Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Street Tacos

One of my favorite places to eat when we are in Texas is Taco Cabana. Once you get to the Dallas area, or anywhere south of Dallas... they are everywhere. It's a chain like Taco Bell, but the food is far superior. The difference? Well, they have real cooks in real kitchens making real Mexican food--by hand. That means they are chopping the cilantro, roasting the peppers, stirring the beans and making the tortillas everyday.

My love affair with Taco Cabana started on a balmy March day in 1996 when we had just moved to South Texas. It was icy in NW Arkansas when the movers came to pack us up, but a pleasant 80 degrees as we enjoyed our meal that night on the patio. Over the next 5 years we ate at nearly all of the famous Mexican restaurants in the San Antonio area. As memorable as they were, Taco Cabana is etched in my heart as a favorite!

They have street tacos on the menu now, and while we were in Texas I had them 3 times... they are THAT GOOD!  Little corn tortilla treats filled with seasoned chicken, brisket or pork and topped with a variety of fresh sauces, they are the perfect lunch, dinner or snack.  

I bought this great magazine at Sam's Club in Dallas while we were there and spent the trip home planning the recipes I'm going to make. Better Homes and Gardens publication Mexican is the real deal, authentic dishes from the many regions of Mexico. Inside the covers are the treasured recipes that are so hard to duplicate on your own. This weekend we tried the Beer Braised Chicken Verde, I took a shortcut and made the recipe with rotisserie chicken. The filling was delish, very much like the ones at Taco Cabana♥♥♥

Beer Braised Chicken Verde
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 12 ounce bottle Mexican beer (such as Modelo Especial or Pacifico)
1 11 - 12 ounce can tomatillos, drained
2 4 - 4 1/2 ounce can diced green chile peppers
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins
1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add butter, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Cook and stir until butter melts.
2. Add beer, tomatillos, and chile peppers. Bring to boiling. Add chicken. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink, stirring every 5 minutes to break up the tomatillos. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. Gently boil the cooking liquid, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, using two forks, pull chicken apart into shreds.
3. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the reduced cooking juices; stir to moisten. Use chicken mixture as filling for quesadillas or tacos; pass the remaining cooking juices.

Tacos el Pastor
1 medium peeled and cored fresh pineapple
8 dried pasilla and/or guajillo chile peppers
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoonsalt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 1/2-inch slices
16 6 inch corn tortillas
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
Snipped fresh cilantro
Lime wedges
Bottled hot pepper sauce
1.Cut pineapple into 1/2-inch-thick slices, reserving juice; cover and refrigerate pineapple and reserved juice separately.
2. Remove stems and seeds from chile peppers. Place peppers in a medium bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Allow peppers to stand about 30 minutes or until soft; drain, discarding water.
3. In a food processor or blender combine chile peppers, any juice from the pineapple, the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin, and cloves. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth.
4. In a 3-quart baking dish arrange pork slices in a single layer, overlapping slices as necessary. Pour chile pepper mixture over pork slices, spreading evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil.
5. For a charcoal grill, place tortilla packet on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Place pork slices and pineapple slices on the grill rack alongside the foil packet directly over medium coals. Grill pork and pineapple slices for 6 to 7 minutes or until pork slices are slightly pink in the center and juices run clear (160 degrees F), turning once. Grill tortilla packet for 10 minutes, turning once. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Grill tortilla packet, pork slices, and pineapple as directed above.)
6. Coarsely chop pork and pineapple and combine in a large bowl. Fill warm tortillas with pork and pineapple mixture. Sprinkle each taco with chopped onion and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and, if desired, hot pepper sauce.
Print Recipe

