I love tacos. There has been a rash of little mom & pop style taco joints opening up around the city (Smoke in Homestead, Las Palmas in Brookline, Mendoza in a couple diff places) and I’ve checked out a good number of them, but still prefer to have Taco Night at home. Its a fun dinner, and limitless options to keep even the pickiest eater happy. Our taco nights have tomato, salsa, black bean salsa, avocado, olives, green onion, chilis, spanish rice, cheese, sour cream….I take taco night very seriously.
Lets start with the protein. I use chicken, chicken tenderloins to be exact, when I make this most often for a number of reasons 1) tastes good & takes the marinade fast, 2) quick cook time, 3) cheap and 4) healthier. I use chicken tenderloins for a lot of stuff. They are, ready for a shocker, more tender than their breast counterparts, far easier to deal with and just plain taste better when used in this application or ones like it. Seriously, next time a recipe calls for cooked chicken bake off & shred down some chicken tenders. You will be amazed how much better buffalo chicken dip is when the chicken isnt all dry & ookie.
This marinade also works really well on tofu or mushrooms for my vegetarian friends and on beef – skirt steak, sirloin, skinny cut strip steaks, etc if your tendencies are more toward the carnivorous. I do loves me some cow, I just don’t eat as much red meat as I want to. I’d stick with thin cuts for any steak then cook it quickly over high heat for a nice sear & juicy steak. Also good for fish & shellfish if the urge to get all fancy strikes.
Tequila Lime Marinade
- juice of 1 lime
- zest of the same lime (this is why the Microplane is a GOD in my kitchen)
- couple healthy pinches of Kosher salt
- a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper
- few tablespoons of olive oil
- a generous swig of tequila (feel free to quality control, its a fiesta!)
- couple tablespoons of fresh minced cilantro
- little bit of ground cumin, coriander, ancho chili powder & dried oregano. Healthy pinches of all of them. Toss in some cayenne if you want more heat.
I know the measurements aren’t exact, they aren’t supposed to be, and feel free to add and subtract at will. Also if you dont have/dont want to use tequila dont, ramps up the flavor if you do & cooks out for the record, but add some extra lime juice in its place.
Put all of the ingredients in a big Ziplock and smoosh them all around, dump in the chicken tenders, smoosh around some more then toss it back in the fridge for an hour or so while I make the tortillas. And yes, smooshing is totally a Thing. Related: this is a high acid marinade. You dont want to leave anything in it for more than 2-3 hours or the lime will start to cook it, esp seafood. Its not ruined if this happens, at all really, but it does weird some people out (its called seviche & is a legit cooking method). Best part about this marinade method – all goes in the trash when you’re done FTW.
I cook the chicken on my grill. Even in the middle of February I will still grill. If you cant they can also be pan seared over medium high heat. Takes about 3-4 minutes per side to cook all the way through. Cook in batches if you need to and let them rest a few minutes before you cut them. The marinade will caramelize some, this is a great thing. Chop it up after its rested, I usually shred it with forks.
In my opinion a great taco can be utterly DESTROYED with a shitty tortilla. I am not a huge fan of corn tortillas, I just prefer the texture of flour. Knowing how easy they are to make and how much better they are than bought (with the exception of Renya tortillas, those I will sure as hell buy upon occasion) I just make them.
Before I get to the recipe a Hardware note: I do NOT use a tortilla press for these. You can, but they always come out too thick and too small for tacos and later, quesadillas. If I were making corn tortillas a press is a must, but I hand roll flour. It takes less than a minute per tortilla and is worth ever second. This recipe makes 24 – 8″-ish tortillas and they will hold in a baggie in the fridge for weeks…but they never last that long around here.
Homemade Flour Tortillas
- 4 cups all Purpose Flour
- 4 Tbsp COLD butter, cubed up
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1.5-2 cup milk
I use my food processor and put all ingredients except the milk in the bowl and pulse it until it looks like cornmeal. You should not be able to see any huge chunks of butter. If you dont have a machine to do with with you can work the butter in by hand. This takes a bit longer, but the result is the same. The butter MUST be cold. You can also substitute shortening for the butter. The substitution has a minute effect, mainly on flavor, but its forgivable and the shortening also MUST be cold.
Once the flour butter mix is done put it in a big enough bowl, make a well in the center and add 1.5 cups of the milk. Start to work it in, I use my clean hands, and add more milk as necessary. You want the dough to be firm enough to stick to itself but not be all wicked gloppy on your hands (cooks note take off any rings you normally wear). When enough liquid is added in transfer it to a floured board and knead it a bit to smooth out the dough. Start cutting it in half to create 24 even sized little dough clumps then round off into balls. Let them rest on the counter for 15 or so minutes under a towel to make rolling easier.
Roll them out to about an 8″ round (1/16″ thickness is ideal) using a rolling pin and dont be shy with the flour. I roll them all at once, make sure they are generously floured and stack them all up. If you cant get through these fast use multiple stacks, they will stick together with the weight of them all as the butter softens.
Preheat a griddle until it sizzles water and start to grill off the tortillas. You use NO fat to do this, just put them on dry. Takes about a minute on the first side and less than on the other. They also are pretty sturdy, so as they come off the griddle stack them up & cover with a towel to keep them warm.
If you have any left over make sure they are cool through the whole stack, put them into a baggie & toss them in the fridge.
Nice thing about this recipe is how it times out, the hour or so needed to get the tortillas made and the rest of your garnishes prepped is about how long the chicken needs to marinade then it all comes together quick from there. I’ve also done this one with kids. The tortillas wont be round, but they do have fun playing with a rolling pin & flour!
Sorry for no pics! I made this one a week or so ago & didnt think to photograph it while i was doing it. Lesson learned!