Tacos, Tacos, Tacos

Gluten-free fish tacos with a spicy cabbage slaw.

I have a weakness for tacos. Beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, and, most especially, fish tacos. I used to think I was a burrito girl, but, eventually, I had to be honest with myself: tacos won my heart way back when I was too young to realize I had a heart to give to food.

Back then, I was seduced by tacos from Taco Bell; it wasn’t long before I realized those were, pardon the pun, thin shells of tacos. Maybe Taco Bell’s recipes have improved since then, but I haven’t been back. Mostly because I’ve discovered tacos that make me crave them, time and again.

Generally, tacos are a safe gluten-free food to order in restaurants. Yes, you need to verify the corn tortillas — which also can be used to make awesome quesadillas — are made from corn only. While this is the norm, it seems the “artisanal” tortillas sometimes have wheat flour. Which makes absolutely no sense to this California girl. You want a wheat tortilla? There are plenty to be had!

The basic recipe for tacos is this: lay one (two if you want to double-wrap; I’m always saving calories!) heated corn tortillas on a plate. Spoon a savory filling in the center (see below for suggestions). Top with a tangy or spicy slaw (see this second post on Slaws, Sauces, and Extras), or a bit of shredded veggies. Add cheese if you want. Drizzle a little hot sauce over the whole thing. Fold in half. Eat.

Repeat as necessary.

Some ideas for filling those tacos:

  • Beef: Those tacos I ate at Taco Bell way back when? Ground beef with some sort of seasoning. And, sure, that is perfectly fine. I, personally, like my beef tacos asada style. Here is a pretty simple recipe for carne asada. Basically, take a thin cut of steak, marinate in spices and bit of acidy lime juice, cook very quickly, cut into bite-sized pieces, make your taco. Eat.
  • Braised Beef: Or try a braised beef. Put a roast in the slow cooker, rub with salt, pepper, cumin, add liquid and any other seasonings you want, and let that baby cook until the meat is falling apart, 8 or so hours on low. Shred the meat with forks, and mix in a bit of the juice from the slow cooker. Adjust the seasonings and make your taco!
  • Chicken or Turkey: Let’s start with a simple method. Dice skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts. Season with salt and pepper. Toss in a little cumin (cumin, as you may have guessed, is a key ingredient in many tacos!). Add some diced green chilies. Saute until the meat is done, then build your taco.
  • Cheater’s Chicken Tacos: I confess I take this shortcut when time is tight. Buy a rotisserie chicken. Pull the meat off, shred with a couple of forks. Now, put about a cup or so of your favorite pre-made salsa in a skillet. Heat for a few minutes, add the chicken, stir until heated through. You know what to do next!
  • Pork: If you happen into a sale of pork shoulder, doing an all-day braise in your slow cooker results in tasty, tasty pork tacos. Create a seasoning mix out of chipotle chiles (with a bit of the adobo sauce), some onion, orange juice, a bit of oil, honey or brown sugar, cumin, and salt and pepper. Rub all over the pork. Braise on high for about 5 hours, low for about 8. Shred the pork, check your seasonings, eat.
  • Carnitas: Carnitas take your braised pork and raise it a level. A crispy level. You can either cook your shredded pork on the stovetop with a bit of oil until crispy on one side, or in 350 degree oven for fifteen minutes or until as crispy as you like.
  • Veggies: Here, the question is to tofu or not to tofu. Tofu is great because it soaks up flavor. You can marinate it and fry it, and it is good. Or, you can slice veggies like bell peppers, dice some sweet potatoes or squash, slice or dish zucchini. Add some sliced (and deseeded, if necessary) tomatoes. Roast on the stovetop or in the oven until they start to caramelize. Fill your tortillas, top with cotija, a crumbly Mexican cheese.
  • Quinoa or Other Grain Tacos: I’ve encountered many recipes that include quinoa in tacos. I like mine mixed with black beans, a spicy red sauce, a bit of orange juice (to offset the beans), and a diced avocado salad on top. I’m also curious to try the quinoa filling for a taco salad from the Gluten Free Goddess.
  • Eggs and Potatoes: In Austin, I learned to love breakfast tacos (okay, there wasn’t much learning involved!). They’re so easy, so good, and easy to make gluten-free (if you’re in Texas, you may need to look around for breakfast tacos made with corn tortillas…flour was all the rage at the places I visited last time I was there). Saute diced potatoes in canola oil until cooked through and a bit crispy on the outside. Scramble some eggs — you get bonus points if you add a bit of diced green chile for flavor. Mix the eggs and potatoes together, taste for seasoning, and spoon into warmed tortillas. Top with your favorite chile sauce.
  • Fish: Ah, fish tacos. I discovered you relatively late in life, but I’ve made up for lost time. I make my fish tacos with whatever fish I’m in the mood for: salmon, tilapia (cheap and really versatile!), halibut, or red snapper. You can also use crab or lobster meat (as long as it’s real crab or lobster, as the fake ones usually have a wheat filler). I usually grill my fish with a bit of salt, pepper, and sliced lemon. I like the flavor to shine in these tacos! I top the dish with a slaw (see: Slaws, Sauces, and Extras), and a drizzle of creamy sauce. Heaven!

What are your favorite tacos?

Tip of the Week

Heating tortillas. I usually do my tortillas old school: over a gas grate, turning them by hand. I do not recommend this! Instead, put a stack of six tortillas on a plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat in 30-second bursts until hot. Keep warm in an oven. Or, just heat them in the oven. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, wrap six tortillas tightly in foil, heat for about 15 minutes or so. I’ve also used this method on the grill.

Menu of the Week

These tacos are so easy, and you can have them on the table in under thirty minutes. While the grill is heating, I season the fish and make the slaw. Put the rice on the stove (or reheat leftover rice in the microwave). The lime juice brightens up the beans. I like the tanginess of tomatillo salsa, but any salsa will do the trick.

  • Fish Tacos with Spicy Cole Slaw
  • Refried Beans (I loosen mine up with a bit of water, a teaspoon or so of lime juice, and additional seasonings if I’m in the mood)
  • Steamed Rice Topped with Tomatillo Salsa
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