January marks the beginning of a brand new year, fresh with opportunity and sometimes some changes. Our 5 Star make over group is taking the opportunity to embrace a little bit of change, and have reorganized under a new name: Creative Cooking Crew. Our goal each month is to create original dishes inspired by a mutual theme. Laz of Lazaro Cooks and Joan of Foodalogue will graciously host our monthly roundups so that you can see what we have all come up with!
This months challenge: “Choose one of your favorite rich, heavy, fatty animal-protein based meals and give it a healthy VEGAN spin.”
With the snow and cold weather we have had (in-between 70 degree days), I have been missing the beach A LOT! One of my favorite things to eat when I’m in southern California or Mexico are Baja style fish tacos. An indulgent treat: battered and fried strips of succulent halibut nestled into warm corn tortillas with avocados, crema, and salsa fresca.
It’s the combination of textures and flavors in fish tacos that really do it for me. Now the challenge: could I capture that same experience with tofu instead of fish and make it vegan?
Actually….yes! To recreate that batter fried finish I dusted the tofu strips in almond meal before cooking in coconut oil which gave them a crispy bite. I added some habanero and lots of lime to the Beet & Carrot Slaw that topped the tofu. The avocado mash provided a creamy balance to the whole thing, so I never missed the crema.
The only thing I did miss? The margarita I usually have along with the tacos at the beach. Will have to make them again and fix that.
One of the many things I miss about living in California is the Mexican food. Sure we have Mexican restaurants here in Richmond, but none that measure up to the ones I left behind, like Tony’s Jacal in Solana Beach. Around since 1946, they are a family business offering up home cooked specialties like Pulled Turkey Tacos, Chile Rellenos, and some of the best Chicken Mole I have ever had. –Their margaritas are pretty good too…
Tony’s is far far away from here, and the visits back to California don’t come often enough for me, so when I am craving Mexican, I do my best to recapture those flavors by cooking my favorites at home. Not the same, and I don’t have Solana Beach out my back door, but I do manage to come close, and Jeff”s margaritas are pretty killer.
Mole is made with a combination of chilies, spices, nuts, and chocolate; ingredients that are simmered together to produce a sauce that is rich, complex, and velvety smooth. Chicken and turkey are natural partners for mole sauce, and pretty amazing when shredded and wrapped up together in a warm tortilla.
My labradoodle Lilly thinks Chicken Mole Tacos are pretty special too; ( notice her nose in the upper right of this photo? ha ha ) she was really interested in what I was doing while shooting the pics for this post.
Mole freezes very well, so I like to make a big batch. When I have a busy day and need a quick dinner, I will pull some of that mole out of the freezer and pick up a store bought rotisserie chicken to shred. Though they aren’t Tony’s Jacal tacos, they are a family favorite around here, and help satisfy my craving for authentic Mexican cooking.
2 ounces dried pasilla chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
1 ounce dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed
⅛ cup raisins
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ of a 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped
Warm flour tortillas
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced romaine leaves
½ of a small red onion, finely chopped
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken to pot; sauté until lightly browned, adding more oil by tablespoonfuls as needed, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to large bowl.
Return chicken and any juices to pot. Add broth and orange juice; bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes. Transfer chicken to platter, reserving cooking liquid until cool enough to handle. Coarsely shred chicken.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes. Add chiles and stir until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes.
Pour reserved chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture (reserve pot). Add raisins, and oregano to saucepan. Cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth; return to reserved pot. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over low heat before serving.
Place 2 tortillas on each plate. Spoon shredded chicken in the center of each tortilla. Spoon desired amount of mole sauce over chicken. Top with romaine lettuce, avocado, and red onion