by Mark Miller
Ten Speed Press -- 2009
Buy it at Amazon
Most Americans equate tacos with a "run for the border," but a really good taco takes far longer than the average fast food.
"Tacos," written by the founder of the Coyote Café in Santa Fe, N.M., is a vision quest of sorts for lovers of all things tortilla. You will learn the basic philosophy of this traditional Mexican street food; it isn't until you get into the recipes, though, that you realize just how laborious it can be to make that yummy treat.
Along with approximately 44 taco fillings, Miller shows how to make homemade tortillas, offers a slew of salsa recipes and even gives a Mexican breakfast section sure to make you salivate.
Miller does a bang-up job pairing each of his taco fillings with a wine or beer choice, a tortilla recommendation and the proper salsa accompaniment. With the latter, it gets tricky: If you see a salsa paired with the filling, plan on an extra hour for the preparation.
Takeaway tips: Tacos take work ... lots of it!
- The word taco comes from the Nahuatl word "ac," which means flat.
- Make your own tortillas at home.
- Sixty percent of a chile's heat is in the ribs or veins.
- "If you can do as much of the preparation as possible in advance, you can have everything ready and waiting for your guests." Live that warning, love it and you'll be a happy taco eater/chef.
- Be warned: You will have to buy exotic ingredients that may be hard to find.
Quality of pictures: A varied assortment of luscious taco shots peppered with ingredient closeups
We tested: Smoky Bacon Tacos with Cascabel Chile-Blackened Tomato Salsa and Chicken with Chorizo Tacos with Salsa Fresca
These recipes looked delicious and having made some laborious Rick Bayless gems, we were hoping they wouldn't be quite as much work. We were wrong.
The Smoky Bacon Tacos seemed quick enough -- fry up the bacon, fry up the onion in the bacon grease, mix together with honey, salt and two chile powders. However, the salsa -- Cascabel Chile-Blackened Tomato Salsa -- took a bit more than the 20 minutes listed as the prep time, and we couldn't even find cascabel chiles in Whole Foods (so we substituted with a blend of arbol and chipotle). That said, these were delicious and original, and we'd make 'em again.
The Chicken with Chorizo Tacos were somewhat easier, though we had to pull the leaves off an entire bunch of cilantro (add another 15 minutes to prep time) and let the chicken marinate for more than an hour. The results were subtle and good, though not quite as tasty as the Smoky Bacon Tacos.
Slashfood started dinner at 6 p.m., ate at 9:45 and gave up trying to make corn tortillas from scratch because of fatigue.
Worth the investment: These are labor-intensive recipes -- only for those who love their Mexican food and are willing to put in the hours to get it.