Street Smart

Since I’ve officially declared it to be “Taco Season,” I’ve been enjoying exploring different taco recipes across my wide collection of cookbooks. Ok, so maybe my official declaration is only for my house, but I welcome anyone to officially declare it for their house too now through August. If you do, tag me in your posts on social media! I’d love to see what yummy things everyone is making. Really any time of year is a good year for tacos, but Summer especially is a good time of year for them!

This past week, we tried Joanna Gaines’ Chicken Street Tacos from her newest volume of her Magnolia Table cookbook. I felt like the tacos were a good north-of-the-border representation of authentic street tacos. I even bounced the recipe ingredients off my Latina sisters at work and all of them agreed on the overall content. The pickled red onion especially sent shivers of excitement down all our spines. I recently saw a jar of pickled Vidalia onion online and I gotta say, it’s something I definitely need to attempt!

You need pickled red onions in your life. Pickled red onions are the result of a quick pickle and they add a brininess and acidity that really wakens up all the other unctuous flavors of a dish. Parade has a good straightforward recipe here! Simply using plain red onions in this dish would be ok, but honestly they would be far too bracing straight. You need the acidity to soften them sharpness of the red onion. Red onion is delicious, but the pickled onions in this dish turned with the other toppings really sets this dish apart from the rest.

We didn’t just try the street tacos either. We followed her advice and paired the tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice. The tacos were really good, but the rice was a game-changer going forward. We were having trouble restraining ourselves from eating the rice piping hot, straight out of the saucepan. It was so good, we ended up making it the next three nights in a row until I ran out of rice in the pantry! It was definitely a bonus that it was so easy to throw together! Check below for my spin on her recipe.

4tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1c uncooked white (or brown) rice
1-3/4c chicken broth
Zest of one lime
Juice of 1-1/2 limes
1/4c chopped fresh cilantro
1/4tsp each kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

1) In a med saucepan, melt 1tbsp of butter over med-high heat. Add the garlic and sautée 1-2min and add the rice. Sautée 2-3min until the rice browns slightly. Slowly stir in the broth and turn the heat to high. When the contents boil, reduce heat to med-low and allow to gently simmer, covered, for 15min.
2) While the rice is cooking, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the lime zest and juice.
3) When the rice is ready, fluff and stir in lime butter and cilantro. Season with S&P and serve with additional fresh chopped cilantro if you desire.

You can use vegetable stock, but I don’t recommend it. Before I got married, I had a part-time job on my summers off from teaching at a local Tex-Mex taco shop. They had some of the best cilantro-lime rice I’d ever had! Until they changed it to a vegetarian option on the menu… They swapped out the chicken broth with vegetable broth and it was never the same. It had lost… a certain something. Many apologies to my vegetarian readers, but it is my humble opinion that you should use chicken broth and no other.

This dish was terrific just the way it is. I honestly didn’t change anything about it like I usually do. It displayed Joanna’s expanded culinary sophistication from her recent travels. Her earlier work, while definitely delicious, was a bit more close-to-home. This new work of hers feels more “traveled.” More storied. Her horizons have obviously broadened. Her food still feels approachable and comfortable, but makes one feel as if they’re enjoying something more exotic.

I’m smitten.

In what ways are you branching out lately?

Currently Reading: Magnolia Journal, Summer 2020 issue

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