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Food

Mushrooms star in this easy recipe from Tacos 1986

Tacos 1986 tacos al hongo
You can make these tacos with sliced button mushrooms, left, or maitakes.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

“My favorite taco filling — the one that eventually might be included among the essentials of the Los Angeles taco lexicon — is the hongos, or mushrooms. They’re as glossy and coiled as snails, leaving inky trails across a tortilla. They aren’t slimy at all, though, and they’ve soaked up spicy depths.”
— Bill Addison in his review of Tacos 1986

Jorge Alvarez-Tostado sears the mushrooms for his tacos de hongos until they’re as crisp as chips, then soaks them with a salsa macha vinaigrette. To really sear mushrooms — he sometimes uses maitakes, sometimes sliced buttons — you need to season them after cooking. Salt draws out their moisture, so seasoning while cooking causes them to steam. Salting at the end avoids that, and a soak in the salsa macha-turned-vinaigrette renders them into something ethereal.

Tacos 1986 Tacos al Hongo

35 minutes. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound maitake or sliced button mushrooms
  • Grapeseed or another neutral-tasting vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Salsa Macha (recipe follows), plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 yellow corn tortillas, warmed
  • Guacamole, diced white onion and cilantro sprigs, for serving

Instructions

  1. Rub the oregano between your fingers into a small bowl to crush the leaves. Add the salt and rub together to crush the leaves a bit more.
  2. If using maitakes, cut or tear them into 1-inch pieces. Heat a large cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough grapeseed oil to generously coat the bottom. When the oil shimmers, add half the mushrooms in a single layer. Cook, without turning, until deeply browned and crisp on the bottoms, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip the mushrooms and brown the other sides, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet in a single layer and immediately sprinkle with half the oregano salt. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, adding more oil to the skillet, and season with the remaining oregano salt.
  3. Mix the Salsa Macha, vinegar and oil in a large bowl until the oil is emulsified. Add the seasoned mushrooms and stir until evenly coated. Let stand for 15 minutes to absorb the flavors. Stuff the mushrooms into the tortillas and top with guacamole, onion and cilantro. Serve immediately with more Salsa Macha.
cooking
Salsa macha can be spooned over anything.
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Salsa Macha

10 minutes. Makes about 1 ½ cups.

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Mixing toasted dried chiles with fresh uncooked olive oil results in a salsa that’s more like a sambal or chile oil. While salsa macha often includes nuts, this version uses sesame seeds to impart a nutty taste. Orange zest and juice stand in for the usual vinegar and give the mix a refreshing tang.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ ounces dried ancho chiles, stemmed
  • 1 ounce dried cascabel or guajillo chiles, stemmed
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 small orange

Instructions

  1. Heat a comal or large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place both chiles and the garlic on the hot surface in a single layer. Toast, turning often, until the chiles are brittle and a shade darker and the garlic is blistered in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Transfer the chiles and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and add the oil, sesame seeds and salt. Pulse until well mixed. Zest the orange peel directly into the processor, then halve the orange and squeeze in its juice. Pulse once or twice just to incorporate. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Make ahead: The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Adapted from Jorge Alvarez-Tostado.


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