Simple tasty tacos
Less than a handful of years ago, I inherited a prized possession from my late grandfather, his comal. In Mexico, cooks use this flat griddle to cook tortillas and tacos. Some comales have a shallow basin in the middle which is filled with oil for deep frying. I have even seen street vendors in Tijuana sauteing meat and vegetables on their comal while just inside the border crossing, while tourists sauntered past.
But the most important about the comal, my grandfather would insist, is that it is heated very hot to toast tortillas. Then they are filled with cheese for quesadillas or meat for tacos. Few things made him angrier than cold tortillas.
Quesadillas were the key to my survival for most of my college career. I skipped past the lettuce and other healthy food in the fridge and threw cheese onto a tortilla and into the – gasp! – toaster oven. It wasn’t until I got that comal that I was taken back to the way tortillas were meant to be eaten: Hot, slightly crispy, and containing pretty much anything.
My comal is made from cast iron. After years of service in my family with my grandfather, it is perfectly seasoned. I have never seen cast iron so perfect. Later, we will talk more about seasoning cast iron. I clean it just by rubbing in salt with canola oil and it returns to perfect.
Once your comal – or any well-seasoned cast iron pan – is hot on the grill, then carefully count the number of hungry people in your kitchen, serve them drinks and then start your taco cycle:
Simple Tasty Tacos.
- Drop as many corn tortillas as will fit in the pan.
- Add a layer of cheese. Any good melting cheese will do.
- Add meat: grilled chicken, steak, carne asada, carne adobada, carnitas.
- Prefer veggies? Add roasted and peeled peppers, beans, tomatoes, onions.
- Add cilantro. This is so important that it deserves its own step.
- Fold the tortilla carefully over the filling, while still leaving it in the pan.
- Guess what? You just made more room in the pan! Add another tortilla and start over.
Keep doing this until there are no more hungry people in your kitchen. Have a number of salsas on hand: how about a jalapeno/roasted tomato salsa, or tomatillo salsa with serrano peppers. Just the other day at Lola’s in Long Beach we tried a very mild salsa of avocado pureed in a Mexican crema fresca.
In a future post we will go over specific meats and fillings, including the aforementioned carne adobada and carnitas. But for now, don’t miss this amazing carnitas recipe and excellent writing from the great folks at Smitten Kitchen. Much like our Smitten Kitchen writer, I am horrified at how long it took me to discover just how simple the carnitas recipe is. Don’t let this happen to you.