The Oceanfront Taco Party

Before I begin, I would like to note that, after typing the above title, I have decided if I ever find myself with some prime commercial real estate on the coast and the motivation to open a restaurant, I know what it will be called.

Anyway…. if you have been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know the following things about me:

  1. I like looking at recipes.
  2. I’m a bit of a neurotic overachiever.
  3. I love tacos.

Perhaps you wouldn’t necessarily come to the third conclusion, but if you read back through the past year, it should become pretty evident.  I’ve talked about tacos filled with ceviche and tacos filled with black beans.  I mean, we even had a Mexican-themed wedding menu.

What is it that I love about tacos?  Well, beyond the inclusion of some of my favorite flavors (e.g., lime and cilantro), vibrant colors, and the fact that they can range from respectfully light and nutritious to downright decadent, tacos usually come with a bunch of accompaniments, which gives me an opportunity to use all of the cute little serving dishes I’ve accumulated.

What’s also lovely about tacos is that they can be a pretty basic preparation with one filling and a couple standard condiments. Or, you can go completely crazy and prepare a ton of things that taste yummy in a tortilla, and let everyone create their own special taco.  And, if you refer back to item #2 above, you can guess which direction I’d lean towards.

Enter the article devoted to tacos in the June issue of Bon Appetit.

If there is one thing I love more than recipes, it’s menus of recipes.  Sure, there are times that I like to cover the couch (and myself) with ten cookbooks and make Excel sheets for menu planning.  But sometimes, it’s nice to have someone else do that work for you.  Bon Appetit has done that here: five taco fillings, five condiments, and a recipe for homemade tortillas.  I’m disappointed that they did not include a dessert, though.  If the BA writers believe that after stuffing your stomach with tacos, you wouldn’t want dessert, they clearly have not met my family.

As we were planning our family beach trip, it occurred to me that a stay-at-home taco night would be a nice break among a week of dining out and consuming a ton of crabmeat and Dumser’s ice cream (not together).

In a perfect world, I would have made this entire menu (homemade tortillas included) and a dessert.  But then I realized a) I was only cooking for six people, b) I was trying to save us money by eating in, and c) I was not going to be happy if I spent a perfectly good beach day in the kitchen.

So in the end, I decided on this menu:

Fillings:

Cumin and Ancho Chicken

Rajas Poblanas

Condiments:

Taqueria Guacamole

Pico de Gallo

Extras:

Quick Pickled Onions

Shredded purple cabbage

Sour cream

Cheese

Cilantro

And that was plenty of food for six people.  I think we each had somewhere between 2 and 5 tacos, and we had a good amount of chicken and poblanos leftover.

For the most part I followed the recipes directly, but I’ll share a couple changes/notes.

Chicken- I forgot to look for ancho chile powder at the store, but I happened to have some of this Carne Asada seasoning hanging around. I think my brother-in-law asked us to purchase it last year for the wedding food. Since it had chile powder in it, I figured it would be an acceptable substitute.  It also had salt, though, so I did not add extra kosher salt as the recipe called for.

Rajas Poblanas- Most of us loved them but they were surprisingly hot.  I don’t think of poblanos being that hot, but this was intense. I know a lot of pepper varieties can have quite a range in terms of heat, so maybe these were just unusually hot poblanos. Delicious, though.

Guacamole- I didn’t add water to it, just smashed the avocados a bit more.  I typically like chunky guacamole, but I can appreciate that the smoother variety stays put in a taco a little better.

I swear, these were the most attractive and tastiest avocados I’ve ever had.

Pico de Gallo- Pretty basic, straightforward recipe, but really good. I skipped the jalapenos, which was probably a good thing, given how the poblanos turned out!  Maybe a dear reader can explain to me the rationale behind submerging the onions in ice water and immediately draining them?  I assumed it was just to tone down the onions, but a quick rinse seemed just as sufficient.

Quick Pickled Onions- These disappeared quickly! Even my husband who usually avoids red onions ate them. This was the one thing I made in advance (a couple days) and stored in a jar, refrigerated.

One more thing. Perhaps it was the seasoning I used or my cooking technique on an unfamiliar stove but the chicken produced a ton of smoke on the skillet. (Oh yes, by the way, I took my cast iron skillet with me to the beach.)  I was worried I had destroyed the chicken, since it was pretty much black on the outside.  But it was perfectly cooked and the flavor was awesome.

Since the smoke drove my poor family out onto the balcony of the condo we were renting, it’s a good thing the food turned out well. Of course, even getting smoked out of the condo had a silver lining: we carried the dining room table outside (it was a big balcony) and enjoyed a better view than what is offered at the nicest restaurants in Ocean City.  Let me tell you- tacos taste better when you’re watching a sunset and hearing waves crash.

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2 Comments

Filed under Cooking, Family

2 responses to “The Oceanfront Taco Party

  1. Alicia Brands

    Submerging raw onions in ice water is supposed to do two things –
    1. It supposedly tenderizes them somehow (maybe the extreme cold breaks down the cell walls a bit)
    2. It helps mellow the flavor so the raw onion is not quite as intense/pungent.

    P.S. – I am catching up on your blog. Everything looks so good! I have missed reading your entries!

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