Sunday, April 21, 2013

Achiote Tacos or Taco Salad

Achiote seeds are commonly used in Indian and Mexican dishes, especially in the Yucatan. They're slightly nutty and sweet, spicy but not hot, and add a unique flavor that's subtle but lingers on your palate and has you wanting "just one more bite". Most often used in rubs, they also work really well in a ground beef taco filling ~ worlds apart from the packaged taco mix! I swear I could imagine myself in the Yucatan jungle, surrounded by banana trees, wild parrots, and warm tropical breezes as I was making this. Ah, if only ;-).

>>Note: Achiote can cause an allergic reaction in some people who are sensitive to nuts and seeds.

Tacos using daikon radish for shells. You could use jicama, but it's so mild, we think background spiciness of the daikon really punches it up. Serves 3-4

Taco salad

I used the recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen for the
Achiote Paste
2 TB achiote seeds
2 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1.5 tsp dried oregano, preferably Mexican
3 TB apple cider vinegar
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 rounded tsp kosher salt

Taco & Salad Ingredients
1 lb pasture raised ground beef
2 TB plus 1 tsp achiote paste
2 healthy pinches dried oregano, crumbled between your fingers
1/2 tsp kosher salt
green or red leaf lettuce, wide chiffonade
daikon radish, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandoline for tacos, or julienned for salad
8-10 red radishes, sliced, for salad

Grind the achiote seeds and allspice as finely as possible in a spice grinder. Put in a small bowl and mix in the pepper, oregano and vinegar. Chop the garlic, sprinkle with salt, and then worth the two into a smooth paste, alternately mincing and using the flat side of your knife. Scoop the achiote mixture onto the garlic & work them together, drizzling with 1 or 2 TB water to make a thick, coarse paste.

The orange-red coloring you see is annato, often used as a food colorant. You'll have close to 1/2 c of achiote paste, and you'll only need a couple of TB, so save the rest for a pork shoulder rub or grilled fish tacos.

Brown the ground beef in a large (10-12") skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up finely, cooking off all the moisture released, and getting good color/caramelization on the meat. Reduce heat to medium. Add the achiote paste, oregano and salt. Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes so the heat really releases the flavors of the allspice, achiote and oregano. Add 1 + 1/4 c water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated, leaving just a little bit of sauce in the pan. The longer and slower you simmer, the more the meat will absorb all the flavors.

Assemble the tacos or salads as shown in the pictures above.

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