Amor y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas, and Antojitos
I have an exciting announcement to make: I’ve never enjoyed a cookbook as thoroughly as I have Deborah Schneider’s Amor y Tacos. I grew up eating Mexican food nearly every day, and as an adult, I still make homemade Mexican food the way my father taught me at least two times a week—not the gloppy, heavy Americanized stuff full of cheddar cheese and sour cream, but simple, hearty, good-for-you-food that’s easy to make and even easier on your budget. This is exactly why I’ve fallen madly in love with Schneider’s cookbook; though a majority of the dishes require a bit of prep work, the meals come together quickly in the end and she effortlessly showcases affordable, accessible, and delicious modern Mexican food.
Another reason to love Amor y Tacos: Schneider focuses heavily on Mexican street food, which is the best food Mexico has to offer and just so happens to be a personal obsession of mine. I went crazy testing recipes from this book; I wanted to make everything in it, but I’m going to try to show some restraint and just talk about a few of the dishes, all of which were from the Antojitos (think appetizers), Tacos, and Salsa chapters.
Generally, I try to stay away from fast food, but I’ve somehow convinced myself that eating outrageously unhealthy food is okay—as long as I’ve made it in my own kitchen and kept a close eye on the amount of salt, fat, and other worrisome cooking essentials that quickly make "good" food “bad.” Admittedly, not all of the street food featured in the book is good for you or what some would refer to as “authentic Mexican.” This is because, like all culinary cultures, there’s a lot of borrowing, and if it’s a dish genuinely served on the streets of Mexico, it’s good (and authentic) enough for me.
All of this is just to say that the first recipe I tackled was for something seemingly American and ridiculously bad for you: Schneider’s Mexican Hot Dog with Chipotle Ketchup, otherwise known as the Perro Caliente. In short: a bacon wrapped hot dog encased in a bun that’s been slathered with garlic mayo and griddled. All of this fatty goodness gets topped with pickled jalapenos, pico de gallo salsa (diced Roma tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice), and a tart, spicy ketchup spiked with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I feel the need to point out that I will never again be able to eat a hot dog unless it’s topped with pico de gallo; it’s a marriage made in heaven. It’s that little bit of crunchy, juicy freshness that cuts through the fat and makes a hot dog more than just a hot dog.
Another standout was the Shrimp Taco Dorado, and like all of the tacos in Schneider’s book, what really makes them pop are the interesting salsas she chooses to accompany them. Pico de gallo is pretty customary for tacos, but Schneider’s shrimp tacos also get topped with guacamole that’s spiked with mangoes, tequila, and goat cheese, as well as mango habanero salsa, chipotle salsa, and a few cilantro sprigs. To me, it’s these simple, easy, yet slightly labor intensive accompaniments that really elevate the tacos to something special.
I wouldn’t be doing the book justice if I didn’t mention the Carne Asada Taco Vampiro. It’s never really explained why this super taco gets called a vampire, but who cares when you’re sinking your teeth into what is essentially a quesadilla wrapped around juicy grilled carne asada and topped with guacamole, chipotle salsa, pico de gallo, cotixa cheese, and a sprinkling of the ever ubiquitous cilantro? Seriously, life doesn’t get any better than that.