A while ago my friend Emma and I spent a morning cooking and shooting this recipe, but for some reason or another, I only got to post the results today. These tacos are, by far, one of my favourite Mexican 'antojitos'. Antojito literally means small craving, but it is a word used in Mexico for light suppers mostly made with a big component of masa (in this case a tortilla) and a tiny hint of guilt. My mother would always serve them with a bowl of sopa de fideo, a chicken soup with very fine strings of pasta, similar to angel hair. This is a great way to use up the stock where the chicken was cooked. I love making these with leftovers of the Sunday chicken roast, so I bypass the soup, but this reminds me I must blog the recipe soon!
When people come to Picado looking for taco shells, I make a point of telling them they're not Mexican, so they need to buy them in the supermarket along with all the other tex-mex ingredients they sell. I then proceed to tell them they can make their own... but people often frown upon frying tortillas and in this age of 'clean eaters' and misinformed nutritional gurus that fill the internet and our bookshelves with their mantra, it is hard to advocate for fat. Fat and sugar have become the devil. The fact that I feel the need to apologise for a fried taco says it all. Seriously people, we need fat to have shiny hair and good nails and good skin; we need fat to process essential nutrients too, so banning fat from your diet is not a great thing. Yet, there is fat and there is FAT. I'm not going to go into full-ranting mode here, I'm only going to ask you to find out the difference between natural fats (animal or vegetable) and the fats made artificially in a lab to add flavour or stability to a product and preserve shelf life.
Emma asked me what was the difference between this technically fried chicken taco and one made from a taco shell. So let me tell you here what I said to her. A Taco shell has been processed to become 'shelf stable'. The shell is partly cooked and needs to be finish off before it becomes a taco. Anybody who has used these things, can see the puddle of unknown oil that comes out of them when you bake them.
No amount of soaking a corn tortilla in oil will ever render the same results, as corn tortillas do not absob a lot of oil when you fry them and if you leave them sitting on a puddle of oil, they will fall apart and desintegrate. They will never absorb oil so that when you bake them, the oil comes out; so I would love to know what industrial process is used to make this happen... or perhaps I don't want to. A serving of these shells contains 11% of fat and 15% of your daily recommended amount of saturated fat and 6% of your daily recommended intake of salt. This is three shells only!! Who would only eat three?! 4 or 5 is the norm and this is before you add any fillings in them, this is just the shell!!
My golden tacos become fully formed tacos first and then they are shallow-fried till crispy and when it comes to flavour, there is no comparison whatsoever between the two. Homemade all the way! When you make your own, you know what oil and how much you're using. They're also sturdier on account of a proper corn tortilla being used, so they will fill you up more than the processed ones, you might need 4 for a full dinner rather than 5 or 6. There is less salt and let's face it, once you know what goes on your food and you take the trouble to make it, it becomes important for you. There is extra satisfaction and a party on your tastebuds at the end. Not an industrial process in sight.
So, next time you think of buying ready made taco shells, think of all the things we don't know about how they're made... think of all that salt, saturated fats and industrial processes and then the satisfaction of making a few of these by yourself. Go on, try it and see how delicious and easy they are!
Heat each of your corn tortillas in a dry, very hot pan for about one minute on each side, or until the tortilla is soft and pliable. You can heat them all up in one go and keep them warm by sticking them into a tortilla oven, or by wrapping them into a thick teatowel.
Take a warm corn tortilla and fill it up with a handful of cooked chicken, making sure that you spread the chicken horizontally along one half of the tortilla as it is shown in the pictures below. This will make the folding of the taco easier. Do not overfill your tacos at this point. Leave room for all of the other toppings that will go into them later on.
Using your hands, take the empty half of the tortilla and fold it towards the side that has the chicken, this will create a half-moon shaped taco and encase the filling. Repeat this step until you have all your tortillas filled and folded.
Grab a toothpick and 'stitch' the top of your taco together. This will help with keeping the taco together as you fry it. Repeat this step until all of your tacos are safely secured with toothpicks.
Heat the oil in a small, pan. In order to crisp up the tacos quickly and to avoid any sogginess, make sure the oil is very, very hot before you attempt any frying in it. Gently, lower a couple of the tacos into the hot oil and fry them for about 1 minute on each side or until they are golden brown and crispy. You can use kitchen tongs to prevent any splashes of hot oil. Once they're crispy, remove them from the pan and shake any excess oil. Set them on a plate lined with a couple of kitchen paper towels so any extra oil goes into the towels. Repeat this step until all your tacos are fried.
Remove the toothpick of each taco and bring them to the table together with all the toppings. To assemble the tacos, gently open the fried taco and put some lettuce, a couple of tomato and onion slices and top it all up with a good drizzle of salsa and creme fraiche.
These tacos are so delicious and quite quick to make. They're perfect to use up any leftovers of chicken from the Sunday roast. But you can poach the chicken too if you don't have any. Check out any of the mole sauce recipes to find out how to poach chicken if you want. My favourite salsa to go with these tacos is this Salsa Tatemada, it complements the tacos really, really well. Enjoy!