Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tacos de Papa (Fried Potato Tacos)

In late 2009, one of my favorite food related magazines, Gourmet, closed its doors with next to no notice.  Publisher Conde Nast cited declining advertising sales and customer interest shifts as their reasoning behind the unexpected closure.  I can't argue their financial reasoning for closing the magazine, but from a reader's perspective, the closing of Gourmet left a huge void in magazine publications.  Gourmet was great for taking me out of my apartment and putting me somewhere far away. It inspired me to want to travel, it showed me the amazing food that exists in faraway places, provided some of the best recipes that I have, and the photography was the best in the business in my opinion.  Instead, Conde Nast kept Bon Appetit alive to cater to boring housewives with 15 minute dinners and their annual burger issue with just enough variation in the recipes to not call it a reissue.  But I'm not bitter or anything.

Stepping up to the global cuisine periodical plate, Saveur magazine has become the next best thing to Gourmet.  Perhaps it doesn't bring me to the same daydream state that Gourmet did, but it often comes close.  This month's issue (#138) had a great article about the author's visit to his home state of Zacatecas in Mexico with some amazing photography and great looking recipes.  Saveur also is very free with its recipes and articles, and despite this issue still being available at newsstands, you can already read the full thing online here (  In a day and age where people like Christopher Kimball from America's Test Kitchen (and his subscription-only site) openly challenges the quality of food blogs and boldly considered them to be the reasoning for the fall of Gourmet Magazine (, I commend James Oseland and the Saveur staff for accepting the open paradigm of the internet and still seemingly finding a way to run a profitable company.  In this month's issue, the recipe that immediately stood out to me was a taco stuffed with cumin-spiced potatoes and then pan fried to get a crispy shell, dressed with salsa roja, cabbage, and cotija cheese.  Maybe it was the photo on the cover, but we had to try these as soon as possible, so I set out to recreate the magazine's recipe.  It's easy to make, it's cheap, it lasts for several days, and it is vegetarian (easily vegan too!).  This one will undoubtedly go down as a regular in our house.

Tacos de Papa
(Saveur Magazine issue #138, also found here but mine is better =D)

1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sugar
2 ripe tomatoes, cored (+1 for topping)
2 red jalepenos, stemmed
1 clove garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves, minced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb russet potatoes, peeled
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 c canola oil
18 corn tortillas
thinly sliced green cabbage and tomatoes and crumbled cotija cheese, for serving

Puree cilantro, oregano, sugar, tomatoes, jalepenos, smashed garlic, and 2/3 c water in a blender until smooth; set salsa aside.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, add potatoes, and cook until tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  add minced garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and cumin, and mash until smooth.  Set potato mixture aside.  It should be crumbly, but form-able.

I found that it was easier to deal with the tacos by heating them up first.  Microwave the desired number of tortillas for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.  They should be malleable without cracking.  If they are still stiff, microwave for a few seconds more.  Heat oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Using a spoon, spread a layer of potato mixture in the middle of each tortilla.  Gently cup tortilla in one hand, press the potato mixture down with the back of a spoon, and fold in half with your hands.  Pressing the potato mixture helped it from falling out of the taco during frying.  Working in batches, add tacos to oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.

Stuff cabbage, tomatoes, and cotija into tacos; drizzle with salsa before serving.

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