Choking should’ve been the first clue.
Toasting the guajillo chiles created a storm of spicy smells in my kitchen, chasing me out, leaving me coughing and teary-eyed. Turning on the overhead vent helped a little, but not enough. Danny picked up the slack while I recovered. All the chiles puffed up and toasted before being sliced, soaked, and blended into a salsa. It was quite a bit of work that I thought would yield a most flavorful salsa worthy of this adventure into homemade tacos.
Not really. The bag the chiles came in said they would take on a deep, berry note. But despite the toasting and the soaking, that didn’t really come through in the salsa. All I really got was some heat. I stirred in some honey and liked the salsa a bit better. It wasn’t bad, and the tacos were better with a bit of something spicy, but I’d try something different next time.
Don’t worry. It gets better from here.
The rajas poblanas were good, and turned out creamier than I expected. Roasting the poblanos certainly enhances the flavor, and these chiles carry some heat on their own. The cream and cheese tempers that a bit, offering up a really nice vegetarian taco. I’d make them again, maybe holding back a bit on the cream, but not before trying the chorizo or the ancho chicken from the same taco series in Bon Appétit.
My favorite part was making the tortillas. Adding water to the masa makes it feel like sand after the tide comes in, making it feel squishy between your toes. I kneaded. Danny pressed. The tortillas cooked up beautifully, charred in spots. They looked, smelled, and tasted just the way they should. I know that smell from any Nicaraguan fritanga in Miami. Success! Let’s never buy tortillas again. Making them was not even a big deal.
The only thing I’d change is maybe trying to make these a little bigger the next time. These were good, giving each person a chance to eat three or four tacos, but I’m used to slightly bigger tortillas.
Those picked red onions shouldn’t be skipped either. Super easy. I plan on making those all the time. They added the perfect pop of color and tangy flavor to these tacos.
Taco night’s gonna happen more often around here.
2 pounds fresh large poblano chiles
1 white onion, quartered and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
handful of fresh cilantro
Turn on broiler. Place chiles on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and charred all over, 15 to 20 minutes.
Place chiles in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to let chiles steam for 15 minutes. Peel skin off chiles. Cut chiles in half lengthwise and discard seeds. Cut chiles into long 1/4-inch strips.
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onion (no oil!) and stir often until beginning to char, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in oregano and 1 cup water. Simmer until onion is tender and water evaporates, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in chiles and cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove skillet from heat. Stir in sour cream and cheese. Season with salt and garnish with cilantro.
Serves 6. Recipe from Bon Appétit.
corn tortillas (without a press!)
These were best fresh, but the tortillas were still tasty when heated up for lunch the next day.
2 cups masa (corn tortilla mix, preferably Maseca brand)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Whisk masa and salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water to the masa, which will make it feel like wet sand. Knead with your fingers until a dough forms. Add a little more water if too crumbly or a little more masa if too wet.
Measure out a heaping tablespoon of dough and roll it into a bowl. Repeat for a couple more balls of dough. Place one ball on a sheet of parchment paper and place another sheet on top. Press down on the dough with a wide skillet to flatten into the shape of a tortilla. Repeat with other 2 balls of dough. Bring a large cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat. Brush lightly with oil. Cook 2 to 3 tortillas at a time until the tortillas begin to char, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip tortillas over and cook them until just beginning to char on the other side, up to another minute. Loosely wrap finished tortillas in a clean dish towel to keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Makes 24. Adapted from Bon Appétit and Happyolks via Food52
pickled red onions
These onions can be made up to two weeks ahead and kept covered in the fridge. Leftover onions were a bit softer the next day, and I kind of liked them better that way.
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup water
1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings or half-moons
Whisk vinegar, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water with a fork in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Put the onions in a jar, and pour the vinegar mixture over the onions. Let them sit out on the counter for 1 hour.
Makes about 1/2 cup. Recipe from Bon Appétit
toasted guajillo chile salsa
4 ounces (or about 18) dried guajillo chiles, stems removed
2 cups very hot water
6 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat (with no oil). Toast a few chiles at a time until they are slightly puffed and you can start to smell them, which should only take up to a minute. Let chiles cool.
Cut chiles into thin rings using kitchen scissors over a medium bowl. Reserve the seeds. Cover chiles with 2 cups very hot water, and let soak uncovered for 10 minutes.
Bring the same cast-iron skillet to medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, turning often, until garlic is tender and skin is a bit charred, about 8 minutes. Let garlic cool. Peel the skins off and trim the ends.
Use a blender to mix chiles, liquid, and seeds with roasted garlic, salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and onion powder. Pulse the blender until all the ingredients are combined into a slightly chunky salsa. Season with salt. Add honey, about 1 tablespoon to 2 tablespoons of salsa to sweeten.
Makes about 2 cups. Adapted from Bon Appétit.