Why It Works
- A homemade chili oil adds flavor to the tacos without adding extra moisture (which can harm the tortillas).
- Ensuring that the fillings are on the drier side guarantees tacos that come out perfect.
- Plenty of salsa served on the side adds moisture.
Tacos may not seem like the kind of food that you should assemble an hour before eating, which is why I've never thought of them as a particularly good potluck dish. But that's because, until recently, I'd never encountered tacos de canasta, a special variety of taco sold by bicycle vendors in Mexico that are made in advance and get better as they sit. This is the potluck taco you've been waiting for.
The fillings suggested here, such as refried beans and beef barbacoa, are just suggestions: you can fill the tacos with any fillings you desire. Mashed potatoes with crumbled chorizo is another very popular option. Meats best cooked to lower temperatures (like carne asada) do not work well here.
Because the tacos aren't reheated before serving, it's important to let them stand for 1 hour and then serve right away.
- 50 corn tortillas, portioned into groups of 10, each wrapped well in foil
- 2 medium white onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups), divided
- 3 medium cloves garlic
- 6 dried guajillo chilies, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups canola, vegetable, or other neutral oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- Fillings as desired (see note)
- Salsa verde or other salsas, for serving
Preheat oven to 300°F. Set foil-wrapped tortillas in oven and allow to warm for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a dry cast iron skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Add half of the sliced onion, all of the garlic, and all of the chilies and cook, stirring occasionally, until blackened and charred in spots. Add 1 cup oil and fry over medium-high heat until garlic and onions are browned and softened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add remaining 1 cup oil and a large pinch of salt, and blend to a smooth puree. Transfer chili oil to a small saucepan and keep hot, stirring occasionally so solids don't scorch.
Line basket with a cloth or blanket that's large enough for ample over-hanging fabric. Line cloth with a clean plastic bag. Line plastic with sheets of butcher paper.
Working in batches, remove a packet of tortillas from the oven. Quickly fill each tortilla with beans or barbacoa, fold it in half to seal the filling, and set the tacos in the lined basket. When 1 layer of tacos is complete, scatter with some of the remaining sliced onion and drizzle hot chili oil on top. Repeat with remaining tortillas, fillings, onion, and oil, until basket is full.
Fold butcher paper over tacos, then twist and seal plastic bag closed, pushing out any excess air. Finally fold overhanging cloth over tacos to create a tidy packed basket. Let stand for 1 hour, then open basket and serve tacos immediately, passing plenty of salsa on the side.
blender, basket or plastic container (approximately 9-by-13-by-6-inches), clean plastic garbage bag for lining basket, 1 or 2 large sheets butcher or deli paper (un-waxed) for lining basket
To fill the tacos, long-cooked braised or simmered dishes drained of excess moisture tend to do best. I'd suggest refried beans, beef barbacoa, carnitas, or chicken tinga. For the braised meats, place the cooked meat in a colander set above a bowl and press with the back of a ladle to drain excess sauce. The sauce can be reserved and served with the tacos on the side.