April 28, 2011

Recipe - Potato Tacos with Romesco Sauce & Pickled Red Onions

Howdy pardners! Long time no see. This will be a two parter as it comes from a meal so epic it had to be split up lest the awesomeness go all supernova and short circuit the internet. (I exaggerate a little sometimes.)

I was inspired by the tacos I ate at Teqa a few weeks back, but I wanted to change things up a bit and add some of my own flair. I am a big fan of potato tacos - essentially mashed potatoes in a fried corn tortilla shell - but haven't made my own before. I checked out a few recipes on-line and got to work, quickly figuring out some of the pitfalls. For one, my potato mixture (of which I made way too much) was pretty dry and tended to fall apart, so I couldn't overstuff the tacos or the filling came out in the frying pan and made a big ol' mess of my cooking oil. (If anyone has any suggestions for a potato filling that is a bit more sticky, please let me know!) The end result was tasty, but I think adding some liquid to the potatoes could be beneficial. Speaking of oil, I added WAY too much to the pan the first round and ruined a few tacos. But you live and learn, right? Or you learn from my mistakes and do it the right way the first go!

I also made a romesco sauce from scratch and I was so impressed with myself! I usually shy away from complicated sauces as they can be so time consuming, but I'm coming to realize that the more time you spend on the details, the bigger the reward. This sauce is to die for! It's smoky and rich and has so many flavors that I kept sampling it and saying, "...woah." It would also be delicious just tossed with some pasta, or as a dipping sauce for some grilled bread or potato pancakes.

And finally, the piece de resistance, the pickled red onions. Growing up, I would say 80% of my friends were Mexican, and they taught me about the finest Mexican delicacies. Everytime they made a trip across the border, they would come home loaded with Mexican candy - Pica, Duvalin (aka frosting with a spoon!), tamarindo, mazapan, obleas... oh jeez, my mouth is watering now! - and the enamel on my front teeth is completely gone thanks to childhood binges on lemons with saladitos stuck in the middle. I spent a lot of time at my friend Mary's house, consuming every dish her mom cooked up and put in front of me. I was so spoiled! One of my favorite things were the pickled red onions she always had in the refrigerator. They're vibrant purple and the flavor is simple and mind-blowingly delectable. They can work as an addition to many different meals, and now that I know how to make them, I think I'll start keeping a batch in my fridge, too. They're good just by themselves!

Johnny powered through three tacos, to the point where he had to stop and say, "I think I'm eating too fast." THEY'RE THAT GOOD. He was skeptical of the pickled red onions (again, it's all in the name for him), but after giving one a try he was a big fan. He suggested adding some pico de gallo on top to give an extra crunch.

Tomorrow, I'll post about the Charro Beans that I made to go on the side. The whole meal took about two hours to cook, but if you're just making the tacos I'd say it's closer to an hour.

There's a LOT going on here.

Potato Tacos with Romesco Sauce and Pickled Red Onions
Serves 4

One dozen corn tortillas
2-3 large potatoes
1 spring onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Romesco Sauce (recipe follows)
Pickled Red Onions (recipe follows)
1 avocado
1 small can diced green chiles
Juice of 1/2 lime
Lettuce (optional)

Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a gentle boil. Cook until potatoes are tender all the way through, about 30 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Chop your onion (white and light green parts only) and add to potatoes. Add the salt, pepper and cumin and mash with a potato masher or fork. Set aside.

Microwave your tortillas on a small plate for about a minute, or until pliable. (This step is muy importante or your shells will break.) Scoop a few tablespoons of the potato mixture onto half of a tortilla being careful to leave a border near the edge of the tortilla. Press the potato mixture with your fingers so it sticks together, then fold your tortilla in half and press again so it stays closed. Repeat until you have used all your tortillas.

Heat a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet for 5 minutes. When the oil is ready, you will see some wavy lines appear in it. Cook the tacos in batches for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until browned. If your tacos are not browning and are soggy, increase the heat. Add additional oil as you go to maintain a thin layer in the bottom of your pan. Transfer the cooked tacos to a plate lined with paper towels to remove some of the oil.

In a small bowl, mash your avocado with the green chiles, lime juice and a dash of salt.

To assemble the tacos, place the tacos on a plate and top with Romesco sauce, guacamole, lettuce, and pickled red onions.

Romesco Sauce
Makes about 4 cups
(Based on this recipe with some changes)

1 red pepper
1/2 cup + 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
3 tomatoes, halved
6 garlic cloves, skin removed
1/2 cup whole almonds with skin
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 slices crusty bread (I used semolina)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sea salt

To roast your red pepper, remove the stem, seeds, and pith and cut the pepper in half. Rub the skin with 1/2 tsp olive oil and place on a small baking sheet. Cook under a broiler for 10-15 minutes on each side until the skin is blackened and the flesh is soft. When it's cool enough to handle, remove the skin and set the pepper aside.

Heat your oven to 450 degrees. On the same baking sheet, arrange your tomatoes, garlic cloves, almonds, and pine nuts. Cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven, scoop the pine nuts out (which should be nicely toasted) and replace with the two pieces of bread. Place back in the oven for another 7-8 minutes.

Transfer all ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add in the red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, and salt and process until very smooth. Pour into a bowl and allow to sit for as lot as possible before using to allow the flavors to combine.

Pickled Red Onions
Makes 1 cup
(Recipe by one of my foodie loves, Rick Bayless)

1 small red onion, peeled
1/2 cup lime juice
1 1/2 tsps salt

Thinly slice the red onion and separate the rings. Place into a non-reactive bowl (I used glass). Boil some water in a tea kettle and pour over the onion until covered. Ten seconds later, drain the onions and return to the bowl. Add the lime juice and salt and toss well to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. These will last a week or more in the refrigerator.

Nutritional info: It all depends on how much cooking oil you use, etc. It's safe to say this isn't health food, so let's just leave the nutritional info out on this one, shall we? (If you'd really like to know, just email me and I'll be happy to post!) 

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