Roasted Tomato Salsa ~Yes, this IS that great restaurant salsa recipe!
2 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes (about 15)
3 fresh jalapeno peppers
1 medium head garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium white onions, finely chopped
2/3cup lightly packed cilantro leaves, snipped (1/4 cup)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
Tortilla chips
1. Core the tomatoes. Place in one side of a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Halve the jalapeno peppers. Remove stems and seeds. Place, cut side down, in the other side of baking pan with tomatoes. Peel away outer skin from garlic. Cut off the pointed top portion with a knife, leaving the bulb intact but exposing the individual cloves. Add to pan. Roast, uncovered, in a 450 degree F oven for 25 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and pepper skins are charred. Cool.
2. Remove tomato skins. Press to remove garlic paste from individual cloves of garlic. Place garlic, jalapeno peppers, and salt in a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend with a few pulses until finely chopped. Add half of the tomatoes; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add remaining tomatoes to food processor bowl or blender container; cover and process or blend with a few pulses until coarsely chopped. Stir into tomato mixture in bowl.
3. Stir onions, cilantro, and vinegar into tomato mixture until combined. Cover and chill several hours to blend flavors. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes about 4 cups.


  1. I enjoy tacos...the Prez doesn't so we don't have them here at home...:(. However, we do frequent Taco Bell as one of our "Hot Dates"...I get my tacos, he gets his burritos!...:)JP

    1. Taco Bell is probably the fast food joint I like the best. Bean Burrito please!

  2. I don't do much Mexican food either but I love salsa and can several pints each year.

    I have saved these recipes....I should broaden my cooking horizons.

    1. Homemade salsa is so good, with everything! Mom used to make Chow-Chow at the end of the summer, like a salsa and we all would eat our weight in the stuff. I never had a taco until after I married... Springfield was pretty Midwest back in the 1960's.

  3. We saw the Taco Cabana's when we were near Dallas last week, but didn't stop. We assumed they were like Taco Bell. Thanks to you, the next time we're in the area, we are stopping.

    1. Oh, do stop the next time you go that way... you won't be disappointed. Their sauces are made fresh everyday too. They have the traditional tomato salsa, green verde, fuego(which is a roasted pepper sauce), pico de gallo and this time a seasonal pineapple habenero salsa that was so good on the chicken tacos!

  4. Good Morning and thanks so much for stopping by my place to say hello and comment! We aren't as big on Mexican food here in Mississippi but I'm a huge fan, although when we do go out to a Mexican restaurant, my husband always gets the tacos! All those things on the menu and he gets tacos. Would love to check this place out too. Funny thing is, I woke up this morning thinking about tacos for some crazy reason... have a great week & thanks again for stopping by!!

    1. Isn't that funny, we all have our favorites and mine lean toward the soft tacos. My husband ALWAYS gets enchiladas! You have so many great recipes Mary, it will be a favorite since I found you!

  5. There used to be a Taco Cabana in Tulsa but I think it may have closed. I'll have to check the next time we're down there.

    1. Wish we had them in Arkansas... maybe on second thought it's a good thing we don't!

  6. it is fast food but homemade, too. :)

    1. Yes it it, native Texans have varying opinions on Taco Cabana but we loved it. Never had a bad meal!

  7. My oldest goes there often. I'm not sure why we don't, except we hardly ever head the direction it's in. We usually have Mexican food about once a week and have numerous options very close... even closer than Taco Cabana, but I DO remember liking it when we went.

    1. My favorite when we lived in South Texas was their soft chicken tacos. They make the tortillas everyday so that's good and then the filling was stellar. It's the spices they add and it's stewed so they are juicy and tender. NOW I WANT ONE!

  8. Thanks for the recipes! I can't wait to try one, although I will need to tame them down for the rest of the family.

    1. We do like spicy food, but the Chicken Verde had canned green chilies and they are very mild. That magazine had a very good chart on chili peppers telling the flavor and amount of heat to expect in each variety. I tend to buy jalapenos more than serranos since they are less hot, but sometimes you get a big surprise and it sets your mouth on fire! I agree, just a small amount of heat makes it good!

  9. My goodness I'm getting hungry!
    And I bought that same magazine.
    It's time to dig it out, I think!
    My MIL used to make a sweet taco
    by adding pineapple and coconut. It was good!

    1. That sounds good Kim! Taco Cabana had a sweet pineapple habenero salsa that was so good on the little chicken street taco. It wasn't too spicy but did have some heat. I love that combination of sweet hot!


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