Tequila-Battered Cauliflower Tacos with Chimichurri and Chipotle Mayonnaise

Makes 12 small tacos

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe appears in my memoir, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From a Latino Chef.

Another vegetarian dish that stands out on our menu at Johnny Sánchez is this crave-worthy, complex, and crushable tequila-spiked taco. And you don’t have to take my word for it; there’s a local taco competition in New Orleans, in which many of the city’s best taquerias and Mexican restaurants participate. This won Top Taco two years in a row.

INGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup (120 ml) lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided

  • 2 jalapeños

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

  • 2 green onions, coarsely chopped

  • 1 cup (50 g) flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained; reserve 1 tablespoon caper brine

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) grapeseed oil

  • 3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped

  • ½ cup (120 g) mayonnaise

  • 2 quarts (2 L) canola or vegetable oil for frying

  • 2 cups (320 g) rice flour

  • 1 cup (130 g) cornstarch

  • 2 cups (480 ml) club soda, divided

  • 3 tablespoons silver tequila

  • 1 whole head cauliflower, cut into florets (halve or quarter any very large pieces)

  • 12 small corn tortillas

  • 1 cup (95 g) queso fresco, shredded

  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the pickled jalapeños: In a nonreactive cup, combine the lime juice and sugar with 1 teaspoon salt. Reserve half a jalapeño for the chimichurri and thinly slice the rest. Stir into the lime juice (weight down with a small bowl if they won’t stay submerged) and set aside for 1 hour.

  2. Make the chimichurri: In a food processor, combine the cilantro, green onions, parsley, reserved jalapeño, garlic, vinegar, capers and brine, and 1 teaspoon salt. Process until the herbs are finely, evenly chopped; while the processor is running, stream in the olive oil and grapeseed oil. Transfer to a large bowl.

  3. Make the chipotle mayo: Stir the chipotles into the mayonnaise.

  4. Pour the canola oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot (it should be at least 3 inches/7.5 cm deep) and clip a thermometer to the side. Line a baking sheet with paper towels or a wire rack. Bring the oil to 375°F (190°C) over medium-high heat.

  5. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, with a wire whisk, mix the rice flour, cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in half the club soda along with the tequila, then gradually add more club soda until the batter is pourable but not runny; you might not need the full amount.

  6. Dredge the cauliflower florets in the batter. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the pot, fry the florets until crispy and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or spider, transfer them to the lined plate and season immediately with a bit of salt.

  7. Toss the fried cauliflower in the chimichurri. To toast the tortillas, set them directly over a gas burner on medium heat, watching closely to make sure they blister in places but don’t burn. Smear with the spicy mayonnaise, fill with cauliflower, and garnish with the pickled jalapeños, queso fresco, and a squeeze of lime.


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