I may be of Cajun heritage but growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex was easily the most consistent staple of my diet. Our family ate Tex-Mex all the time: at least twice a week at restaurants (El Charro, I miss you so much) and ground beef crispy tacos frequently at home. Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy remain one of my favorite foods in all the world, something I cannot seem to find anywhere but Texas, a version worth eating, at least.
In college, I ate these amazing enchiladas at least three times a week. I always had them as part of the “Deluxe Platter”, a standard on any Tex-Mex menu. The “Deluxe Platter” consists of a first course which is a large plate consisting of one Crispy Beef Taco, one Bean Chalupa, some Chili Con Queso and a Guacamole Salad. Then comes the second plate of two Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy, a Beef Tamale and Rice & Beans. With flour tortillas on the side.
Yes, three times a week. Minimum. Seriously. And I loved putting the enchiladas into a flour tortilla, which I would imagine to some is a terrible faux pas but who cares when you can be this happy.
I was a bit shocked when I moved to California after college. While there’s just as much Mexican food in Los Angeles, it’s very different than Tex-Mex. Shredded beef tacos instead of ground beef? Red Sauce on enchiladas not chili gravy? Corn tortillas with soft tacos, not flour? Black beans instead of pinto peans?
What on earth were these people thinking?
I was quite grumpy about a new type of Mexican my first few years here… although the side effect of not eating a Deluxe Platter at least three times a week was that I lost 25 lbs in my first two months in Los Angeles without even trying. And I’ve come to love the more interior Mexican food of California but I still love Tex-Mex the most.
Another great Tex-Mex dish is soft tacos, which are always made with flour tortillas, not corn. Breakfast tacos – a flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, pico de gallo and bacon or sausage – are heaven and easy to make. We consumed mass quantities of breakfast tacos in college at 3 AM, usually at The Lazy Daisy on Guadalupe which was conveniently located a block from our fraternity house. (Lazy Daisy, I miss you so much.) But I love grilled steak and fish soft tacos as well.
Let me give you, then, an easy and wonderful dinner you can make quickly when you have all the ingredients on hand. Even better, if you live near a Trader Joe’s, you can get most everything you need in one shop, save canned Chipotles, which you should always have in your pantry anyway.
Take my word for it, people go nuts over these soft tacos.
For the recipe, click here to
KILLER EASY SOFT TACOS
NOTE: this is the most carefree recipe imaginable. The amounts listed below are a general guideline only. You can’t screw this up.
1 lb flank steak and/or two large fish filets (I like swordfish or Ahi tuna for these)
a bowl of shredded cabbage (I like red and green, about a full head of cabbage total, or a large bag)
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo
Mayonnaise (Duke’s is The Best. Period.)
If you have time, marinate the meat overnight: put the meat in a ziplock bag with lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic and salt and pepper. Mix well and refrigerate.
NOTE: If you want more spice, add some sliced Fresno chilis. You can do this for 30 minutes before you grill if you forgot to let it sit overnight. Use the same marinade for the fish but the fish only needs 15-20 minutes before grilling. If you marinate overnight, remove the meat from the fridge at least 30 minutes before you grill.
Dump your can of chilis with adobo in a food processor and grind well. NOTE: what makes this spicy are the seeds in the actual peppers in the can. If you don’t like spice, don’t use the peppers, just use the adobo sauce.
Add 1 cup of Duke’s mayonnaise and the juice of two limes and process again. Taste. If it’s too spicy for you, simply add more mayo until you get the taste you want. You will have more chipotle mayo than you need but it keeps a while in the fridge. There are many uses for it (it’s a great dipping sauce for all kinds of items) but you will making these tacos again soon.
Toss the mayo with the cabbage in a large bowl. You could add some thinly sliced red onion to the cabbage but there’s really no need. Start with 1/2 a cup of mayo. I like my cabbage mix pretty saucy so I always add more. I like a taco that drips down your forearm! But toss and taste, adding more lime juice, and get to the consistency you prefer. This alone makes a pretty incredible spicy coleslaw I eat on its own.
Grill your skirt steak and/or fish. (Or conversely, pan fry on the stove.) Both the fish and the skirt steak cook fast, so watch them. Depending on your heat, turn the meat after 2 minutes each side, the fish after about a minute, and check to get your desired doneness.
NOTE: You will be slicing these up anyway so just cut into them at the grill to check. Remember that both will continue cooking after you pull them off so pull them off when they are a little undercooked or they will end up overdone.
Slice or cube the protein and fill your warmed tortillas with the cabbage mix and the fish or steak… or both! Serve with limes.