Anatomy of a Taco: Braised Heirloom Baby Carrots & Mushrooms Over Savory Squash Purée

The carrots boiled for roughly 15-20 minutes: enough to soften them and open them up for the braising process. The boiling liquid would mostly comprise what I’d use to braise them and the mushrooms [always add some form of liquor and fat to your braising liquid].

Braised carrots & mushrooms over savory squash.

Braised carrots & mushrooms over savory squash.

For the mushrooms, I cut regular sized criminis into fourths, lightly seasoning them (salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage) while sautéing in butter and olive oil for about 15 minutes. Towards the end of the sauté, I cranked the heat all the way up and hit the pan with successive splashes of bourbon and red wine, adding butter with each addition.

From there, I killed the heat, added the carrots (with any bigger carrots cut to stay uniform with the baby carrots) and poured on the reserved stock/carrot boil liquid to partially submerge everything. That sat in an oven set at 350° for close to 1 ½ hours.

While you can cook the liquid down completely in the oven, I’ve finished things a few times on the stove top, which allowed me to alternately deglaze with bourbon and red wine while adding more butter as the mushrooms reached the texture of escargot and the carrots got to that saturation point of lush flavor.

Braised mushroom & carrot taco w/sour cream & savory squash puree

Braised mushroom & carrot taco w/sour cream & savory squash puree

On going to a local market in Boston to pick up mushrooms and other things during Christmastime, seeing some squash completed the rudimentary dish I had in my head: I would make a super savory squash puree on par with a rustic polenta, to which the carrots and mushrooms would be placed atop.

The squash was simple. With the savory polentas of Amis and Le Virtù in mind, along with the rich purees of the former Matyson, I halved and seeded a pumpkin squash (use whatever) and roasted it in the oven at 375° for about an hour.

After removing from the skin, I placed the squash in the food processor and blended with red wine, stock (chicken or veg), salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, and butter, adding the liquid slowly so as not to break the smooth consistency of the purée.

While the purée and long braised vegetables worked as a dish, I thought I could try it as a veg taco since all three elements delivered that slow cooked, deep, rich flavor you need to make a good taco.

To complement the sweet, savory and even meaty elements (after braising for so long,the mushrooms fool the brain in a way similar to Chef Jeremy Nolen’s preparations featured at Brauhaus Schmitz and Whetstone), I added a citrus blended sour cream and some cilantro for a taco I recently featured during a concert at Everybody Hits and during a visit to the food cart at Garage Philly in South Philly.

You can try a braised carrot and mushroom taco with savory squash, sour cream, and cilantro on Tuesday, February  23rd, 6pm-1am during my 2nd stint in the food cart there. I’ll also be doing braised pork belly tacos with arugula and a blueberry/grape red wine reduction, and braised chicken tacos with red wine braised cabbage and queso fresco.

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