Add homemade authenticity to your next taco night

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch
  • Start with one chipotle chile, then taste the sauce and add more if you want it hotter.
  • In Mexico, tortillas are an everyday food used as a wrapper for whatever is at hand.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been living in a cave. Until a few years ago, I had never heard of “taco night.”

When two friends mentioned it to me, I found it strange that Yorkers would be having Mexican snack food for dinner. Then they sat me down and explained the process: buy a “taco kit” from the supermarket and fill the pre-made shells with ground beef cooked with the seasoning pack that comes in the kit. They are then topped with lettuce and cheese.

I am not a stranger to tacos. When I lived in Mexico, I ate more than my share. However, no one needed a kit to make them. Tortillas were an everyday food used as a wrapper for whatever was at hand, usually pork, chicken, cheese or vegetables. They were accompanied by a salsa usually freshly made from tomatoes, chiles and cilantro. Each region of Mexico had its own specialty of taco, and I was determined to try them all.

Here in the States, there is not a taqueria on every corner, so I am forced to make my own. Fortunately, every grocery store now carries tortillas. PriceRite carries a full line of Mexican products, so I am all set.

I go through taco phases, and my current favorite is tacos de papa, or potato tacos. Along with rice and beans, they make a satisfying dinner. I usually have leftover potato mixture and sauce so I can have them for lunch, too, without going to any extra work. If you omit the cheese on top, they are a trifecta: vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

Everyone has their own heat preferences, so start with one chipotle chile, then taste the sauce and add more if you want it hotter.

Tacos de Papa

For the salsa

3 tablespoons oil

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 small white onion, roughly chopped

1 to 3 canned chipotles en adobo

1 15-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

For the tacos

11/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons oil

12 6-inch corn tortillas

Oil for frying

Thinly sliced green and red cabbage and radishes, for garnish

Crumbled queso fresco, for garnish

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic and onion until soft, about

5 minutes; transfer to a blender. Add the chiles, tomatoes and salt; blend until smooth. Set sauce aside.

Boil the potatoes in salted water until cooked through, about 15 minutes; drain and add 2 tablespoons oil and the cumin. Mash with a fork.

Add enough oil to cover a 12-inch skillet and heat over a medium flame. Place a tortilla in the pan and fry for about 30 seconds. Turn it over and place a large spoonful of the potato filling on one side of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling and fry until crisp.

Repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Top each taco with reserved sauce, cabbage, radishes and queso fresco.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.