Combing the bold flavors of Mexico with the down-home cooking of the South

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Fried Chicken Tacos from "Turnip Greens & Tortillas" by Eddie Hernandez & Susan Puckett.

Camera icon Angie Mosier
“Turnip Greens & Tortillas” by Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett.

Turnip Greens & Tortillas
By Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett

I love Mexican food and Southern food,  butI  had never really considered a culinary mash-up of the two until I happily flipped through Eddie Hernandez’s inspired new book, Turnip Greens & Tortillas.

Eddie Hernandez, born and raised in Mexico, arrived in the U.S. chasing a rock-and-roll dream in Texas. The path changed along the way and he became a chef and restaurateur, opening the highly regarded Taqueria del Sol outlets in Georgia and Tennessee.  Hernandez makes use of what’s fresh, available, and affordable in a fun and delicious way. His creative cooking philosophy was inherited from his grandmother, who ran seven bars and convenience stores in Mexico.

What do you get when you combine the bold flavors of Mexico with the down-home cooking of the South?  Bold, honest, and soulful offerings in these 125-plus recipes. You’ll find fried green tomatoes with peach-habanero sauce, watermelon-jicama relish, hoppin’ Juan — Hernandez’s take on hoppin’ John — and maybe Eddie’s turnip greens, cooked with onions, garlic and chilies in homage to his beloved grandmother and how she cooked wild greens in Mexico.

There are chapters covering everything from breakfast to dessert, including an entire chapter on everyone’s favorite, the taco. Each recipe pays great attention to detail to balance and contrasting flavors. Some, like the beef brisket tacos, are authentically Mexican; others are Southern-inspired, like the Memphis tacos, slow-cooked pork served with barbecue sauce and cole slaw, and, my new favorite, fried chicken tacos, two of the most crave-worthy foods joined together in holy culinary matrimony.

Oh, the fried chicken tacos! With variations on chicken coatings and sauces, and a Nashville hot version, it’s up to you to try them all and see what makes you swoon.  First, select from seasoned flour, crunchy potato coating, and cracker coating for the chicken, and then choose a sauce.  Will it be jalapeno-lime mayonnaise, spicy Thousand Island, or a Tabasco-honey drizzle?

We found our winning fried chicken taco combination using the seasoned flour coating with the Tabasco-honey drizzle, adding a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro. With Cinco de Mayo around the corner, you could make an excellent taco bar using many options from Turnip Greens & Tortillas and let everyone fix and find his or her personal favorite.


Fried Chicken Tacos

Makes 16 tacos

INGREDIENTS

1 large egg

2 cups whole milk

2 pounds chicken tenders

2 cups all-purpose flour

2½ teaspoons ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons salt

½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded

3 to 4 medium tomatoes, chopped

Vegetable oil for frying

16 (6-inch) flour tortillas

For the Jalapeño-Lime Mayonnaise:

2 cups mayonnaise

¼ cup lime juice

1 jalapeño, roasted on a skillet without oil and stemmed (remove some or all of the seeds and membranes for less heat)

Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place three medium bowls on your work surface. In the first bowl, whisk together the egg with the milk. Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. You can do this the night before.
  2. Place flour, pepper and salt in the second bowl. In the third bowl, toss the lettuce with the tomatoes.
  3. Heat 1½ inches of oil in a Dutch oven or deep, heavy pot over high heat until it is 350 degrees.
  4. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
  5. Remove a few pieces of chicken from the milk, dredge in the flour, and shake off the excess. Gently place in the hot oil. Cook until light brown, crispy, and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed. Transfer to the paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining chicken. Allow the oil to return to 350 degrees between batches.
  6. Meanwhile, make the Jalapeño-Lime Mayonnaise: Place the mayonnaise, lime juice, jalapeño, and salt in a blender and puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
  7. Set a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tortilla and heat on both sides for a minute or two, until a few dark spots appear. Remove to a plate. Place 2 chicken tenders in the center of the tortilla, top with 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise and some of the lettuce and tomato, and fold. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Excerpted from TURNIP GREENS AND TORTILLAS