On 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, there sits a restaurant called “Carboncito’s.” In the late 2000s, it was one of my favorite places for tacos in town, combining the scenic beauty and people-watching opportunities of its location on the main tourist drag, but also because the owner at the time, a fella named Russell, was exceptionally nice to me and patient with my taking pictures of all of the plates of food he would send out for us to try.
Russell has moved on from Carboncito’s, and I have no idea what it’s like these days, if it’s still there at all. This recipe, though, was inspired by my favorite combination of flavors that I would assemble from the mixed grill platter, or “parrillada.” The mushrooms are definitely the star, here, while the chorizo provides a distinct background flavor of salty, crispy pork bits. The softness of the mushrooms contrasts wonderfully with the crackle of the chorizo, and the lime and cotija bring in acid and salt.
The key to these tacos lays in the preparation of the chorizo. Start with an uncured, bright red Mexican-style chorizo*, and after each stir, press the mixture back into the pan evenly. The goal is to get the ground chorizo to begin to crisp up into a meaty, crunchy, dusty mixture. The chorizo also provides much of the seasoning for the whole dish. Between the sausage and the salty cheese, you certainly won’t need any additional salt, but some additional ground black pepper and a few shakes of cayenne can be added if you like it a little spicier.
*The less money you can spend on chorizo, the better. This is one instance where you don’t want some artisan blend of baby suckling pig, weaned on wheat beer and Yeats, spiced with organic hothouse coriander. You want cheap chorizo, made with bits of lymph node, brain stem, and plenty of toxic red dye, for maximum authenticity and crispness.
Finally, a note on tortillas: some decent, thick corn tortillas would certainly be more authentic, but don’t let anybody shame you for using flour tortillas, if you like those better. You do you, player. I like to grill them directly on the gas burner, turning often, so the tortilla warms and gets a few satisfying blackened blisters.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 4 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 4 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 lb Mexican chorizo, casings removed
- 1 can chopped green chilies (4.5 oz)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 8 flour tortillas
- 1 cup refried beans
- A handful of chopped cilantro
- Grated Cotija cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a saute pan. Add mushrooms, and salt and pepper, to taste. Saute until mushrooms soften and begin to brown.
- In a separate cast iron skillet or saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add chopped onions. When onions begin to soften, add crumbled chorizo sausage, garlic, cumin, black pepper, cayenne (optional) and green chilies, including liquid. Chop and work the chorizo with the edge of a spatula, until all large pieces are broken up. Stir and simmer over medium heat until all liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. After liquid has evaporated, turn heat to high, and allow chorizo mixture to crisp, stirring and flattening in pan every minute.
- Spread approximately 1 tablespoon of refried beans onto warmed tortillas. Add chorizo mixture, and then mushrooms. Top with cotija cheese, chopped cilantro, and squeeze with lime immediately before serving.