Ugh, living in the Northeast, with all the dingy wet weather we’ve been having, we definitely need some brightening up and the sunny, spicy flavors of Mexico might just do the trick. Especially if they come courtesy of Rick Bayless, the long hailed guru of traditional Mexican fare who's been bringing his take on south of the border cooking to the American cooking scene for the past 40 some-odd years. Today I’m sharing a staple from his latest cookbook, More Mexican Everyday: Creamy Zucchini, Corn and Roasted Poblano filling for soft tacos. I guarantee that every bite will lift your spirits...and give you something to do while you're stuck inside 'cause of the rain!
If Mexican food makes you happy and you want to learn to cook it at home, without a lot of fancy ingredients or techniques or special gadgets, you've really got to jump on the Rick Bayless bandwagon, or should I say carro?!! Rick knows pretty much everything there is to know about salsas, enchiladas,mole, tacos, refried beans--name a Mexican favorite and he's sure to have a perfected recipe for it. You may know him from his PBS series Mexico: One Plate At A Time. In addition, he's won tons of culinary awards, been a Top Chef champion and is the author of 9 cookbooks to date--all with a focus on simple, clean and seasonal Mexican cooking. This latest book, More Mexican Everyday, is extremely home-cook friendly and teaches you the basics and beyond of Mexican cooking so that you can be confident in the kitchen. The book is full of clear, precise directions with little tips and substitution suggestions and lots of glossy color photos that make you want to throw a big fiesta. There's one section in the book--"Recipes To Learn By Heart", that I especially love because the recipes are ones that you can incorporate into your everyday life, so eating Mexican doesn't have to be just for weekends or special events.
These vegetarian tacos are from that section--in fact, they're the very first entry (which I took as a good sign due to my theory that writers are always going to lead with their strong suit) and once again, my theory stood strong. I'll admit that they're not the prettiest looking food, but they are so, so tasty. And fun! And unique without being too out there or spicy for those of us with less than adventurous palettes (ok, I mean me). You start by by making a roasted poblano cream aka, crema poblana, that is the basis not only for these tacos but for other recipes in the book as well. The most time consuming part is roasting the poblanos which you can either do over an open flame or in the oven under the broiler. Once that's done and you've let them cool, rubbed off the skins and removed the seeds, you simply slice them into strips and combine them with sautéed onions, garlic, spices and some sort of cream (I used créme fraiche) so that you wind up with an irresistible creamy, saucy mixture that's got just the right balance of heat and mellowness. Yum!!
Next you combine that sauce with crunchy sautéed zucchini and corn and pile it onto a warmed tortilla, although I'd be happy to skip the tortilla and just eat this by the forkful! Usually I would put shredded cheese on a taco, but with this creamy version, I really didn't feel the need for any. I did feel the need to eat two of these for dinner and another one for lunch the next day!!
Can't wait to do some more cooking from this book. I've got my eye on the tomatillo sauce that's the basis for some cheese and bean enchiladas--will definitely post if they turn out as good as the picture in the book looks. Meanwhile, have a terrific weekend wherever you are, cook up something delicious to share with someone you love and I'll see you next week with some more goodies and gab as we slog our way through May (at least we won't be having a draught here any time soon!!)
Rick Bayless' Creamy Zucchini, Corn and Roasted Poblano Tacos-Famous Fridays
Makes about 4 cups of filling which is enough for at least 12 tacos
Prep Time for Roasting Peppers: 20 minutes; Prep Time for sauce: 20 minutes
For the Roasted Poblano Cream
- 4 fresh poblano chiles
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 large white onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican (I didn't use this because I don't like oregano)
- 3/4 cup créme fraiche, Mexican crema or heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Tacos
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 4 medium zucchini (about a pound) cut into small cubes
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
- 2 tablespoons créme fraiche, Mexican crema or heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
- Flour or corn tortillas
1. To make the Roasted Poblano Cream: first you need to roast the peppers. If you have a gas flame, you can roast them directly over high heat, turning them with tongs so that they blister and blacken. If not, you can you can turn on the broiler and place the chiles on a baking sheet on a rack as close as possible to the flame, letting them cook for about 5 minutes and then turning them and letting them char and blister on the other side. In either case, once they are done, place the chiles in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or some plastic wrap to trap the heat so that it will be easy to rub off the charred skins. When cool enough to handle, rub as much of the skins off as possible, remove the seed pod and stem and rinse the peeled, seeded chiles briefly under cold water. Dry well with paper towels and slice into 1/4-inch thick strips.
2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat and when very hot, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned and a bit crunchy, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano (if using) for about 1 minute. Then stir in chile strips and créme fraiche and allow to cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly, so that the mixture thickens and coats all of the chiles but doesn't burn. Taste and add the salt, stirring well. Remove from the heat. (The sauce can be made at least one day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.)
3. To make the tacos: In a separate large skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high and when very hot, add the zucchini and stir frequently, cooking until pieces are nicely browned. Add the corn and cook for a couple of minutes until they are browned too. Then add back in the roasted poblano cream, along with the cilantro or parsley. Turn the heat down to medium and let the mixture simmer a bit. Then add in the 2 tablespoons créme fraiche and stir well. Taste and add salt if needed.
4. Warm tortillas in the microwave, oven or toast them slightly in a dry skillet for a minute or two per side. Top tortillas with a generous scoop of the warm mixture and serve.
Note: Recipe adapted from More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless.