Saturday, April 23, 2016

Buffalo Tacos with Pico de Gallo

I have two favorite taco recipes. First and foremost is my beloved Cook's Illustrated taco recipe. That's best left to rainy afternoons as it requires a shitload of cooking. If it's Taco Tuesday, I want something quick. And nothing is quicker than making salsa with two presses of the pulse button on your food processor and browning some ground meat.

But I've managed to turn Taco Tuesday into a taste treat by carefully selecting my ingredients. While you can use beef, I've found that ground buffalo adds a little deeper taste dimension. And while it is certainly leaner than beef and therefore not as moist because of the lower fat content, I add moisture to the recipe via a full can of beer.

Next up is my taco seasoning. I buy this 24.5 ounce package of Spice Islands taco seasoning at Costco for $5.69. It's the best packaged taco seasoning I have ever found. Just check out the ingredient list: corn meal, onion, sea salt, cumin, oregano, parsley, garlic, chipotle chili pepper, turbinado sugar, smoked paprika, chili pepper flakes, red bell pepper, cocoa (oh yeah!) and jalapeño pepper.

For the shells, I always use Old El Paso Stand'n'Stuff taco shells. I do that for two reasons. First, I really prefer the taste of shells made with yellow corn. Second, these taco shells are flat on the bottom, which makes them very easy to load up with ingredients.

Now I used to serve up a whole boatload of veggies with my tacos. Onions, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. I don't any more because I have a killer recipe for Pico de Gallo salsa. The salsa has so many great ingredients that the only other thing I need for the tacos is Mexican Cheese. But to make the salsa great, you need Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes. By using fire roasted tomatoes, the salsa becomes an incredibly deep, smoky delight. Make sure you buy some tortilla chips so that not a single drop of this legendary Pico de Gallo goes to waste.
(Chef's note: When you add the cilantro to the food processor, keep the stems intact as they have a ton of flavor...even more than the leaves.)

So you've got the taco, salsa and cheese. The only thing to add is a little hot sauce. Becky likes Sriracha, but I find that sauce so hot that it overpowers the taco. I prefer Cholula Sauce. It has a modest amount of heat that really complements the other flavors in the taco. The recipe below serves six people.


For the Pico de Gallo
Two, 14.5 ounce cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 medium onion
2 jalapeños, halved, seeds and stem removed
1/2 bunch cilantro (use the whole bunch if you are a cilantro fanboy like me)
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (juice of one lime)
3 large cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For the Tacos
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground buffalo
6 tablespoons Spice Island Taco Seasoning
12 ounces of beer
20 Stand 'n' Stuff Taco Shells
12 ounces Mexican Cheese


For the Pico de Gallo 

  1. Combine all ingredients into a food processor. Quickly pulse 2-3 times until you have a chunky salsa. Do not over process or you will end up with soup, not salsa.
  2. Transfer Pico de Gallo to a glass serving bowl.

For the Tacos
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Add oil to a large skillet over high heat. Brown buffalo meat then drain excess fat.
  3. Add 6 tablespoons of taco seasoning and 12 ounces of beer to the ground buffalo. Stir to combine and then turn heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Spoon meat into taco shells and place tacos on a large cooking sheet.
  5. Slide cooking sheet into oven and let tacos cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Serve tacos with Pico de Gallo, cheese and hot sauce on the side.

Pairing: My favorite Mexican beer, of course!

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