With Black Beans and Corn
A new Mexican restaurant opened here on the island this summer. The local residents were excited because previously there had been only one Mexican establishment on the entire island and its reputation was less than stellar.
Its arrival made me quite happy, because I missed eating Mexican food once a week like I did when I lived in Atlanta. There must be a law or a rule or something that requires that there be a Mexican restaurant located every ½ mile along the roads in Atlanta. Imagine that?
The new local restaurant is excellent, and their cooks do some interesting twists on what had become, for me, somewhat mundane standard Mexican cuisine. They make a dozen different varieties of “soft tacos.” None of those hard fried corn taco shells that crumble in your hands and dump their contents in your lap when you bite into them, the soft taco uses a warm flour tortilla to contain the meat and vegetable contents
I’ve done some research on the internet and discovered some additional ideas, and combining those ideas with what I learned at the restaurant, here are my own two versions of Mexican Soft Tacos that I made this week.
You’ll need the following ingredients to make dinner for two. It looks like a lot of work, but they’re really very easy:
Chicken Soft Tacos:
One or two boneless chicken breasts
2 large flour tortillas
Fish Soft Tacos:
Two or three small Tilapia filets (or other mild white fish of your choice)
1/3 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 can of beer, room temperature
1 tbsp taco seasoning (see below)
oil for frying (I use peanut oil)
2 large flour tortillas
For the toppings:
1 cup red cabbage, shredded fine
11 oz can mandarin orange segments (pour off the juice)
jalapeno peppers (as many as you can stand—be careful)
1 sliced avocado
1 lime for squeezing
2 medium tomatoes
2 or 3 small hot or mild peppers
¼ red or yellow onion
splash of vinegar
For the Taco Seasoning:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Black Bean and Corn Mix:
15 oz can black beans
8-1/4 oz can whole yellow corn
1/4 cup of water
a splash of chicken stock or ¼ tsp of chicken bullion powder
½ tsp taco seasoning
First things first. Mix all of your taco seasoning ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. You can also use prepackaged taco seasoning if you want to, but I prefer to make my own because I can control the flavor.
Place the tomatoes, the peppers, the onion, and the ½ lime in the oven on broil. Cook everything until the skins start to blacken lightly, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Once cooled, place the tomatoes, peppers, and onion into the blender or food processor, squeeze in the lime juice and add the vinegar, then pulse to chop the mixture up as finely as you would like.
Whether you’re using chicken, fish, or both; rinse the meat off, pat dry, and place it in a shallow bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over the meat and turn to coat, sprinkle with taco seasoning, cover and set in the refrigerator for at least a half hour.
If you’re making fish tacos, go ahead and open the beer, drink two thirds to three quarters of it, then let it set and warm up a little.
Redneck Tip: You can also use warm flat beer left over from last night if you want to.
Now whisk together the flour, baking powder, egg, a few splashes of warm beer, and 1 tbsp of taco seasoning in a medium mixing bowl. What you’re doing is making a batter that needs to be thick enough to stick to the fish, so if you get it too thin like I did the first time, just add a little flour to thicken things up. When you are satisfied with your batter's consistency, cover it up and place it in the fridge for a half hour.
While the chicken/fish is marinating and the flour is resting in the refrigerator, dump the black beans and corn into a small skillet and add the water, chicken stock, and taco seasoning. Turn the heat on a very low setting and let the mixture cook to reduce while you finish your tacos.
Toss a large skillet on the stovetop on medium heat and add enough oil to fill ½ inch deep. If you are cooking chicken, you’ll need a separate skillet to cook the chicken in. Put a splash of oil in it also and set the heat on medium low.
Sprinkle your tortillas lightly with water, wrap them in aluminum foil, and place them along with your plates in the oven to warm.
Now you are ready to cook.
The chicken is easy—toss it in the skillet on medium low and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Now pull it out onto a cutting board, slice thinly, sprinkle with more taco seasoning, and place back in the skillet to finish cooking. I like my chicken well done, but not tough, so go easy on the heat here.
The fish is a little more work. Pull your fish and batter out of the fridge, dredge the fillets through the batter, then fry each piece in the grease for three to five minutes on each side (the time depends on thickness.) When they’re done, place them on the side on paper towels to drain.
You're on the home stretch now--pull your tortillas out of the oven, place your plates on your chargers, and lay a tortilla in the middle of each plate. Put a piece of chicken or fish on the tortilla and fold the tortilla across the meat. Now spoon out some of your black bean and corn mixture onto the plate, place your condiments (shreaded cabbage, sliced avacados, orange segments, salsa, and sour cream) and plates on the table, grab yourself a fork, and EAT.
The Redneck Gourmet