I’m a copycat cook. The difference between me and people who really got it goin’ on is that I might be able to execute one of their dishes pretty darned well, but I could never think of them. I doubt I have ever made anything that I didn’t eat or see or read about somewhere before. It’s just not who I am. So when I found myself with a pile of really pretty, delicate scallions on my hands (or my cutting board, rather), my imagination was limited to the following cliches: using them to top a baked potato, grilling them along with a steak, the way they do in Mexico, or use them instead of onions in a tuna salad. Thankfully, I had the good sense to email a photo of my very pretty onions to my friend Jonathan and ask him what to do next.
Jonathan is one of the most creative cooks I know. He always thinks of things to do with foods that nobody else does (they copy him) and that never seem silly (because he is not). For my onions, he said this: “Now if it were me I’d make soup with the large ones and grilled onion tacos with the smaller ones.” Tacos. Who would have thought?
Because a taco is only as good as the tortilla it’s made with, I buy hand-patted, just0made corn tortillas from my local taqueria, Loteria. Charring various ingredients such as tomatillos and chilies and then pureeing them in a blender is the way many Mexican sauces are born. It sounds kind of intimidating and Aztec but once you’ve tried it, you’ll see that the results—the deep, charred flavor you get from it—is worth the small effort, and in fact, it’s the Umami of all Mexican cuisine, the secret, hidden flavor you’ve been waiting for all your life without even knowing it. Like love.
Smothered Green Onion Tacos
16 small green onions (whole)
2 yukon gold potatoes (peeled and sliced)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tomatillos (those are green tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic
2 mexican limes (aka: Key limes)
1 jalapeno chile
1 serrano chile
2 small vine ripened toamtoes
1 small bunch of cilantro (washed and put into two one-cup measures)
16 small corn tortillas
1, Wash the onions. Prepare a charcoal grill. When the coals are medium hot [don’t you love how he just assumes we use coals, not gas?), toss the onions and potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and grill until they are golden brown on all sides. Place the onions in a covered bowl and let rest for 1 hour. When tender, cut off and discard the root end, and dice the onions.
2. Wash the tomatillos and cut them in half. Put a griddle on the grill [this is Jonathan’s imitation of a Mexican comal, so if you have one of those, use it] and let it get very hot (about 10 minutes). Put a teaspoon of oil on the griddle and place the tomatillos outside down. Add the garlic, jalapeño, serrano, and the tomatoes and cook them until they are dark brown. Turn them over and cook them on the other sides until dark brown. Place the vegetables in a bowl, cover with a plate, and steam for one hour. Remove the chillies and discard the stems and the seeds.
3. Place the contents of bowl number two (the tomatoes, tomatoes, garlic, and chillies) in a blender with one cup of cilantro, 1/2 cup of the diced onions, and the juice of one lime. Pulse to make a salsa. Season with salt.
4. Warm the tortillas. Toss the remaining onions and potatoes with the salsa. Spoon the mixture into the tortillas (in other words: make a taco), and garnish with lime and cilantro, and eat. Buen provecho.