tacogate '08: sweet potato & red chard

Yes, I still use IKEA Bubblor flatware. Is that going to be an issue?

When you work in the non-profit sector, you end up with a lot of tree-hugging vegetarian friends. They may not eat bacon, but they still deserve to be treated with respect. So when they come to my home, I hate serving them trite vegetarian fare like the portobello mushroom-as-hamburger replacement. Of course, when they come to my home they’re probably absorbing microscopic pork particulate through their pores, but there’s nothing I can do about that; I can only control foodstuffs visible to the naked eye.

For TacoGate, I wanted an interesting veggie filling made of something other than beans (although beans were also representin’). I went with a spin on a Rick Bayless chard and potato taco filling, and did a red chard-sweet potato mix. Diced sweet potato cubes are simmered in just a little water (or veggie stock, if you have that on hand), and then a giant pile of chard is dumped on top to braise. I would happily eat a mixture of just those two things, but they’re further enriched here with poblano rajas and cultured Mexican sour cream, or crema.

I think my core problem was underestimating the level of Americans’ misunderstanding of how to construct a Taco. Chipotle Grill has warped our collective idea of what food in a tortilla should look like, so instead of delicate corn tortilla filled with a few tablespoons of a single filling, a squirt of lime and some queso fresco, most of my guests gravitated toward the larger flour tortilla and opted to stuff in as much of each of the 5 fillings as physically possible; I think they used the formula (maximum diameter of open mouth) x (3) to determine the correct taco size.*

These Frankentacos strained the limits of the tortillas, causing many a structurally compromised “taco.” More importantly, they caused a much more rapid depletion of the chard-sweet potato filling than anticipated. I blame myself for making flour tortillas an option; I should have realized that flour tortillas would activate the oversized-wrap-loving sector of the brain. Since I have a well-developed fear of running out of food to serve my guests, which fear is stoked daily by my inner Italian nonna, I’m still coming to grips with the HORROR, OH THE HORROR of the empty platters sitting on the buffet line.

*Note to individual party-goers: I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about all those other people.

Still, one can’t help but feel some pride to see a series of serving dishes licked clean. The chard-sweet potato was a hit with everyone, veggies and carnies alike. The sweet potato is a great counterpoint to the sharper chard. The poblano adds it own brand of sweetness, along with a smoky flavor and a gentle heat. The crema binds everything together and lends its own slight tang. The dish comes together fairly quickly and easily and is versatile; you could swap in whatever greens and roots you have on hand, or even a winter squash. Mix in a few eggs, and you’d have yourself a casserole. Unfortunately, I have no other pics of the dish since I was busy, you know, being at my party.

Whatever you do, you’re probably going to want to scale this one up. Way up.

Red Chard, Sweet Potato and Poblano Tacos
adapted from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
3/4 c. veggie stock
3 bunches Red Chard
1 batch poblano rajas
1/2 c. crema (or sub sour cream or creme fraiche)

Prepare the poblano rajas.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a wide skillet. Peel the potatoes and cut into an even 1/2 inch dice; add the potato to the stock and simmer, uncovered until just done.

Meanwhile, cut the thick stems off the chard and rinse it in cold water – don’t skip the rinsing, because chard can be quite gritty, which ruins the finished dish. Roughly chop the leaves.

Add the chard to the pan with the potatoes, cover and cook until wilted. Uncover and toss the veggies to combine and to drive out some of the liquid. Mix in the poblano rajas and the cream, mix well and cook a few minutes more until the crema makes a thick sauce for the veggies. Some of your sweet potato might mash in the mixing; no biggie. Serve immediately, or heap into a casserole dish and keep in a 200 degree oven until eatin’ time.

0 thoughts on “tacogate '08: sweet potato & red chard

  1. That looks and sounds delicious! Unfortunately, I’m the only one in this house who will eat sweet potatoes.:( I think I’ll try this one with white potatoes or maybe rutabaga.

    I’m laughing at your party story. I live in dread of empty buffet platters too. And, I don’t have an inner Italian Nonna. I have an OUTER one!

  2. There were delicate corn tortillas available??? I would have opted for that. And as I hate when the structure of the taco is compromised I try to stuff the taco accordingly…but with something yummy like this it’s really tough. Really really tough.

  3. Also I’m madly in love with any dish containing crema, or to which crema can be suitably added, topped, eaten next to…..

  4. susan: members of your household will eat rutabaga, but not sweet potatoes?

    i have an outer one too, but she’s so far away i have to internalize her judgements.

  5. I love your blog! You have such hilarious writing style! I was laughing out loud reading about your party. And the recipe sounds great! Nic edescription of the flavors-made my mouth water!

  6. I saw your comment at Suburban Bliss about your husband’s brewing hobby and how he may grow hops in your backyard this summer. I wanted to say, go for it! We started hops last summer and they were easy, fun, and ultimately a tasty brew. Plus with the hop shortage, it’s nice to have your own on hand in the late summer and fall. Our neighbors moved and gave us their 6 ft tall chain link dog kennel. We planted 5 hops just inside so the plants could climb the chain link. It worked out pretty well. Harvest was a little difficult, but not a huge PITA.

  7. Love sweet potatoes and love chard…..why not then. I love a good fish taco……a GOOD fish taco w/a little bit o’ cabbage. Chipotle has its place but a simple taco w/a few good flavors is my choice everytime. I love my tacos w/white corn tortillas also. Who the hell honestly cares what I like though…just making chatter hahahaha.

  8. rebecca: thanks! i really appreciate it!

    claudia: i threw my game, so i could hang out and drink. but brian won, so the scrabble master plaque stays in the family.

    kevin: it is a really nice introduction to chard, because there are so many other flavors going on. it’s good for people who think they don’t like chard.

    rayne: yeah, i think we’re going to do it. at the very least, we’d like some green vine coverage for our new fence.

    life: if i had any leftovers i’d do my best to oblige, but my guests liked the bowl clean.

    stacye: who doesn’t like a good fish taco? fools, that’s who.

    ninja: thanks! maybe you could sneak a little chicken in there?

  9. If you’re needing someone to shift frankentaco blame onto, I’ll happily raise my hand at this point – if sweet potato is involved, the bigger the taco the better. Looks gorgeous XD.

  10. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Blog Archive » tacogate ‘08: tasty pico and inauthentic refried beans

  11. Glad to see your Bubblor flatware is still functional … I regretfully bent most of our spoons into irregular shapes and was forced to give them up.

    I love chard and sweet potatoes – to be honest, I wouldn’t need the tortillas. For fear I might warp your Bubblor spoon, I might instead opt for a big wooden spoon with which to scoop the spicy orange goodness to my lips. It looks amazing!

  12. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Smackdown: It’s Like a Party in Your Piehole

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