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Recipe: This ‘SalviMex’ Crispy Taco With Curtido Honors L.A. Culture and All the Señoras Who Feed Us

[dropcap size=big]G[/dropcap]rowing up SalviMex in Southeast Los Angeles offered me a unique experience as a Latina that I wouldn’t change for the world. Congregating with the Mexican side of my family always included listening to mariachi music, rancheras, or corridos, with my primos and tíos competing over who could do the best gritos. 

Gathering with my Salvi relatives or friends meant there were always cumbias on deck, con las tías dancing, clapping, and laughing. I also found comfort in listening to The Smiths because it reminded me of the or melancholic sounds of the boleros both sides of my family listened to. To me, growing up SalviMex in L.A. meant feeling at home at any taquería or pupusería, knowing which slang to use around Mexican or Central American friends, and celebrating Christmas Eve with Mexican tamales and New Year's Eve with Salvadorian Panes con Pollo.

Herencia Cookbook is a celebration of my beloved SalviMex and Los Angeles identity. My cookbook contains over 65 recipes. Each recipe is precluded by an anecdote about the señora in my life who influenced both the recipe and myself in some way. My hope is that when others read about the matriarchs in my life, they will think fondly about the matriarchs in their own lives.

The Mexican recipes were influenced by my great grandmother, who I had the pleasure of knowing for the first ten years of my life, and my grandmother. They are both from Cananea, which is in Sonora, Mexico. My two nanas are no longer with us, but I hope that the memory of the love they put into their cooking can live on in Herencia Cookbook and inspire home cooks everywhere to put love into each and every dish they prepare. 

The Salvadorian recipes in Herencia Cookbook are inspired by none other than my own mother. I am proud to say that my mama owned and operated a panadería in Inglewood when I was growing up. She is retired now, but I still remember seeing her balance motherhood, marriage, a social life, and running her business. She did it with such grace! Those memories of seeing her do it all inspired me to write my cookbook. Thanks to my mother, I can proudly say that I am a second-generation food entrepreneur.

Finally, the Los Angeles and SalviMex fusion recipes in Herencia Cookbook are inspired by my own unique experience of growing up as a Latina in SELA. My favorite among these recipes is, of course, the Herencia Taco. 

You will see this recipe consists of a taco dorado, which is a popular type of taco in Cananea. Instead of the typical pico de gallo and similar garnishes, this taco is enjoyed with curtido, which is so fundamental to Salvadorian cuisine. A special twist on this curtido is that it is prepared with pickled jalapenos. The curtido itself is lightly pickled with the same vinegar from the jalapeno jar. Additionally, the curtido is (generously) seasoned with Tajin instead of salt, which, in my opinion, makes it so L.A.!

I developed this recipe with none other than la Mera Mera herself, mi Jefecita. We taste-tested this recipe on my 30th birthday and I am so happy to share it with you all now. I hope when you prepare and enjoy these tacos, you will feel the spirit of celebration behind them—celebration for our cultura and for the señoras who nourished and nurtured us. 

SalviMex Tacos Dorados con Curtido

DIFFICULTY: Señora level cooking

TIME: Long. Over 2 hours, but so worth it!

SERVINGS: 6

Ingredients

    • 1 lb of tri-tip beef
    • Tortillas, enough to make tacos with all the meat 
    • 2 Roma tomatoes
    • 1 guajillo dried chile
    • 1 California dried chile
    • 1 garlic clove
    • Salt, al gusto (to taste)
    • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash seasoning
    • 1 teaspoon Knorr beef-flavored seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, to sofreir (fry) the salsa
    • Grapeseed oil, enough to evenly coat your frying pan to fry the tacos

For the curtido

    • ½ of a head of cabbage
    • 2 carrots, woody nubs removed 
    • 1 red onion, halved
    • 1 can pickled jalapeños
    • 1 pinch of oregano
    • Tajín, al gusto

Directions

- Slow cook the tri-tip in salted, boiling water at medium to low heat for 2 hours.

While the meat cooks, make the curtido!

- Wash and cut the cabbage, carrot, and red onion.

- Mix the chopped ingredients in a large heat-proof bowl. Season with oregano.

