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The Food Lab Rapido: Mexican Chorizo Tacos

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Spicy and vinegary fresh Mexican chorizo stuffed into charred corn tortillas. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

As a lover of all things juicy-with-crisp-edges-wrapped-in-a-carb, tacos are high on my list of greatest-form-of-food-ever.

Actually, I take that back. I don't love all things juicy-with-crisp-edges-wrapped-in-a-carb, but I do love all things juicy-with-crisp-edges-wrapped-in-a-carb-when-executed-perfectly, which severely limits the pool. Take your average New York taqueria for instance. Unless I've been there a few times before or I'm going on trusted intel, it's a total crap shoot. Are those carnitas going to be juicy and crisp, or dry and stringy? Does the beef tongue get turned over fast enough that it tastes like the beefiest of beefs as it should, or will it have that slightly warmed-over, too-long-in-the-freezer funk to it?

You just never know. Which is why when I hit up a new taco joint, I always order at least one chorizo taco. I consider it my safety. Chorizo tacos are one of those things that is so simple to make and so difficult to screw up that unless the meat is outright rotten, I'm guaranteed to get something tasty, even if it's not the best in the world.

Same holds true for homemade chorizo tacos. They aren't as richly complex as carnitas or barbacoa, and they don't have quite the crisp-tender sweet-savory balance of real deal tacos al pastor or any number of other tacos, but they've got a big advantage: they're really easy to make, and no matter how hard you try, they're really, really difficult to mess up.

All you've got to do is season some pork shoulder, let it sit overnight, grind it, and fry it. No fancy marinades, no low-slow cooking, no need to fire up the grill and make elaborate charcoal arrangements—just mix, grind, fry. Wand to make 'em even faster? Just use ground pork. The tacos won't be quite as succulent and juicy as grinding fresh, but it's chorizo. Combine pork with garlic, cumin, some warm spices, oregano, and vinegar, and how can it help but not be delicious?

My recipe is loosely based on this recipe from Josh Bousel, though his is designed to be stuffed into casings and cooked whole, while mine is meant to be a quick, loose sausage.

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I fry a few extra onions and poblano peppers in with my sausage mixture and serve it all on a charred corn tortilla with salsa verde, Mexican crema, cilantro, raw onions, and queso fresco when my wife is watching me, and straight up with a microwaved tortilla late night after she's gone to sleep. I suggest you try it both ways and come to your own conclusions.

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