The humbler the fare, the more devoted its fans. Haute cuisine may win the critics’ stars, but one tasting menu often bleeds into the next, as fleeting and forgetful as molecular foam. We doubt any reviewers came to blows over an amuse bouche. Take a friend for tacos, though, and only one will do. Which one? Brace yourselves, luchadores — taco night is a battlefield. From truck, stand, or countertop, everyone has a favorite, and everyone has a reason. It’s the proper tortilla — abuela’s secret recipe! The spiciest salsa — smuggled straight from Oaxaca! The slowest-roasted al pastor — hours on the spit! A taco is a puzzle, and every piece counts. But perfection, to us, lies not in a single ingredient, but in the gestalt, the savory-spicy-saucy-slapped-together whole. And that’s what we offer in this month’s crate: not a single taco — we wouldn’t dare make such a claim — but a curated kit of the best bits with which to fix your own. Because when we pass by the Michelin-ed bistros and artisanal farm-to-tables, seeking out the divine, parking-lot glow of the taco stand, there’s one thing we all can agree on: all arguments end when we’re too busy eating.
Cajun “Surf & Turf” Taco Recipe Here
Carrot Chile Sauce // Tango // Brooklyn, NY
Carrots get no love. As the can of spinach needs its Popeye, carrots get their Bugs, animated incentive for kids to munch. (Let no one mention the baby carrot, those shorn and cutesy lap dogs of the veggie world.) But picky eaters don’t know what they’re missing. With a little spice, the tuber turns transcendent — what’s up doc is the heat level. We love those pickled escabeche cups tossed on taco plates, and most trucks worth their masa have ’em. We wish they had this sauce too. Here, carrots give more than crunch and color, but become a perfect vehicle for the extra spice, adding a nice, creamy body to an already perfect hot sauce. Drizzle it on tacos, grilled shrimp, or seared chicken, and eat your vegetables.
Pork Clouds // Bacon’s Heir // Atlanta, GA
As the humble taco proudly shows, the best bites can grow from barren earth. Stone soup, off cuts, leftovers — with a little knowhow, a lot of love (and, of course, the priceless seasoning of self-reliant making-do) forgotten foods can be made memorable. While generations of grandmas may have mastered the fried pig skin — and who are we to turn up our snouts at them — our favorite come from not from a master matriarch, but from a mechanical engineer. Cooked in olive oil with exotic malabar pepper, these cracklins are effervescent bursts of bacony flavor — humble gone haute, molecular gastronomic foam brought down to pig-sty level. Do pigs fly? These do.
Cajun Jambalaya Sauce // Hak’s // Los Angeles, CA
Grilling looks easy: meat plus flame, all out in the open. And yes, there’s a primal simplicity — call it caveman chic — that gives the humble grill its charm. But when it comes to soul, to meat that doesn’t merely fill bellies, but haunts dreams, the secret’s always in the sauce. Honed through generations spent sucking in smoke over blazing fires, the mysteries of barbecue sauce are coveted, for good reason, and the top grillers don’t share theirs easily. Lucky for you, this master griller (seriously, Hak’s founder has the Master Chef TV bonafides to prove it) has made great sauce as simple as opening a zip-top bag. Sauté some shrimp and caramelized onion slices until pink, then stir in this savory sauce and simmer for a few minutes more. Any caveman can do that.
Blackened Chicken Tacos Recipe Here
Chile Lime Spice // Spiceology // Spokane, WA
It starts, of course, with spice. And when it comes to the best tacos, it’s never as simple as amping the Scovilles. The powders may seem basic — any spice rack has ’em, and any home cook can shake in an extra kick of cayenne — but the blend’s the thing, and the perfect mix is as sublimely intangible as that one, transcendent bite. The pros’ secret is out. This chef-owned company, long known for supplying the best in the biz, brings their expertly curated concoctions to the home skillet. Their Chile Lime blend is a taco-night favorite, with sweet-sour orange peel, lime zest, and a sprinkle of brown sugar to balance the heat. It’s perfect on grilled corn with butter, sprinkled over griddled chicken while it sears, or simply ringing a michelada beer glass.
Recipe: Blackened Chicken Tacos Recipe
Beef Snack Sticks // Burger’s Smokehouse // California, MO
If tacos lack one thing, it’s portability. Usually, that’s not a problem. Eaten in a messy three-bite binge, standing in a crowded parking lot or hovered over a picnic table, a little mess doesn’t get in the way of taco-night delight. But when you need that spicy satisfaction that only a taco can bring — and you need it to-go — nothing beats jerky, the original road snack. Every culture has its take on cured meat made to travel, and while these are Yankee-born, don’t be fooled by their gringo pedigree. It’s the real thing. The Burger’s Smokehouse founder cured his first country hams back in the 1920s, and has been filling the family barn with them ever since. That same slow-cured spin gives smoky, salty, savory bite to these snacks — no napkin necessary.
Pacific Pickle Works Michelada With Burger’s Smokehouse Stir Stick Recipe Here
Michelada Shrub // Pacific Pickle Works // Santa Barbara, CA
For all the flavor of a top-tier taco, Mexican beer is typically as bland as Baja bathwater, meant to rinse out the spice of a good meal, not compete with it. But when you’d rather drink with a kick of its own, the michelada’s your man. A liquid lunch — a taco in boozy form — the michelada is the Superman to simple suds’ Clark Kent, a beer in a lucha libre mask. They can be simple — a splash of hot sauce, a spritz of lime — or they can be complex as a jungle of pickle spears, peppers, even clam juice. Pacific Pickle Works makes one of the best, and they make it easy: just dump an ounce of shrub into a salt-rimmed pint glass, top with lager, and enjoy.