For a time, when I was growing up, our family lived with our granduncle and his family. My grandaunt was Mexican and spoke only Spanish. We couldn’t communicate with her very well, but she showed her love for us through her cooking. My siblings and I would go to school and when we would come home, my grandaunt would have something for us to eat. Sometimes it would be homemade torillas with butter or Mexican sweet breads. Other times, we’d be treated to tasty Mexican dishes including her tacos. One of my favorite tacos isn’t filled with meat. It’s stuffed with potatoes: Taco de Papas. After we moved away, I didn’t have taco de papas for quite a while — not until after I returned back to home after college. One day I walked into a small Mexican cafe. On the menu: “Taco de Papas.” Since that time, I’ve been trying to replica the tacos my grandaunt made. In my version of the tacos, they are stuffed with cumin-spiced potatoes and fried until they are crunchy.
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ripe tomatoes
2 jalapeños, stemmed
1 clove garlic, smashed, plus 2 cloves, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon (or more, to taste) ground cumin
1/2 cup canola oil
18 corn tortillas
Thinly sliced green cabbage
crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
Puree cilantro, oregano, sugar, tomatoes, jalapeños, smashed garlic and 2/3 cup water in a blender until smooth. Set salsa aside. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add minced garlic, butter, salt, pepper and cumin, and mash until smooth. Set potato mixture aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of potato mixture over half of each tortilla and fold over to form a taco. Secure with a toothpick. Working in batches, add tacos to oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp. Remove toothpick. Stuff tacos with cabbage, tomatoes and cheese. Drizzle with salsa before serving.