By Scott Leysath
There was a time when the tacos found in American restaurants were made exclusively with ground beef. In fast-food joints or sit-down eateries, a taco included meat that had been flavored with "taco seasoning" and then garnished with shredded lettuce and some type of cheese. My first taco came from a Jack in the Box restaurant, and after my first bite I wanted three more of those tasty tortillas. I've since learned that the deep-fried version of this traditional Mexican treat is a far cry from the real deal. And somehow, I doubt that you would ever find a slice of American cheese inside a south-of-the-border taco.
Long after that childhood fast-food taco, I tried a far more authentic version from a street vendor in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Thin-sliced grilled beef was pounded, seasoned, and quickly seared on a hot griddle. Once cooked, it was chopped and loaded into a small handmade tortilla and topped with a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Fast, simple, and delicious, Mexican street tacos are aptly named because they are meant to be eaten while standing. They are often served with two tortillas sandwiched together to keep the taco intact.
Today, we know that a corn or flour tortilla is a perfect place to mound any meat, fish, or wild game. One of the more popular meals at the Leysath house is our "famous" taco bar. A variety of grilled game meats are served along with tortillas, fresh avocado, salsas, slaw, lettuce, cheese, and any other fillings that I can harvest from the refrigerator or garden. This savory fare is served in mass quantities, but there are rarely any leftovers.
Although for tacos I do occasionally slow-roast large goose breasts until they are pot-roast tender, I prefer to cook them the way that I learned from the Mexican street vendor. Cut them into chunks and pound until flat. Apply a liberal amount of seasoning and slap them into a lightly oiled hot cast-iron skillet for about a minute or two per side. Chop and serve with your choice of a frosty-cold beverage; mine includes a squeeze of lime.
Duck or Goose Tacos
Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 8 average-sized or 12 small tacos
- 1 1/2 pounds skinless duck or goose breast fillets (about 3 cups)
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- Warm flour or corn tortillas
- Condiments such as salsa, lettuce or slaw, shredded cheese, lime, cilantro, and more
Lightly pound the breast fillets until they are about 1/4-inch thick. Rub with olive oil or vegetable oil and coat with taco seasoning. For additional flavor, wrap seasoned fillets with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.
Have all other ingredients ready to build tacos. Cook breast fillets over a white-hot grill or in a hot, lightly oiled skillet until they are just browned on both sides. Dice into dime-sized pieces and serve with your choice of condiments.
Making your own taco seasoning is quick and easy. Simply combine the following ingredients:
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1 tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons each paprika, cayenne pepper, and ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or any coarse salt)