Beer Tacos

Cooking with Beer by | Aug 2012 | Issue #67

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

It’s hard not to think of tacos when Mexican street food is mentioned. A warm tortilla filled with melted cheese, seasoned meat, some salsa and maybe a dice of white onion and chopped cilantro. Simple, pure and classic, wrapped in an easy-to-eat package.

Here are a few foundational recipes that will lead the way to beer taco heaven. Try the Red Chili Black Bean and Amber Ale Corn Tortillas filled with the Stout Chipotle Ground Wagyu Beef taco filling, adding in some grated cheddar cheese, torn Oaxaca cheese, a drizzle of the remaining Stout Chipotle Salsa and a dice of red onions. This combination makes an incredible dinner with a Latin flare. Another option is the Roasted Green Chili, Garlic and Pale Ale Flour Tortillas with some beer-battered Baja fish fillets. Top the fish with the Avocado Cilantro IPA Aioli [Cuisine, issue #65], some thinly sliced green cabbage, a few slices of radish and a roasted tomato salsa, and you have one of the best Baja fish tacos out there. But this is just the beginning … What will you come up with?

Red Chili Black Bean and Amber Ale Corn Tortillas
While tortillas can always be bought, these homemade tortillas have a great red adobe color, with a touch of spice and a few specs of black bean skin to add texture to the finished tortilla and the final taco presentation.

Makes: 14 corn tortillas

3 each chilies, dried, Chile Negro Entero, stems removed and seeded
12 oz Tröegs Nugget Nectar Imperial Amber Ale, Drake’s Amber Ale or other Amber-style beer
2 cups masa harina (instant corn masa flour)
1/2 cup black beans, cooked, canned, drained, rinsed and dried
1 tsp kosher salt

In a cast iron skillet or griddle, over medium heat, toast the cleaned and prepped dried chilies, pressing them down with a pair of tongs until the chilies become soft and plyable. Remove to a quart-size jar and cover in the hottest tap water from the sink. Make sure all the chilies are covered by the water and let sit for 20–30 minutes, until they are rehydrated. Pour off the chili water and add the soft chilies to the pitcher of a blender, along with the Amber Ale. Purée the mixture until the chilies are fully incorporated into the beer.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the masa harina, black beans and salt. Use a paddle attachment set to low speed and mix for a minute. Slowly add in the chili beer purée and continue to mix until the dough has the consistency of fresh playdough—soft, spongy, but not sticky. Divide the dough into 14 portions, about 1 1/2 ounces each, rolled into balls. Cover with a damp towel, making sure not to dry out the dough. Take a gallon Ziploc-style plastic bag and cut off the sides and zip top, leaving the bottom uncut. Place a ball of dough into the center of the plastic. Place the plastic into the center of a tortilla press and squeeze the dough to a 6-inch disc, about 1/8 thick. Carefully remove one side of the plastic sheet, and then unroll the top curve of the tortilla onto the edge of the index finger of the other hand, slowly pulling away the remaining sheet.

Then, set the tortilla onto a preheated ungreased cast iron or nonstick skillet/sauté pan over medium heat. As the tortilla’s bottom edge touches the pan, roll the palm away from the pan, releasing the tortilla. This might take a few tries, much like making crêpes; you might lose the first one or two. Cook the tortillas on the first side for about 1 1/2 minutes, then flip and cook for another 30 seconds. Transfer to a clean, lightly moist dish towel and repeat. With practice, you’ll probably get into a rhythm and be able to make and cook a tortilla in about the same amount of time.

Roasted Green Chili Garlic Pale Ale Flour Tortillas
There’s nothing like a fresh tortilla right off a comal!

Makes: 12 8-inch flour tortillas

1/4 cup roasted green chilies, canned, any liquid drained
12 oz Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or other Pale Ale (at room temperature)
3 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose (plus extra for rolling out the tortillas)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup lard, vegetable shortening or vegetable oil

Add the roasted green chilies to the pitcher of a blender, and pour in the Pale Ale. Pulse to start, and cut up the chilies until they are dissolved into the beer, about a minute.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, baking powder and lard/oil. Mix or pulse until the fat has been cut into the flour, much like Southern-style biscuits or pie crust. Slowly add the green chili beer purée and blend until it forms into dough (add more flour if needed, to get a soft dough that isn’t too sticky or too dry, or add a touch of beer or water). Remove the dough and kneed by hand for a few minutes (using some flour on the work surface to prevent hands from sticking). The consistency should be that of a soft bread dough, but still holding its shape.

