Taco Night

Cinco de Mayo falls on a Wednesday this year, and this is just the recipe for that particular weeknight gathering.

In order to throw a dinner together on a weeknight (even if it’s just for four, or six) you have two options: prep ahead, or make something simple at the last minute. I’m a big fan of dishes you can make the night before, but the braises of fall and winter just don’t feel right for a springtime celebration. This fresh, unusual taco recipe is quick to throw together after work, and would be even speedier if you prepped the marinade and salsa in the morning or the night before your party. With the help of a food processor, the warm ginger-chile marinade is a snap, and the zingy, delicious avocado-tomatillo salsa takes only a moment.

When I was growing up, tacos meant ground beef seasoned with a packet of seasoning and stuffed into a crispy shell with grated cheddar, lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. They were good–fun and messy to eat–but far from authentic.

These lamb tacos from Deborah Schneider’s fantastic new book, Amor Y Tacos, are far better. (I received a review copy from the publisher, but I’d totally buy another to give as a gift–perhaps for Mother’s Day?) The lamb is rich and savory, warming but not too spicy, and the salsa verde is an eye-opener: piquant, and bright, amazing on a chip or stuffed inside the tacos with a spoonful of savory black beans cooked with a bit of beer. (We devoured the rest on quesadillas we filled with leftovers the night after the party–I love a dinner that does double duty.) The salsa will definitely be reappearing on my table soon, perhaps with fish or shrimp or Schneider’s intriguing orange-and-milk roasted carnitas.

We haven’t started grilling yet, so I prepared these tacos inside on the stovetop and in the broiler, but I do believe that the beginning of May is the perfect time to start firing up the grill. If you do, will you invite me over? I wouldn’t mind eating these again.

Lamb Tacos
adapted from Amor Y Tacos by Deborah Schneider
serves 4

For the marinade:
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 chunk fresh ginger, about 1″ around
2 dried ancho chiles, toasted briefly, stems removed
2 dried guajillo chiles, toasted briefly, stems removed
1 chipotle chile from a can
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 lbs lamb loin or boneless leg of lamb

To serve:
about 16 corn tortillas
salsa verde (recipe follows)
red salsa (I used jarred)
quick drunken beans (recipe follows)
additional avocado slices and cilantro
lime wedges

In a food processor, blend oil, salt, garlic, ginger, all chiles, and cocoa powder until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, use ground chiles instead of whole and grind in a mortar and pestle with other marinade ingredients.) Remove silverskin from lamb and cut into about six pieces. Add lamb and marinade to a gallon-sized plastic bag and rub marinade into the lamb. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare salsa verde and drunken beans.

When you’re ready to eat, heat two cast-iron pans with a small amount of oil rubbed into them. Brown lamb on all sides, about 4 minutes per side, then move to a preheated broiler and cook until medium rare, about 6-10 minutes depending on thickness of the lamb and heat of your broiler. If you have access to a grill, skip the pans and broiler and grill until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side.

Let lamb rest five minutes before cutting. Slice thinly or cut in bite-sized chunks, then serve with tortillas, salsas, beans, extra avocado and cilantro, and lime wedges.

Salsa Verde
adapted from Amor Y Tacos

3 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and pitted
juice from 1/4 of a lime
9 large tomatillos, husked and well washed
1/2 serrano chile, stem removed (plus possibly more to taste)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 small white onion, chunked
2 teaspoons kosher salt
a handful of cilantro, about 3/4 of a bunch, or to taste

In a food processor combine all ingredients except the cilantro and pulse until pureed. Add the cilantro and pulse several times more. Taste for seasoning. The salsa will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 24 hours–laying plastic wrap right on the surface will help avoid browning. Add more salt if needed before serving

Maggie’s Quick Drunken Beans

2 small white onions
olive oil
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotles
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6-8 ounces of porter beer (I used Redhook Black Hook)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Chop onions and saute in a small dutch oven with olive oil until translucent. Add beans, adobo sauce, cocoa powder, cumin, and porter and stir until blended. Simmer over low heat until most of the beer has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and cook 2 minutes more. Turn off heat and cover until tacos are ready. Reheat before serving if necessary, add salt to taste.

In Lamb, grilling, holidays, mexican

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