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Mexican chorizo – basically sausage spiked with a ton of red chile and some vinegar, then fried right before eating – is a wonderful thing. And chorizo y papas, Mexican chorizo mixed up with cooked potatoes – is one of my favorite fillings for tacos and burritos. The potatoes soak up some of the heat and spice (and also oil) from the chorizo, and when you throw on some sweet, crunchy onions; bright, fresh cilantro; and cut the whole thing with acid from hot sauce (I like Cholula, but use whatever) and lime juice, it’s all just very delicious.
This is my second recipe to use the freeze/thaw/press/rinse/crumble technique (along with my vegan mapo tofu) for making a tofu substitute for ground meat (which I learned about here). I’m not usually a fan of meat substitutes, but I love this trick, and in recipes that are heavily spiced (like this one and the mapo tofu, where the meat’s more texture than anything), it’s a totally satisfying substitution. Because while I don’t eat a strictly plant-based diet, I definitely appreciate not only the health benefits of tofu, but the cost benefits as well. (Seriously – the 1-pound block of tofu I used here cost $1.49, and any meat that cheap is scary business.) Sure, you have to have frozen tofu on hand, but I’ve just started buying a few blocks at the market, tossing them in the freezer, and then thawing as needed.
Don’t skimp on the oil, by the way – you’ll need it both to get a dark, crispy coating on the chorizo, and to help carry the flavor of the spices. And be sure to serve with whole pinto beans and Mexican rice.
Tacos de Chorizo y Papas (Vegan Chorizo and Potato Tacos)
- 16 ounces of firm tofu
- 8 dried chiles (ancho, guajillo, New Mexico, California - they'll all taste a little different, but whatever you have on hand is fine), seeds and stems removed
- 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/16 teaspoon ground cloves a dash
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, optional (basically if your dried chiles don't have any heat)
- 1 teaspoon of dried Mexican (or regular, if that's what you have) oregano
- 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
- 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
- 3 Tablespoons of cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup of red wine (or water)
- 1/4 cup of water
- 1 medium potato 6 ounces
- 3 Tablespoons of canola oil
- 4 small corn tortillas
- chopped onion, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, and hot sauce
- Put the tofu in the freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours. Remove from the freezer and thaw. (If you want to speed the thawing process up some, you can put it the package in a bowl of warm water for an hour.) Open the package, drain the tofu, and, working over a colander to catch any bits that might fall off, press the block of tofu between your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Rinse under cold running water, and squeeze again, repeating until the water coming out of the block is clear. Gather the tofu into a ball and squeeze out as much water as you can, then crumble until it looks like ground meat. Set aside.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot (a drop of water evaporates on contact), then toast the chiles, in batches if necessary, in the pan until fragrant and a touch darkened, around 30 seconds a side. Transfer to a blender or food processor, add in the spices, salt, and cornstarch, and pulse until finely ground. Add the vinegar, wine, and water, and process until smooth. Press the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Combine with the crumbled tofu and mix everything together thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight. (Or don't, if you don't have time. This step helps the flavors mellow and develop, but you can absolutely skip it if this is all for tonight's dinner.)
- Peel the potato and chop into bite-sized pieces. Put in a small pot, cover with salted water, and boil until tender, around 7 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the tofu mixture to the pan, and give it all a good stir to incorporate the oil, then let it all cook, undisturbed, until the bottom starts to brown and get a little crispy. Stir it up and let it cook some more, repeating until you have a pan of nicely browned, red chorizo, around 20 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and cook until the potatoes are coated with chorizo and heated through.
- In the meantime, heat up your tortillas. (You can do this however you want - in a skillet, in the oven, in a steamer, etc. To be 100% honest with you, if I'm only heating up a few tortillas I'm just as likely to microwave them for around 15 seconds per tortilla and call it a day.) Divide the chorizo y papas mixture among the tortillas, and serve topped with the onion and cilantro with the lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.
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