Tacos Your Way!
There are many ways to make tacos depending on your taste and mood. From fish tacos to pork spare-rib tacos the possibilities are endless. I have to say that I was certainly spoiled with outstanding Mexican food while living on the West Coast for many years. More and more I am finding better Mexican food here in the Northeast, but as you know I like to cook up my own food more often than not. Here are some ways to stuff your tacos (hard or soft) and by all means experiment yourself. The bonus is that making tacos can also be a great way to use up those leftovers staring at you when you open the fridge.
Cod Tacos: Baked or Sautéed Cod, Grated Red Cabbage & Salsa
Smoked Salmon Tacos: Smoked Salmon, Grated Red Cabbage & Salsa
Catfish Tacos: Sautéed Catfish, Romaine Lettuce, Salsa & Sour Cream
Fried Oyster Tacos: Fried Oysters, Romaine Lettuce & Salsa
Marlin Tacos: Sautéed or Baked Marlin, Mangos & Salsa
Lobster Tacos: Lobster, Mangos, Jalapenos & Guacamole
Fried Chicken Tacos: Shredded Fried Chicken Breasts, Jalapenos, Lime Juice & Shredded Lettuce
BBQ Carnitas Tacos: Smoked or Roasted Pork, Barbeque Sauce, Sautéed Onions & Fried Pickles
Indian Tacos: Shredded Buffalo, Seared Green Chiles & Salsa
Brisket Tacos: Shredded Brisket, Jalapenos, Shredded Green Cabbage, Lime Juice & Salsa
Many people ask me how long they can keep fresh meat and poultry. You can refrigerate whole meat cuts for 2 to 3 days and raw ground meats for 1 to 2 days. Raw poultry for 1 to 2 days. If you’re not cooking your meat or poultry within these time frames, freeze it. We never want to risk getting food poisoning.
How do you know when your particular meat is done cooking? The safest way is to use a meat thermometer, inserting into the thickest part of the meat, but never touching bone.
Meat Cooking Terms
Braise: Moist cooking in a pot with a lid and a small amount of liquid. This method works well either on the stove top or in the oven, rendering tougher cuts moist and extremely tender by melting the tough collagen between fibers, but allowing the fibers themselves to retain moisture. Examples: Pot Roast, Boeuf Bourguignon, Cacciatore, Most Curries.
Brine: Similar to marinating, meat or poultry is soaked in a salt-water mixture prior to cooking to enhance flavor, moisture and tenderness. Examples: Brined Turkey, Chicken or Pork.
Broil: Dry cooking under intense direct heat, sort of like grilling from the top down. Great for tender steaks and chops, boneless chicken, kabobs. Example: London Broil.
Deep Fry: Cooking pieces of meat, often coated with batter or crumbs, submerged in very hot oil. Example: Southern Fried Chicken.
Grill: Cooking over direct heat, usually outdoors. Grill pans and electric grills don’t require much additional oil, and create nice looking char marks, but lack the crust and smoky flavor of outdoor grilling. Grilling can be fast or slow. Examples: Grilled Steaks, Barbecued Chicken, You Name It!
Pan-Roast or Pan-Fry: A technique that begins on the stove top and often ends under the broiler or in the oven. Combination cooking creates a flavorful browned exterior and allows for finer control of doneness. Great for thick chops and steaks or larger pieces of poultry. Examples: Filet Mignon, Pork Tenderloin, Pan-Roasted Veal Chops.
Poach: Simmer at a point less than boiling to produce just a slight movement in the liquid. Examples: Poached Chicken Breasts.
Roast: Dry cooking in ambient oven heat. Creates a flavorful, browned outside and a tender, juicy interior. Ideal for larger tender roasts, whole poultry, most stuffed roasts. Examples: Roast Beef, Thanksgiving Turkey, Crown Roast.
Sauté: Quick stove-top cooking in a skim of oil in a heavy, low-sided skillet, frying pan or sauté pan. Great for tender steakhouse cuts and chops, chicken or duck breast, boneless cutlets. Examples: Sandwich Steaks, Wiener Schnitzel, Chicken Cutlets.
Smoke: Food is cooked or flavored before cooking by exposure to smoldering wood, herbs or tea. Examples: Tea-Smoked Chicken, Mesquite-Smoked Pork Chops.
Stir Fry: An Asian technique of cooking small pieces of food over very high heat, usually with oil, using constant stirring and tossing motion to prevent burning. Examples: A Profusion of Meat, Seafood and Poultry Dishes From China, Thailand and Vietnam.