Place the dough into a plastic bag or under a clean damp dish towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. Remove the dough and divide into 12 equal-size balls, about 2 1/2 ounces each. Using a rolling pin lightly dusted with flour, roll out each portion into a circle, about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough begins to shrink back as it is rolled out, set it aside for a few minutes to allow the gluten to rest. Roll out the remaining dough balls.

Place a cast iron skillet or flat top over medium heat. Place each tortilla onto the ungreased surface, and let cook on each side for 45–75 seconds. The bottom will slightly blister, creating air bubbles and light brown spots. Flip and cook about the same time. Place the finished tortillas under a clean dish towel to keep warm for serving. These can be made in advance and rewarmed in a 200°F for about 10 minutes, and removed right before serving.

• Use these tortillas to make a soft taco, filled with your favorite fillings.
• Make a quesadilla with torn Oaxaca cheese (similar to string cheese), goat cheese and a grilled, sliced beer-brined chicken breast. Top with IPA Guacamole and some sour cream.
• Great for homemade burritos

Stout Chipotle Ground Wagyu Beef Taco Filling
This filling is layered with a variety of traditional spices, textures and flavors that are sure to satisfy anyone’s nostalgic craving for a taco. The Stout adds a wonderful roast/coffee/espresso/chocolate element to the earthiness and smokiness of the dried chilies, and mixed with the full-flavored wagyu beef, elevates this taco to a whole new level.

Makes: enough filling for 12 6-inch tacos

Stout Chipotle Salsa Ingredients:
5 each chilies, dried, Chile Negro Entero, stems removed and seeded
3 each tomatoes, roma, ripe
1-3 each chipotles, canned in adobo sauce (depending on heat tolerance)
1 each pickled jalapeño pepper, stem removed
1 tsp oregano, Mexican, dried
1 tsp roasted garlic powder, Savory Spice Co. (or regular garlic powder)
1 tsp kosher salt
12 oz Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout or other Stout
1 each key lime, fresh

Stout Chipotle Salsa Directions:
For the dried chilies, follow the directions in the Red Chili Black Bean and Amber Ale Corn Tortilla recipe. After the chilies are roasted and hydrated, add them to the pitcher of a blender. Roast the roma tomatoes on the stovetop in the same skillet used to toast the chilies, turning them every 3-4 minutes, blackening the outside skin. Add the roasted tomatoes, canned chipotle peppers (more or less depending on taste, and some of the adobo sauce), pickled jalapeño pepper, oregano, roasted garlic powder, salt and the Stout. Purée the mixture on high, until the chilies are completely dissolved in the salsa and it turns a deep, dark red hue. Reserve 1 cup of the salsa in a serving bowl or glass jar, add the juice of a key lime and mix together. Use this mixture with the finished taco as its salsa.

Taco Filling Ingredients:
1 tsp coriander seeds, whole
1 tsp cumin seeds, whole
2 tbsp lard or vegetable oil
1 each onion, yellow, medium, peeled and diced
1 1/2 lb. wagyu- or Kobe-style ground beef, or grass-fed beef
1 tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
1-2 each key limes, juiced

Taco Filling Directions:
In a large skillet or sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add the coriander and cumin seeds. Constantly shake the pan to toast the seeds evenly. The seeds are done when the aroma of the toasted seeds fills the kitchen, and a few of the seeds are popping. Transfer seeds to a spice grinder or mortar & pestle, allowing to cool and then grinding to a fine powder. Add the lard or oil to the same skillet and add the onions, cooking till they are caramelized, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef (or other favorite protein like lamb, turkey thighs, bison, buffalo or venison) and brown evenly, about 6 minutes. Add the ground spices to the pan, and cook another minute. Add the remaining 3 cups of the Stout Chipotle Salsa to the pan, and stir to combine.

Turn the heat to low and let the mixture simmer until the salsa has reduced by 2/3 of its original volume, but the meat is still moist, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in the remaining cilantro and lime juice, adjusting the salt if needed. Serve immediately.