One of the founding premises of Forkbastard is that tacos are awesome. All tacos are awesome. But some tacos are more awesome than others.
Last night, making the tacos pictured above, I realized they represented, to me, all the elements of the best tacos. The Taconic Ideal, if you will. It's not a recipe. It's more of a formulaic guideline. Let's start from the bottom up:
SHELL: I use flour when I'm lazy, hard corn shells when I'm really lazy, but at the end of the day, there's no beating two nice toasted corn tortillas. 60 to 90 seconds per side in a hot, non-stick pan does the trick. It's time consuming, because I can only do three at a time, and for an average meal of three tacos per person, that's 18 tacos, six sets of three, three minutes per set, plus pan preheating. 20 minutes total just for the tortillas. But it's worth it.
MEAT: Something braised. Again, I like something grilled, don't get me wrong. Something seared off and browned, like flank stake. Even something glazed. But if we're talking my perfect taco, it's going to be something braised. Chicken thigh, pork shoulder, beef chuck, something low and slow in a hellbroth of aromatics and chilis. What you're seeing above is four bone-in chicken thighs, cooked for 2-three hours in onions, garlic, and a puree of three poblanos, three anaheims, cilantro, and six tomatillos plus salt and oregano.
CHEESE: Ideally, grated cotija. I've fallen in love with this cheese since I got some for the Elote Summer, and as a taco cheese it is second to none. Second to one, however, is a small amount of a good, sharp cheddar. Fuck everything else. When other people are making your tacos, they can put other cheeses on it, and that's fine. But when you're making your own? Cotija or cheddar or go cheeseless.
SALSA: When it comes to salsa, I like contrast. If I'm doing a smoky meat, or something with lots of char, then I go fresh and green and possibly fruity. Green chiles, fresh tomatoes, mangos, cilantro, that kind of thing. But if I'm doing something like the chicken here, something full of green chiles and herbs, then I put the smoke in the salsa. In this case, an actual smoked tomato salsa with the last of my smoked tomatoes from September, a little garlic, a little jalapeno, a little vinegar, a little shallot. Any kind of fire-roasted or chipotle salsa would give you that contrast.
VEGETABLES: A nice bit of lettuce. Some fresh tomato if your salsa doesn't have any tomatoes. Maybe some grilled peppers and onions, fajita-style. But not much else. Don't get me wrong, you can do things with beans, corn, zucchini, and sweet peppers if you want to stretch the meat, or want to have some plant life in your taco, but not in the Taconic Ideal.
SOUR CREAM: Good, but not necessary. If you want it, get some sour crema mexicana if you can. I just tried the sour version after using the non-sour crema all summer, and it beats up Kemps and Daisy and takes their lunch money. Great stuff.
That's it. All tacos are great, but I'll take a taco like this over any other kind, every time.