I don’t even know where to begin with Vegan Tacos! This fabulous vegan cookbook is written by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Taste. His cookbook is so much more than just a book about how to make a basic vegan taco. Inside you’ll find an excellent taco history, incredibly detailed recipes with every taco filling you could possibly imagine, all the salsas, guacamoles, sauces, tortillas, beverages, trusty side(kicks) and even taco desserts. It is mucho grande! It’s full of intrigue, delicious food photos and heart. I think you’ll love it just as much as I do! Plus, all the recipes I’ve tried are absolutely incredible. I have to make a special mention of the Queso Oaxaca (not pictured), it is the milkiest most buttery vegan cheese I’ve tasted yet!
Today, I have Jason here sharing The Four Essential Components to a Good Taco so get ready to fiesta!
The Four Essential Components of a Good Taco: When I talk about making tacos, I talk about building tacos. That’s because tacos are a multi-component dish. From the tortilla to the filling to the salsa to the toppings, each component is layered one on top of the other to create a complex, engaging experience with every single bite. Understanding what each of those components is and how they work will help you make your own killer tacos! While each of these components is important, some are more important than others. I’ve placed them in order of importance for you, so you can create the best taco experience possible. Now read on, taquero!
The Tortilla: The tortilla is the foundation of every taco. It’s the first component you hold in your hand and it’s the first component you taste. Without a tortilla, there simply is no taco. That’s why, unless I am serving a lot of people, I make my own tortillas. If you can find fresh masa (I purchase mine from one of my local Mexican markets), it only takes a few minutes to make fresh tortillas and it is totally worth the effort. There’s nothing like holding a warm fresh soft corn tortilla in your hand. You can also make your own masa from the dried ground corn called masa harina that is often found in big bags of many grocery stores and it doesn’t take that much longer to make your own masa than if you purchased it premade. If you need, or simply want, to purchase premade tortillas, look for ones that are made fresh daily (again, probably at a local Mexican market.) Trader Joe’s has a decent handmade white corn tortilla, as well. I just strongly urge you not to get those dried, cardboard tasting tortillas so common at most markets because then the foundation of your taco will taste like, you guessed it, dried cardboard. Not fun! If you are using premade tortillas, make sure you take the time to warm them so they become pliable and the flavor of the corn can develop.
The Filling: The next component is the filling, which is the heart of your taco. The filling should be the most substantive part of your taco and it should be the predominant flavor. When you are making your filling, think about all the ways you can add flavor to it. My favorite way to do that is by using chile sauces and powders, but I’m also a chile addict. Other great ways to get more flavor into your fillings is by grilling them, or browning them at a fairly high heat in a pan. I often gravitate towards mushrooms when making taco fillings because they absorb flavors well, they brown nicely, they’re hearty, and they can typically withstand the rigors of the grill or the high heat of a saute pan. When you are making your own filling, don’t be shy with the flavorings. If you’re not sure if you’ve got enough flavor in your filling, add more spices, add more salt, brown the filling more. It’s a rare instance when more flavor is a bad thing.
The Sauce: A few tacos have the sauce cooked right into the filling, like with BBQ tacos, but the sauce component is usually comprised of salsas, crema, guacamole, and other, well, saucy things. Sauces are important because they help tie all the flavors of a taco together. They also typically add acidity to a taco, whether that’s from the lime juice in guacamole or salsa, or the sourness from vegan crema. Most sauces are salsas, and they usually add heat, as well. My go-to sauces are salsa verde and chipotle salsa. These salsas are very versatile and it’s rare that a taco is not improved by a big spoonful of one of these delicious salsas!
The Toppings: These are the accent pieces of a taco and the right topping will take a good taco and make it a great taco. Toppings are the components that add little pops of flavor or texture, the ones that fill in the gaps in your taco experience. Is your taco missing some crunch? Add in a crunchy topping like peanuts or fried chiles. Does your taco need some heat? Minced serrano chiles are perfect for sprinkling on top. Acidity? A squeeze of lime or vegan queso fresco will bring your taco to life. A few cuts of cilantro, a couple slices of carrots escabeche, three or four slices of pickled onions, or even a couple cloves of roasted garlic are all examples of fine taco toppings
Adapted from Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick. ©2014 Jason Wyrick. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.
Tacos de Hongos
The mixed mushrooms are the stars of this taco, so I leave them fairly unadorned so their flavors can shine. Oyster mushrooms give the taco a heavily browned flavor; the shiitakes add earthiness; and the creminis a sort of mellowness, all working together to provide a complex flavor in every bite. The taco is topped off with roasted habanero sour cream for a piquant bite. For less bite, omit the habanero. These tacos can be a little light, so I sometimes add a cup of cooked black beans at the end of the recipe to make the filling heartier.
Makes 6 Tacos
Heat Level: 7
- 1 guajillo chile (to make guajillo powder) or 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups oyster mushrooms, chopped into big 2-inch pieces
- 10 to 12 small fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half
- 10 to 12 cremini mushrooms, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped epazote, optional
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 (5 to 6-inch) corn tortillas
- 1 cup vegan sour cream or cashew cream
- 1 roasted habanero, optional
- Raw pine nuts
- Heat a dry skillet over a medium heat. Add the guajillo and toast it for 30 seconds on each side. Use a spatula to press it flat on the skillet to maximize the area that gets toasted. Remove the stem. Grind it into powder and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Stir in the oyster mushrooms only, then let them cook for 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to brown. Stir again, and let them sit again. Continue to do this until they are greatly reduced in size and heavily browned and crispy. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the shiitakes and cremini mushrooms. Sauté until soft. Add the garlic, epazote, if using, reserved guajillo powder, and salt and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In a blender or food processor puree the roasted habanero, if using, with the sour cream and transfer to a bowl. Warm the tortillas. Fill each taco with the mushrooms, then top with the sour cream or cashew cream, and finish them off with a sprinkle of pine nuts.
From Vegan Tacos by Jason Wyrick. ©2014 Jason Wyrick. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press.
Visit Chef Jason Wyrick at his site: The Vegan Taste
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