Cinco de Mayo is this Saturday (May 5 — but you knew that, right?), so you know I have to make a classic taco at home this weekend — and you can, too. To find my inspiration, I stopped at Tacos Tequila Whiskey (1514 York Street) for some takeout tacos. The cantina, formerly known as Pinche Taqueria, also has locations at 215 East Seventh Avenue and 3300 West 32nd Avenue. I like ALL of their tacos, but many of them would be tough to re-create at home because of hours-long braising and complicated sauces. The first taco on the menu, the queso a la plancha, is an easy one and one that every street-taco lover should know.
Essentially, it's a grilled cheese taco, but you have to use the right kind of cheese — cotija — and you have to almost burn it. Not actually burn the cheese — but almost. It's a fine line, but if you can nail it, you'll be well rewarded.
To show off the beautiful char and taste of the cheese, keep the rest of the toppings simple. Tacos Tequila Whiskey serves it with just avocado and a salsa verde, but I also like to add some pickled onions for a little extra crunch. You can make it your own using the liquid from a jar of pickled jalapeños.
These are very different from your normal taco and are surprisingly light fare considering they are mostly cheese. You don't need a ton of cheese in each taco — a little goes a long way.
These tacos would be great for a Cinco de Mayo party this weekend. They are a quick and unique way to impress your dinner guests. Enjoy!
Queso a La Plancha (Grilled Cheese) Tacos
Makes 8 tacos
Total Time: 15 minutes
16 small corn tortillas, warmed
8-10 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled or sliced thin
Canola oil, for cooking
1 cup salsa verde
1 ripe avocado, mashed and seasoned
Sliced pickled red onion (directions below)
For pickled red onions (highly recommended), slice one small red onion into thin strips and stir together with a few tablespoons of juice from a jar of pickled jalapeños. Add a few jalapeños as well for extra spice. Let sit for at least 15 minutes, but longer is better.
To make tacos:
1. Slice or crumble the cheese. On a large nonstick skillet or griddle heated over medium heat, add a drizzle of oil and smear it evenly over the surface with a spatula. Add cheese to the surface. If you're using crumbled cheese, use the spatula to scoop the cheese into a tight circle as it starts to cook.
2. Cook the cheese, without messing with it too much, for 2-3 minutes over medium heat until it starts to visibly char around the edges.
3. Immediately move the cheese from the griddle to two warm tortillas (I like to double up my tacos). Serve the cheese crispy-side up to show off the char and texture.
4. Top tacos with mashed avocado, salsa verde and pickled onions. Serve immediately, hopefully with a margarita or shot of tequila.
Have an idea for a dish to re-create for DIY Takeout? Leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.