While exploring the taco scene in Los Angeles, we learned just how wide of a world filled tortillas could be.
Corn tortillas filled with stingray. Hard-shell tacos shaped like baskets. Middle Eastern-influenced tacos Árabes with meat cooked on a spit with onion, Oaxacan cheese, avocado and chili salsa.
Particularly memorable were the flautas, deep-fried flute-shaped tacos with lamb, chicken, chorizo or potato that are also called tacos dorados (which means golden). Crunchy and satisfying, the flautas came topped with salsa roja, guacamole and cotija cheese.
For weeknights, however, we typically avoid the mess of deep-frying. So for this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we experimented with swapping deep-frying for the oven. And we were delighted with the crispy results.
We keep the filling simple, with roughly mashed potatoes and shredded cheese, but we amp it with two flavor-packed pantry ingredients — canned chipotle chilies and the smoky sauce they are packed in. It’s like two ingredients in one. Pickled jalapeños offer yet another layer of tangy heat.
Since we don’t deep-fry them, there’s no need to roll the filled tortillas into tubes; spooning the filling over one half of a flour tortilla and folding it over will do. Cooked on a greased baking sheet in a 475°F oven, our tacos bake up golden and crispy — with all the flavor of L.A., but none of the hassle of deep-frying.
Oven-fried potato and cheese Tacos Dorados
Start to finish: 55 minutes (40 minutes active)
5 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped, plus cilantro leaves to serve
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 to 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, chopped, plus 1 tablespoon brine
1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Eight 6-inch flour tortillas
8 ounces cheddar OR Monterey jack cheese, shredded (2 cups)
Shredded iceberg lettuce, to serve
Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with 3 tablespoons oil. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the potatoes, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned and fully tender, about 12 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and lightly mash the potatoes. Stir in the cilantro, scallions, pickled jalapeños and their brine, chipotle and adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Divide the potato filling evenly among the tortillas (about a scant ¼ cup each) and spread it to cover half of each tortilla, then sprinkle with the cheese, dividing it evenly. Fold the unfilled sides over. Arrange the filled tortillas on the prepared baking sheet, then flip each one so both sides are coated with oil.
Bake until the tacos begin to brown and crisp on the bottoms, about 9 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, flip each taco. Continue to bake until browned on the second sides, about another 3 minutes. Transfer the tacos directly to a wire rack and cool for about 5 minutes. Serve topped with the lettuce and cilantro leaves.
Optional garnish: Diced avocado (or guacamole) OR sour cream OR salsa OR hot sauce OR a combination
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