I have perfected taco night. No, seriously. When you have tacos at my house, they are the best. And, yes, I’m totally bragging. I can’t help it, I am in love with taco night!
Let’s begin with a little history. Until I moved to San Diego, taco night meant hard shell tacos, seasoned ground beef, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, salsa and cheese. I’m not saying those tacos aren’t good. They totally are, in fact, that’s Cate’s favorite kind of taco. But when we moved to San Diego many years ago and started having dinner at Maria’s house, things started to change. Maria is a close family friend and she also happens to be Mexican. And, when we go to her house, she almost always feeds us homemade Mexican food.
One of our favorite Maria meals is carne asada, corn tortillas, homemade pinto beans and rice, topped with super spicy homemade salsa (of course!). Needless to say, these tacos are quite different than the gringo version I grew up with! Now, whenever I have corn tortillas and homemade beans, I think fondly of Maria and her kitchen.
So, anyway, back to the present. I have finally created the perfect taco night. It’s taken years of cobbling together different recipes, but all of the work has paid off! Thanks to Maria and my new neighbor Ari (also Mexican!) for their inspiration and recipes over the years, I’ve figured out how to create an awesome “taco bar” that will please Mexicans and gringos alike! 😉
Also, I will admit that you do not need ALL of the following ingredients to have a fabulous taco night. But, I will also tell you that when I do spend the time to pull all of this together, it really is magical! (Yep, dinner can be magical in my little world.)
- The Tortillas:
- Corn tortillas: These are my absolute favorite for tacos of all kinds!
- Flour tortillas: Even though I gorge on corn tortillas, my family also likes to have flour tortillas handy.
- (Optional) Hard taco shells: It’s good to have some hard shells handy for the pure gringos in the group, like my daughter Cate and my mom Phyllis!
- Do you have a tortilla warmer? If you don’t, you should get one! I love being able to heat up a bunch of tortillas, toss them in the warmer and have them ready all at once when we dig in.
- The Meat:
- Grilled chicken: Whether you cook the chicken in a grill pan with a bit of olive oil on the stove or on an actual grill, simply salt and pepper the chicken prior to cooking and cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. I like to use boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs. Sometimes, after I cut the cooked chicken into small pieces, I will toss it in a bowl with about a quarter of a packet of taco seasoning. Super yum!
- Taco Meat: Everybody still loves good ol’ taco meat! I often use a taco seasoning packet but, if I don’t have that handy, I just season the cooked ground beef or ground turkey with salt, pepper, dried garlic, dried onion, chili powder, paprika and cumin.
- (Optional) Carne Asada: We hardly ever have this because I’m lazy, but it makes for some darn good taco-ing.
- (Optional) Grilled Salmon: This is another one that we rarely serve on taco night, but when we do it’s delish! Click here for a recipe for grilled salmon that is flavored perfectly for tacos.
- The Rice:
- Whether you put the rice right on your taco or eat it on the side, rice is a necessity for the perfect taco night! Click here for a cilantro-lime rice recipe that works great!
- The Toppings:
- Grilled bell peppers and onions (both sliced thin before cooking)
- Avocado (sliced or cut into chunks) and/or guacamole
- Lime slices
- Shredded cheese
- Beans (pinto, black or peruan are all delish!): You can of course use canned beans, but homemade beans are really, truly easy to make and TASTE SO GOOD. Click here for recipe.
- Sour cream
- Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
- Chopped romaine lettuce or jalapeño slaw
- Chopped tomatoes
- Putting It All Together!
- Obviously one taco can’t hold ALL of the yumminess in the list above! Just mix and match your favorite ingredients! Here are my two favorite taco combinations:
- Chicken taco: corn tortilla, grilled chicken, beans, rice, peppers and onions, creamy tomatillo dressing, salsa, avocado
- Grilled salmon taco: flour tortilla, grilled salmon, jalapeño slaw, sour cream, avocado
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. You will find dishes from the Heritage line, the Montecito line and the Provence Blue flatware set in some of the photos above. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love having Q Squared in my kitchen and that opinion is 100% my own!