Cinco de Mayo is this weekend …

May 1, 2018

… and there is no better way to celebrate than with a really good taco.

Credit Angie Mosier for Turnip Greens & Tortillas

I called Eddie Hernandez and asked him to give us some tips. Eddie is the authority on tacos. He’s the executive chef of Taqueria del Sol, a James Beard nominated Mexican restaurant with locations in Georgia and Tennessee … and he just penned a new cookbook with co-author Susan Puckett called Turnip Greens & Tortillas. In this book Eddie explores the shared similarities of Southern and Mexican food. Tacos such as the Memphis BBQ Taco and Fried Chicken Tacos are a few of the interesting “Southern” finds in the cookbook.

So here are Eddie’s top 5 tips for making killer tacos for Cinco de Mayo.

You need good tortillas.

A bad tortilla will kill a good taco. If using corn it needs to be flexible and soft. The same rule applies to flour tortillas.

Your salsa choice matters.

Really good freshly-made salsa with fresh ingredients is what should go on your taco. Skip the stuff in the jar.

Keep your taco balanced.

Use a good proportion of ingredients where you can taste each one. A balanced amount of each ingredient makes for the perfect bite.

Have a variety of textures.

Not too crunchy, not too wet, not too dry. A little bit of all of them.

Don’t overstuff the taco.

You should be able to handle it so it doesn’t fall apart. You also want the ingredients to be well distributed throughout the taco so you can taste a little of each ingredient in every bite.

This is Jennifer Chandler with The Weekly Dish. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up The Southern Kitchen by Eddie Hernandez and Susan Puckett is available wherever fine books are sold.

For more information about Taqueria del Sol, visit

Fried Chicken Tacos

Makes 16 tacos

The main component of this taco is no fancier than any Southern grandma’s fried chicken, but when you wrap the refried strips in a warm flour tortilla with Jalapeño-Lime Mayonnaise, the taste is unforgettable. I use this simple formula to create endless specials, such as the two popular variations that follow.

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1 recipe Seasoned Flour Coating
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 to 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 16 (6-inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 cup Jalapeño-Lime Mayonnaise

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.

Place the seasoned flour in the second bowl. In the third bowl, toss the lettuce with the tomatoes.

Heat 1½ inches of oil in a Dutch oven or deep, heavy pot over high heat until it is 350 degrees.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

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.

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.

Jalapeño-Lime Mayonnaise

Makes 2¼ cups

Blending mayonnaise with hot chiles is a great way to soften the chiles’ flavor. Here are three variations on this pairing with distinctive results. I specify a blender for one and a food processor for the others, depending on how much texture I want. If I am going to squeeze the mayo through a bottle, then I want it as smooth as possible, but if I am going to spread it or spoon it on, I might want some little pieces. This is up to you. This versatile mayonnaise is great in Fried Chicken Tacos and Cheeseburger Tacos.

  • 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

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.

Excerpted from TURNIP GREENS AND TORTILLAS © 2018 by Eddie Hernandez. Photographs © 2018 by Angie Mosier. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.