- Pour boiling water over the mix, just enough to cover the vegetables. Let it rest for half an hour, until the water cools. Once cool, strain out the water.

- Add the jar of pickled jalapeños, vinegar, and all. Mix well. 

- Season the curtido with Tajin, al gusto.

Back to the meat

- Once cooked, allow it to cool.

- Once the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it.

As the meat cools, make your sauce!

- Clean the chiles (remove seeds, veins, and stems) and boil them along with the tomato and garlic.

- Strain the water from the ingredients.

- In a blender, put the chiles, garlic, tomato, and salt. Blend until you have a smooth consistency.

- On medium heat, warm a pan. Add olive oil. 

- Add the sauce and a teaspoon of Mrs. Dash and a teaspoon of beef-flavored Knorr seasoning.

- Once the sauce bubbles, fold in the shredded meat. 

- Stir until the meat is evenly coated. You want a thick consistency here. (Not runny.) 

- Turn off the heat, and cover the pan.

Fry the tacos

- Set a frying pan to medium heat.

- Cover with about an inch of grapeseed oil.

- Once the oil is warm, prepare the tortilla by adding the shredded, saucy meat inside. 

- With tongs, place the taco to fry. Using the tongs, hold the shape of the taco together from the opening, so that it is upright, and fold-side down in the oil. Hold it for a few seconds. This will help to give the taco its shape.

 - After a few seconds, gently release it into the oil. Ensure to cook the tacos evenly on both sides.

- Keep adding tacos in this way until the pan is full. Use the same tongs or a spatula to (gently and carefully) flip them.

- Once crispy and evenly golden, remove the tacos from the pan and stand upright in a bowl lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil from the tacos.

Enjoy the tacos with curtido inside of them!

Señora advice: You can store the curtido in a glass jar.

Herencia Cocktail

You can enjoy the Herencia Taco with the Herencia Cocktail. Tequila, which is quintessentially Mexican, is mixed with a sweet and sour agua fresca made of nances, which are native to El Salvador (and Central America). This cocktail is enjoyed in a glass rimmed with Chamoy and Tajin, which is soooo L.A.! This SalviMex + Los Angeles fusion drink is one of the many recipes you will find Herencia Cookbook!

DIFFICULTY: You got this!

TIME: Medium. More than 30 minutes.

SERVINGS: 4 cocktails

Ingredients

-   1 cup of nances (available frozen in Latin American markets)

-   4 two-ounce shots of tequila, one for each cocktail

-   Salt, one pinch

-   2 lemons

-   Sugar, al gusto. (To taste. I find 2 tablespoons work well!)

- Chamoy, enough for the rim of your glass

-   Tajín, enough for the rim of your glass

-   1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

-   Ice for your drink

-   4 cups of filtered water to make the fresco (I’ve added too much water and too little nance base in the past, and the drink comes out too watery. So, I find that 1 cup of nance to 4 cups of water ratio works well!)

Directions

To make the nance fresco

This also works as a fresco if you do not drink alcohol

-   Rinse the nances well.

- (Now is a good time to save a couple of cleaned nances to garnish your cocktails.)

-   Smoosh the nances in a bowl.

-   Add the four cups of filtered water to the smooshed nances. This will be the base of your drink. Allow them to sit for a few moments.

-   Run it through a colander and into a pitcher, using a rubber spatula or your hands to really push the nance pulp through the strainer. The seeds will stay in the strainer.

-   Stir the mixture in the pitcher well.

-   Squeeze lemon juice into the pitcher.

-   Add just a pinch of salt to balance out the sweet and sour flavors.

-   Add the sugar, al gusto, to have a yummy sweet and sour mix. 

- Stir well, until salt and sugar are dissolved.

-   You should have a refreshment that looks similar to lemonade at this moment.

To make one cocktail

-   Rim your cocktail glass with chamoy and Tajín.

-   In a cocktail shaker, add one shot of tequila, one cup of your nance fresco, and a handful of ice.

-   Shake well.

-   Pour into your rimmed glass.

-   Plop one nance inside as a garnish.

¡Salud! The Herencia Cookbook is available for purchase on Amazon. 

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