Cinco de Mayo: Tacos 3 Ways

Last year, when Cooking for Friends was just starting up, a dear friend in town suggested getting together for Cinco de Mayo, and I requested using it as a Cooking for Friends launch party.  She said, if I would cook, they would make the drinks.  She and her husband make some mean margaritas, so our answer was an immediate and resounding: Yes!

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I wanted to make something for everyone so I decided to make tacos two ways: tequila/lime baked fish tacos and braised Southwestern brisket tacos.  I’ve added a third option for you, which are my favorite: grilled tequila/lime shrimp tacos.

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To finish off the meal, I made some homemade guacamole, a tricolor slaw, a mango salsa, and pickled red onions for taco toppings.  I don’t think it was just the margaritas talking when my friends all declared it a successful meal, and suggested we make it a yearly tradition.  Saturday is the 5th of May my friends, and I for one know what I’ll be eating and drinking and, hopefully, who I’l be doing it with!

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Southwestern Braised Brisket Tacos: (adapted from Smitten Kitchen) 

What You’ll Need: (Serves 6)

  • 3-4 lbs of brisket
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons of cumin
  • 3 teaspoons of coriander
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 chiles in adobo (if you do not like the heat, you can skip the chiles, and just add 1-2 tablespoons of the adobo sauce they come in!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup of molasses
  • Tortillas for serving.  Toppings of your choice.

What to do:

  1. Allow the brisket to come to room temperature.  Cut the brisket into large chunks, coating them with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Coat a large Dutch oven with some vegetable oil, and, working in batches, begin to brown the brisket– adding oil as needed.  Be sure to allow the brisket to brown on one side before turning it, the browning is where the flavor comes from! About 4-5 minutes per side.
  3. Once all of the brisket is browned, set it aside on a plate while you add the following ingredients to the pot: garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin, and coriander.  Mix in these ingredients and allow them to cook down for a minute then add the vinegar, using it to deglaze the pan by stirring with a wooden spoon.  Now, add the chicken stock.
  4. Add the meat back to the pot along with the crushed tomatoes, the chiles in adobo, the bay leaf and the molasses.
  5. Cook in the oven, loosely covered with aluminum foil, for 3 hours or until the brisket is fall apart tender.
  6. Allow the contents to come to room temperature then shred the brisket, using two forks.
  7. Serve in warm tortillas with toppings of your choice.  We liked a tri-color slaw and pickled red onions.

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We love fish tacos in our house.  They’re quick and easy, and they’re usually a good way to work fish into a kid’s diet.  This is my simplest recipe because all it calls for is a flaky white fish, Tequila Lime rub (available at Wholefoods!), olive oil, and fresh lime juice to finish.  If I want to get fancy, I garnish with some scallion and cilantro.

Tequila Lime Fish Tacos:

What You’ll Need: (Serves 6)

  • 3 pounds of flaky white fish: cod, tilapia, haddock
  • Tequila Lime rub
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Cilantro & sliced scallion to garnish

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. On a parchment lined baking sheet, place fish fillets. Lightly coat each side with olive oil then a good dusting of the Tequila Lime rub.
  3. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your fish fillets.
  4. When baked through, flake it apart, squeeze fresh lime juice on top.
  5. Place fish pieces, along with garnishes of your choice in a warmed tortilla.

If you prefer shrimp or prefer not to use your oven, simply buy some large shrimp, toss them with olive oil, the Tequila Lime rub,  and some lime zest and pressed garlic. Place them on wooden skewers and grill.  I like them topped with pickled radishes. They’re fantastic!

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