Bamba Chorizo Mix
Yields enough for up to 7 lbs of pork
- 1 cup chili powder
- 1/3 cup paprika
- 1/3 cup granulated garlic
- 1/3 cup oregano
- 1/4 cup granulated onion
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 1/4 cup salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp chipotle powder
- 1 tsp black pepper, ground
- 1/3 tsp cayenne, ground
Mix all spices together. Add spice mixture to the ground pork and mix until incorporated. Brown meat accordingly and set aside in a bowl until ready to assemble tacos.
Taco Bamba Grilled Guacamole
- 5 avocados
- 2 small Roma tomatoes
- 2 jalapeno or Serrano Chili
- 1 small red onion
- 3 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- 2 small cloves minced or smashed garlic
- salt and pepper
- 2 limes
- Cut the avocados in half around the seed. Remove the seed and lay on a hot grill or cast iron pan on medium heat.
- Slice Roma tomatoes in half
- Slice onions into 1 inch rounds
- Cut the limes and grill lime flesh side down on a hot grill or cast iron pan.
- Grill or char chilies, tomatoes, limes, and onions
- Do not move the vegetables, allow them to blister and develop a burnt texture or crust.
- Remove the avocados once the flesh is dark, caramelized and black in some places.
- Scoop out and smash the avocado
- Once each item has charred but not cooked (there should still be some raw part of the tomato, onion or chilies) remove and cut into a small dice. Combine all the vegetables with the smashed avocado, cilantro, the juice of the grilled lime and chopped garlic. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover with plastic until ready to assemble tacos.
Yields 4 lbs
4 cloves garlic
½ an onion, quartered
2 ½ teaspoon salt
4 lbs chicken breast
- 1 can chipotle in adobo
- 1 15oz can tomato puree
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups onion, julienned
- vegetable oil
- Place chicken, garlic, onions and salt in a stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a simmer.
- Cook until chicken can be pulled apart into large pieces. Reserve 2 cups of the strained chicken cooking liquid.
- For Base: blend chipotle, tomato puree, garlic, salt and cumin until smooth.
- For Sauce: sweat julienned onions in oil; add bay leaf, chicken broth and tinga base and bring to a simmer.
- Add chicken and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Put chicken and sauce into a bowl, cover until ready for assembly.