Whether or not a taco is a sandwich (according to both Colin and the New York State Tax Board – no, it is not), it fills the same gastronomical niche – a baked dough used to hold a variety of fillings and spreads and generally eaten with ones’ hands. This recipe fuses together two iconic craveable foods into a Voltron that is more than the sum of its parts.Foods naturally form a fusion as people learn to make-do with available groceries, adapt them to local tastes, or take inspiration from other locales. It’s inevitable.
This does lead to some confusing notions regarding “authentic” cuisine. (I argue that all food is “authentic” – it is actual, genuine food.) Are cheeseburger tacos authentic tacos? It does seem like an Americanized and bastardized version of the Mexican street taco. Yes, I got the technique from a cookbook written by a Yankee chef. However he got the technique from observing a Mexican chef in a street taqueria in Mexico City. So one could say that this is – despite appearance – an “authentic” Mexican street taco.
I have issues with the notion of the word “authenticity” in regards to food. Someday when I’m feeling verbose I’ll unpack the word. But this isn’t a thought piece, this is a recipe post so . . . .
I originally ran across this recipe on the Lucy Peach website. Since then the author has come out with an excellent cookbook: Tacos: Recipes and Provocations which I highly recommend if you like tacos. The essays are, as one might expect, pretty thought provoking.
It may be tempting to take a shortcut from homemade salsa. I would encourage you to make the salsa roja from scratch for the first time you make this recipe. It has a roasty quality from the peppers, but still enough of a ketchupy zing to hit the familiar notes of a burger.
In regards to pickles: Not in the original recipe but I think a burger needs pickles. I was lucky enough to find a jar of pickled cactus paddles (nopales) at my local megamart. Barring that I would go for the spicy Mexican pickled vegetables called escabache or maybe even a couple of pickled jalapenos. This isn’t a time for kosher dill or bread n’ butters.
Procs: 12 reasonably sized tacos
Time: About 30 minutes
Challenge Rating: 1/8 (cutting the avocado into slices is the most technically challenging)
- Clean kitchen towel or tortilla warmer to keep warm tortillas in
- 12 tortillas – corn of flour
- 1 lb of Ground Beef
- 1 lb of Melting Cheese (Chihuahua, Oaxacan, or anything Kraft labels ‘quesadilla cheese’), grated
- 1 Tsp Lard or Vegetable Oil
- Kosher Salt
- Salsa Roja
- 3/4 Cup of Mayonnaise (about 1 tbsp per taco)
- 1 Plum Tomato cut into 12 pieces
- 1/2 White Onion, minced
- 1 Avocado, cut into 12 slices
- Pickled nopales, escabeche, or pickled jalapenos
- Cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2 Limes cut into 6 wedges each
- If you don’t have it standing by, make the salsa first.
- Heat the tortillas in an ungreased skillet on medium low heat. It will take about 20-30 seconds a side (you want to get a little color to them). Put each tortilla in the warmer or towel as it finishes.
- Prepare and set out the garnishes.
- Set the skillet on medium heat and add the fat. When the fat is hot and shimmering, add the beef. Cook until it is crumbly and brown – about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.
- Add the grated cheese and stir until completely melted – about 3 minutes
- Lay out the tortillas on serving plates. Evenly spread a tbsp of mayo on each tortilla. Distribute taco filling. Top it with your fixins.