Year of the Taco

In the Chinese zodiac, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey.

In our house, I’m pretty sure it’s shaping up to be the Year of the Taco.

Taco al pastor, The Taco Stand, La Jolla

Taco al pastor, The Taco Stand, La Jolla

I made many a taco in 2015. But I believe that was just a lead-up to what will be the taco year to end all taco years.

Because over the past 12 months, I’ve gotten good at tacos — really good. Beyond the standard gringo tacos, Baja fish tacos, carne asada and pork al pastor, I’ve branched out into dried beef machaca tacos,  birria goat tacos, fried cheese and shrimp tacoschicharrones and tomatillo tacos, crab tacos and dry-aged rib-eye steak tacos.

And the taco horizon is as wide as the imagination.

I’m all for experimentation, although when it comes to the taco, prefer the flavors to be Mexican. So I won’t, for example, be pairing a corn tortilla with a Korean short rib ala L.A. chef Roy Choi’s famous Kogi food trucks. However, would a silky cube of pork belly braised with Oaxacan mole spices in a vaguely Asian manner be fair game?  You betcha. And I will fess up to whipping up some particularly delicious corn beef and cabbage tacos in the aftermath of St. Patrick’s Day.

What other inspirations are fueling my taco fantasies as I sit here writing? How about:

  • Seared scallop taco with pickled jalapeño
  • Grilled octopus taco with charred onions and lime
  • Mezcal-braised beef short rib taco
  • Bacon, tomato and avocado taco with lime aioli
  • Duck breast taco with cracklings, sweet nopalito syrup and scallions
  • Lobster tempura taco with chipotle crema and lime
  • Crispy chicken skin taco with brussel sprout slaw

Be still, my beating heart. (I could do this all day.)

A great taco is only as good as three things: the tortilla, the filling, and the salsa. Making fresh masa tortillas is one of the easiest things on earth, especially if you’ve got a tortilla press from your favorite Mexican market — Vallarta super mercado, in my case.

The Taco Stand, La Jolla

The Taco Stand, La Jolla

The bar for my Year of the Taco had recently been pushed a little higher recently by two fairly extraordinary taco experiences.

New Year’s Day found us 30-ish miles north of the Mexican border, in La Jolla, at a little joint called The Taco Stand. Our host, loco pal Monica, had assured me the tacos were world class. But being that she was a little loco, I was skeptical.

“That is the best taco I have ever had,” my wife said, upon tasting the al pastor — the pork and pineapple caramelizing on the slowly turning shwarma spit just like in the best joints in Mexico. And she hadn’t even tried the fish taco yet. We purchased a few dozen tacos — $100 worth — to take home.

A month or so earlier, in San Francisco, while waiting for our reservation time at our favorite Italian restaurant in North Beach, we had grabbed a sidewalk table at Tacolicious for a beer and quick couple taco appetizers. I’d purchased the Tacolicious cookbook a few months before and found it a great resource on taco technique and a couple indispensable salsa recipes. The Baja-style Pacific cod with cumin crema and the hanger steak with pickled red onions were unforgettable.

Baja fish tacos

Baja fish tacos

Soon, I would be back in Jalisco, Mexico, on our annual-ish spring break trip to Casa Tres Coronitas south of Puerto Vallarta, where pal Don Schneider and I might be found wandering the cobblestone streets, Tecates in hand, hunting out the best tacos in town — al pastor tacos from Paco’s Tacos and Pepe’s Tacos, crunchy fish tacos from roadside stands, homemade tacos with fish we pull from the Pacific.

Checking the recipe section of Skinny Girls & Mayonnaise, I see that I already have nine taco recipes and lord only knows how many posts where tacos play a central or starring role. A successful Year of the Taco might see those numbers doubled.

I invite you to join me as we dive with wild abandon into the Year of the Taco… Stay tuned for more deliciousness to come.

12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 15:15:00

    Happy New Year Sean and Family…Love the post my friend! Cheryl


  2. andreathompson2
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 15:44:30

    Oooooh, that lobster tempura taco sound amazing!!


  3. Mom
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 16:36:39

    They all sound amazing to me, the one I make the most is ‘leftovers from last nights dinner’ tacos. I have them for breakfast, pasta tacos, bean soup tacos, salad Nicoise tacos, etc.


  4. emiliamueller
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 18:50:53

    I just ate and you make me hungry! 😀


  5. Gordon Brown
    Jan 14, 2016 @ 19:52:21

    Can’t wait to try next time we are in SD…. I like the combination of nachos one night then tortilla soup the next to use up the leftovers, gross, really gross I know, actually it’s not, the cumin seems to be the key.


  6. thejameskitchen
    Jan 17, 2016 @ 12:58:51

    I just read the first paragraph and I am hungry. Here’s to the year of the taco, we’ll follow you there.


  7. Trackback: Tacotopia, Episode #1: Chile Verde | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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