Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cookbook Review: 300 Best Taco Recipes + Mesquite Chicken Tacos with Creamy Corn Salsa

Living in San Antonio, I eat (and cook...) my fair share of Mexican food. Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines, and I especially love tacos...they're quick to make and easy to eat. All you need are your hands and a wide-open mouth! It's easy to get in a rut when it comes to making tacos, though: I basically have a basic ground-beef taco recipe, a fish taco recipe, and a grilled chicken recipe in my repertoire. I needed a bit more variety, so I was very excited when author Kelley Cleary Coffeen recently sent me a copy of her latest cookbook, 300 Best Taco Recipes, to review and try out in my kitchen.

The book arrived, and I immediately started flipping though it to see what new taco adventures I could come up with. The book is laid out in chapters with taco variations for Chicken and Turkey, Beef, Pork and Lamb, Fish and Seafood, and Vegetarian. Other chapters feature recipes for Salsas/Relishes/Sauces, Dessert Tacos, and Cocktails. The hard part was deciding which recipe to cook to feature for this post. Several recipes caught my eye, including:
  • Grilled Chicken, Garlic, and Lime Shrimp Tacos
  • Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Lime, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa
  • Grilled Carne Asada Tacos with Pico de Gallo
  • Cajun Shrimp Tacos
  • Spice-Rubbed Steak Tacos
  • Thai Chicken Tacos
  • Banana-Caramel Soft Tacos
If some of the recipes on the above list threw you a bit, let me explain. One of the things that I like best about this cookbook is that it doesn't only offer Mexican-style tacos. There are tons of great fusion recipes that feature Asian, Italian, and even sweet spins on the classic taco. This book really thinks outside the box and lets you use corn and flour tortillas in creative new (and fun) ways!

The recipes aren't complicated, and most can be whipped up in about 30 minutes. I also like the fact that most of the tacos use healthy cooking techniques like grilling and feature lots of fresh produce and lean protein. There are some splurge-worthy recipes mixed in for sure, but I appreciate that most of the recipes fit perfectly into a healthy lifestyle. The recipe I chose to feature is Mesquite Chicken Tacos, which I paired with Creamy Corn Salsa. This taco's a little different than the norm thanks to the amazing corn salsa that you spoon on top. 

Mesquite Chicken Tacos with Creamy Corn Salsa
from 300 Best Taco Recipes

Step 1:  Make the creamy corn salsa by combining the following ingredients in a bowl: 1.5 cups thawed frozen corn kernels, 1 finely diced seeded jalapeno, 1/4 cup lowfat sour cream, 1/4 cup mayo, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 cup finely diced purple onion, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine and refrigerate until you're ready to serve the tacos.

Note: the original recipe calls for using diced red bell pepper, but I subbed in the onion since I can't eat raw bell pepper.

Step 2:  Combine the following marinade ingredients in a large bowl: the juice of 3 small limes, 1 tbs. olive oil, 2 tbs. mesquite seasoning mix of your choice, 2 tbs. honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk well to combine and add 1.5 lb. chicken breast. Toss to coat and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.

Step 3:  Heat a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add about 1 tbs. olive oil and heat for about five minutes. Brown the chicken well on all sides until cooked through. Move it to a cutting board to rest for five minutes, then cut into bite-size pieces.

Step 4:  Steam 8 corn tortillas using a damp kitchen towel and microwaving for about 1 minute. To assemble each taco, add a bit of the chicken to each tortilla. Top with a spoonful of the cream corn salsa, chopped lettuce, and a bit of jack cheese. I also served some of the tacos with thin slices of avocado, which tasted great!

To say I loved these tacos is an understatement! The chicken is moist and flavorful thanks to the marinade -- a little sweet, a little smoky/spicy, and a little tangy. And the corn salsa? It's fantastic! The corn lent a sweet and fresh flavor to the tacos, and the creamy base was a little spicy from the jalapeno and cumin. The jack cheese combined great with this's mild enough that it doesn't overwhelm all the other flavors going on.

I can't wait to try some of the other recipes from this fun cookbook as the summer goes on...this book was made for summer cooking! If you'd like a copy of this cookbook for your collection, 300 Best Taco Recipes can be ordered from Amazon. What's YOUR favorite way to make tacos? 

1 comment:

  1. The other thing we have in common seems to be a love of tacos! LOL! :) I'm nuts about them (and my honey too) but I've never had one like this before. The mesquite marinade and the creamy corn salsa sounds incredibly delicious! I'm gonna have to try that! Thanks for sharing the recipe! :)


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