Monday, September 2, 2013

The OD on Tacos

I’ll admit. I can easily OD on tacos and then do it all over again the very next day… even if I haven’t washed them down with multiple shots of tequila.

Chef Patricio Sandoval of Mercadito knows a thing or two about Tacos. In fact, you’re continually amazed every time he comes up with a new one. It’s always a masterpiece of multiple flavors and textures. His passion for tacos is unmistakable.

Chef Sandoval grew up in his father’s famous Acapulco restaurants (Madeiras and Villa Fiore) and a lot of his creative ideas come from his experiences shopping as a kid with his mother in the markets of Mexico. He has a remarkable resume along with the street smarts to go with it which makes him a one-of-a-kind chef.

His Tacos de Carnitas, Tacos de Camaron and Tacos Estilo Baja happen to be three of my all time favorites north of the border.

I can easily eat multiples of his version of pork carnitas and not feel guilty. After all, who counts calories when you cook something in lard? 

His delicious and spicy chiles de arbol coleslaw topped with peanuts gives the dish an Asian flair. I really like this Mexican-Asian fusion going on in his cooking. They are two of my favorite ethnic food groups.

Chef Sandoval’s Shrimp Taco recipe was the hit of the Aspen Food and Wine Festival and his recipe for Tacos Estilo Baja is the dish that put Mercadito on the map in New York City in the first place. This recipe also has a spicy slaw and can be used to top a number of other dishes including pulled pork. 

I swear, you’ll never eat regular slaw again after you taste these two versions.

The recipes look a little complicated. They are not. There are a few more steps to follow in each one but the results are well worth the extra fuss.

If you happen to be in Chicago, Chef Sandoval does cooking demonstrations at his restaurant and the next one is September 23rd.

I’ll be home just in time to overindulge on his Tacos for the holiday season. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect time to overeat?

Good thing I quit counting calories December 1st.

Buen Apetito!

Michoacan style braised berkshire pork, chile de arbol coleslaw, toasted peanuts
Yields: 4 tacos

4 oz. berkshire pork carnitas (recipe follows)
4 ea., 6 in. corn tortillas
4 tbsps chile de arbol coleslaw (recipe follows)
4 tsps peanuts, toasted
4 tsps tomatillo pico de gallo (recipe follows)

In skillet, heat up carnitas until hot.
Place tortillas in serving plate, put carnitas on tortillas top of with coleslaw, pico de gallo, and with 1 teaspoon, on each taco, of toasted peanuts.


½ berkshire pork shoulder, cut into large even pieces
½ onion, roughly chopped
4 ea. garlic cloves, whole
4 ea. bay leaves
3 qts lard
1 can evaporated milk
½ cup orange juice

In a large pot or Pyrex, place the pieces of meat. Add onions, garlic cloves, lard and bay leaves.

Add the evaporated milk and the orange juice, making sure the pieces of meat are completely covered by the liquid.

Cover in foil; put in 350 degree F oven and cook 3 to 4 hours, checking every hour.


6 ea. chiles de arbol
6 tbsps oil
5 cups savoy cabbage, shredded
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp honey
2 tsps lemon juice
¼ cup peanuts, toasted

In medium pot, heat oil and add the chiles until oil has infused the flavor of the chiles and chiles are toasted. Their color will become darker.
In blender, place all ingredients except cabbages and blend until a salsa consistency has been achieved. If it is too chunky, add more lemon juice.
In large bowl, mix the salsa and the shredded coleslaws.


2 cups tomatillo, medium diced
1 cups red onions, medium diced
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Making sure tomatillo is more visible than the red onion.

   Photo: Mercadito

Yields: 4 tacos

2 tbsps oil
1 tbsps garlic, chopped
3 tbsps red onion, diced
5 oz. marinated shrimp, roughly chopped (recipe follows)
2 tbsps chipotle puree
2 tsps lemon juice
2 tbsps butter
4 ea., 6 in. corn tortillas
4 avocado slices

Heat oil in a skillet. Lightly brown garlic then add red onion and sauté 30 seconds. Add shrimp. Let cook 1 minute.

Add chipotle puree and lemon juice then stir in butter and salt to taste. Balance sweetness/saltiness/acidity.

Place shrimp on tortillas and top with avocado slices, one slice per taco.


½ cup chipotle puree
¼ cup roasted garlic puree (recipe follows)

In bowl, mix chipotle and roasted garlic puree. Mix in shrimp and marinade until ready to cook.


½ cup garlic, peeled and whole
Oil, enough to cover garlic

In a pot, put whole garlic and cover with oil about 2-inches above garlic.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer stirring once in a while to make sure garlic does not stick.

When garlic turns brown, strain oil and reserve, put roasted garlic in blender until smooth, adding oil if needed to make a paste like mixture.

    Photo: Mercadito

Makes 4 tacos

4 corn tortillas
4 ounces beer battered fish(recipe below)
Mexican cole slaw (recipes below)

Heat corn tortillas in a skillet.

Top each tortilla with beer battered fish and cole slaw.


4 ounces mahi mahi or other available fish
Salt to taste
Breadcrumbs, for dusting
Beer batter (recipe below)

Heat canola oil in a skillet or deep fryer until hot.

Season fish with salt then dust with breadcrumbs. Dip fish in beer batter then place in oil. Fry until golden brown.


1 1/2 cups bread mixture (recipe below)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-12 ounce bottle Negra Modelo or your favorite beer
2 cups water

Whisk all ingredients together until there are no lumps.


4 cups day old bread, toasted and ground
3/4 cups flour
3/4 cups maseca

Combine all ingredients well.


1 cup Napa cabbage
3/4 cup pico de gallo (recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon minced onions and cilantro
2 tablespoons chipotle aioli (recipe below)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon honey
Salt to taste

Toss all ingredients well and season with salt to taste.


1 cup red tomatoes, diced
1 cup white onions, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients and mix well.


12 ounces canola/olive oil blend
1-6 ounce can chipotles in oil
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
3/4 tablespoons honey

Blend 8 ounces oil with the chipotles in a blender. Beat egg yolk in a food processor then slowly drizzle remaining oil into yolk to create an emulsified base. Blend lemon juice, salt, and honey into mixture then slowly blend in chipotle/oil mixture until well combined.