Simmer: See Braise & Also See Stew
Stew: Slow cooking, Submerged in flavorful liquid, usually after browning on the surface. Stewing is similar to braising except that stews usually have more liquid, which is an important part of the finished dish. Best for cubes coming from tougher cuts. Examples: Beef Stew, Chili, Gumbo.
Sous-vide: A method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for longer than normal cooking times (72 hours in some cases). The temperature is regulated and much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55° F to 60° F for meats. The intention is to cook the item evenly, and not to overcook the outside while still keeping the inside at the same doneness, keeping the food juicier. Examples: Beef Brisket and Short Ribs.
Some foods need moist, long cooking to tenderize them while others just require a quick sauté in a skillet. Sauté means “jump” in French which describes the tossing and turning in the skillet during the cooking process. There are a few basic secrets to perfect sautéing that will help you get better cooking results.
The trick to successful sautéing is to use a medium-high heat and a small amount of oil. As a matter of fact meats and other protein-based foods should not be turned too often because extended contact with the hot skillet will brown the surface of the food which will deliver extra flavor. Heat the skillet over a medium-high heat and if the pan is too hot you will burn the outside of the food before the inside is cooked so turn down the heat a bit.
Do not use butter for sautéing. Use oil. Butter contains milk solids that burn and smoke at high temperatures. Some cookbooks call for mixing butter and oil which supposedly increases the smoke point of the butter. This does not remove the milk solids that are the problem. You can, however, use clarified butter, but it is easier to use oil for cooking meats. If you want a butter flavor then use it in a pan sauce.
Thick cuts of meat can be difficult to cook through when sautéing. You may want to use a double-cooking method for thick cuts. Double-cut pork and lamb chops, porterhouse steaks, and large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves are too thick to cook through in a skillet on the stove top. It is best to brown them in the skillet, and then finish cooking them in a 400° F oven. Be sure that your skillet is ovenproof.
Make a pan sauce to take advantage of the browned bits in the pan which are loaded with delicious flavor. Remove the meat from the skillet and tent loosely with aluminum foil to keep the meat warm. Pour off the fat from the skillet and return the skillet to the medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of minced shallots and a tablespoon of butter. Do not add the butter alone as the skillet may be too hot and the butter will burn. The shallots will act as insulation. Cook for a minute or so to soften the shallots and then add about 1 cup of an appropriate stock. Wine may seem like a good choice, but it can be too strong. Boil the stock, scraping up the bits in the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula until it is reduced to about 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1to 2 tablespoons of cold butter (a tablespoon at a time) to thicken the sauce lightly.
Here are some super easy, but versatile Pasta Salad Ideas from Tiny New York Kitchen. All you need to do is add 3 cups of cooked & chilled pasta (of your choice) and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to one of these inspiring combinations. Try them all throughout the summer for a whole treasure trove of side salads. If you want to make any of these a main dish then add 1 pound of protein such as grilled chicken breasts, grilled flank steak, grilled shrimp, grilled tuna (or canned tuna) or tofu. All recipes below serve 4.
For the Pasta: Cook 3 Cups of Pasta, Toss With 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Then Chill Until Ready To Use. Add the Pasta to One of the Salad Combinations Below.
Nutty Beans & Greens
1 Cup Trimmed & Steamed Haricot Verts
1 Cup Baby Arugula
3 Tablespoons Toasted & Chopped Walnuts
1 Ounce Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Snow Peas & Carrots
1/2 Cup Grated Carrot
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Snow Peas
1/2 Cup Shredded Red Cabbage
1/4 Cup Dry Roasted Peanuts
Cheesy Chickpea & Pesto
1/2 Cup Cooked Chickpeas
1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Feta Cheese
1 Cup Halved Grape Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Prepared Pesto
1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Cucumber
1 Cup Halved Cherry Tomatoes
1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Feta Cheese
1 1/2 Ounces Sliced Kalamata Olives
Peppery & Nutty
1 Cup Arugula
2/3 Cup Thinly Sliced Radishes
3 Tablespoons Toasted & Chopped Walnuts
2 Ounces Crumbled Goat Cheese
Melon, Mint & Parm
1/2 Cup Fresh Cubed Cantaloupe
2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves
2 Ounces Thinly Sliced Prosciutto
1 1/2 Ounces Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
Freshly Ground Pepper
Cherry Almond Crunch
3/4 Cup Pitted Halved Fresh Cherries
1/4 Cup Toasted & Thinly Sliced Almonds
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil
1 1/2 Ounces Crumbled Goat Cheese
1/3 Cup Sliced Avocado
1/4 Cup Red Bell Pepper Strips
1/4 Cup Fresh Corn Kernels
2 Cooked Crumbled Center Cut Bacon Slices
2 Ounces Quartered Fresh Baby Mozzarella Balls