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5 Minute Tacos

Jim Leff | Sep 8, 201511:47 AM     2

I cook the way five year olds eat, obsessing over one single thing for months at a time. Last year I lived the Total Panini Lifestyle (TPL). This year, it's been tacos. I've experimented a lot, refined my understanding, and devised the following. It's not the most original or most delicious taco recipe I've come up with, but it's the most reliable and easiest/fastest. After thousands of permutations, this is the one I most often return to.

This delivers the biggest bang for the least effort. It’s many steps, but little work. Once you’re used to it, you can produce really satisfying tacos in about 5 minutes without prior prep.

Tortilla Note:
I use nixtamal tortillas from here: http://www.tortillerianixtamal.com/co... , while I await the opening of this factory: http://ediblehudsonvalley.com/editori... ...whose greater capacity will shower real nixtamal tortillas all over the NY tristate region. Do go out of your way for nixtamal, it makes all the difference. If you're the least bit creative, you'll easily use up a pound or two per week.

Authenticity Note:
No one makes tacos like this in Mexico. However, when we imagine tacos, we're visualizing a narrow sub-class of the genre. Tacos, in the end, are about wrapping corn around the protein at-hand (a dandy method of extending that protein, for both survival and weight loss purposes). True tacos are the most open-ended of realms. In that sense, this is as Mexican as you can get.

I"m an eating expert, not a cooking expert. But the eater in me (biased though he is) gives this a big thumbs up!


Makes 3 over-stuffed tacos

Throw 2 boneless/skinless chicken thighs in a very, very lightly oiled cast iron pan preheated to medium. Make sure to extend the thighs, which come semi-rolled.

Quickly cut 3 scallions into one inch lengths.

Flip the chicken and roughly cut it, right in the pan, into chunks (maybe six chunks from each thigh). Use a butter knife so you don't have to worry about dulling the blade on the metal.

Add scallions to skillet.

Sprinkle chicken and scallions generously with soy sauce and Tabasco (or other hot sauce).

Keep flipping chicken/scallions with tongs until chicken chunks turn golden on both sides.

Remove chicken/scallions to a bowl

Without cleaning pan, roast three tortillas in pan, flipping frequently.

Once they’re a bit toasted, add a bit of Oaxacan cheese (or other quality white stringy cheese), torn into strands, atop each tortilla. Don't overdo the quantity; this is a touch, not an ingredient.

When the tortillas' undersides are toasted, and cheese has begun to melt, remove from pan (if cheese hasn’t melted but tortilla’s starting to harden, toast tortillas in toaster oven (with drip pan) for 45 seconds.

Compose tacos and serve (no sauce is necessary, nor, per note below, lime). Eat ASAP.


1. Cheese is optional

2. Oaxacan cheese is available in most groceries selling Mexican products (including most supermarkets catering to Hispanics). Mozzarella can sub.

3. You can optionally toss in chopped raw onion, pieces of raw tomato, or some chopped cilantro (chopped leftover mushrooms grilled along with the chicken work particularly well). Even full-fledged pico de gallo or other salsa. But the thing about this recipe is that such additions are unnecessary. Try it simple first!

4. A squeeze of lime just before serving drastically changes the whole thing. I suggest you try without.

5. You can cook chicken more - to a crispier deep brown. Even if it pushes the bounds of dryness (and scallions nearly burn), it will still work. But that takes more time, so it will no longer be 5 minute tacos!

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