As taco fillings go, meat and fish get most of the love, but don’t overlook vegetables. Not just the obligatory grilled peppers and squash at typical taco joints — I’m talking about leafy greens, a filling I’d never encountered until recently. In Mexican Everyday, Rick Bayless says that simply braised greens are a traditional element of the cooking of central Mexico’s highlands. These recipes follow Bayless’s lead, using braised Swiss chard as a taco filling, along with charred onions and cheese. I hope you find them as satisfying — and revelatory — as I do.
Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling
Makes about 2 cups
Bunches of chard vary in size; I buy larger ones to make sure I have enough. As a guide, 1 to1½ pounds yielded the 2 quarts of chopped leaves called for in this recipe, which is adapted from Mexican Everyday.
|2||tablespoons olive oil|
|1||large onion, halved pole to pole and sliced lengthwise|
|1½||pounds Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated, stems thinly sliced and leaves chopped (about 2 quarts, lightly packed)|
|1½||tablespoons (about 7 medium cloves) pressed or grated garlic|
|½||teaspoon red pepper flakes|
|½||teaspoon ground cumin|
|½||cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)|
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, chard stems, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until dark at the edges and softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the broth, chard leaves, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the greens are very tender, about 3 minutes longer. Remove the cover, adjust the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated and the greens appear drier, about 3 to 4 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt if necessary, and serve.
In these variations, I’m introducing serrano chile with charred grape tomatoes and poblano peppers with crema to the basic recipe.
Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling With Serrano Chile and Charred Tomatoes
Makes about 3 cups
Inspired by a recipe from another Mexican cooking authority, Diana Kennedy, I prefer to leave out the salsa when making tacos with this variation so I can really taste the tomatoes.
Follow the recipe for Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling, making the following changes:
1) First, halve 1 medium serrano chile lengthwise and, if desired, remove the seeds and ribs (for a milder spice). Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the serrano, cut sides down, and cook, pressing with a spatula two or three times but not flipping, until well charred, about 4 minutes. Remove from the skillet and, when cool enough to handle, mince and set aside.
2) Add another 2 teaspoons olive oil to the skillet, return it to medium-high heat, and heat until shimmering. Add 1½ cups halved grape tomatoes and spread into a single layer, cut sides down. Adjust the heat to high and cook, undisturbed, until the cut sides are well charred, about 2 or 3 minutes. Scrape the tomatoes onto a plate, set aside, and proceed with the recipe.
3) Substitute the charred, +minced serrano chile for the red pepper flakes.
4) Just before serving, add the charred tomatoes to the Swiss chard in the skillet and cook, stirring, until they’re warmed through. Serve at once.
Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling With Roasted Poblanos and Crema
Makes about 2¼ cups
Char, peel, seed, and chop five medium poblano peppers first, so they’ll be ready when you need them.
Next, follow the recipe for Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling, making the following changes:
1) Omit the red pepper flakes.
2) When you remove the cover from the skillet, add the prepared poblano peppers.
3) Just before serving, add 1/3 cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper and stir to incorporate. Serve at once.
TIP: WARMED TORTILLAS, EN MASSE
Mexican-Style Swiss Chard, Charred Onion, and Cheese Tacos
Serves 4 (2 tacos each)
If you want more substance, add a bit of cubed or shredded meat of your choice. Scrambled eggs would also be delicious. If you fill the tacos with the serrano-and-tomato variation, consider omitting the salsa so you can really taste the tomatoes. Likewise, think about substituting stronger, saltier Cotija cheese for the queso fresco if you use the poblano-and-crema variation.
|2||teaspoons olive oil|
|1||medium-large onion, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick slices|
|8||6-inch corn tortillas, warmed|
|2||cups (about 1 recipe) Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling (any variation)|
|¾||cup crumbled queso fresco or grated Monterey jack, pepper jack, Colby, or Colby jack cheese|
|¾||cup roasted-chile salsa of choice|
|½||cup thinly sliced scallion whites and greens (about 4 medium)|
In a medium heavy nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion slices in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until charred on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook, undisturbed, until the second side is charred, about 3 minutes longer. Cool the onions briefly, cut the slices in half, and set aside.
Set two warm tortillas on each of four plates. Fill each tortilla with about ¼ cup Mexican-Style Swiss Chard Taco Filling, about 1 tablespoon each of cheese and salsa, and a few strips of charred onion. Sprinkle each with about 1 tablespoon scallions and serve at once.Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.” Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the best of the magazine’s award-winning stories and features right in your e-mail inbox every Sunday. Sign up here.