“Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics.” Celebra. $29.95

When I was growing up, taco night meant seasoned ground beef, chopped tomatoes, a little cheese and shreds of iceberg lettuce in a store-bought crunchy shell.

Taco nights were always my favorite and still are, but I now find myself gravitating toward the more creative and flavorful street-style tacos that have finally made their way to restaurants and food trucks in Maine.

Looking for a way to spice up Taco Thursday at Casa Graham, I turned to “Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics.” I’m glad I did.

In an engaging introduction, Garcia, with whom I was familiar from her appearance on “Top Chef Masters,” describes how the street foods of Latin America “welcome you with a warm hug” and describes her earliest memories in the kitchen with her mother.

“Dishes tell stories. Sometimes those stories echo the beats of a particular place or culture, and sometimes they echo a mix of beats,” she writes. “And when we explore the culinary beats we share in Latin America and the Caribbean, we must pay homage to the taco.”

Garcia does indeed pay homage to the taco and inspires her readers to do the same. She shares recipes that do not require hours of labor at the stove and are meant to be “accessible, shareable and celebration-worthy, even on a weeknight.”

The book itself is a feast for the eyes, with plenty of bright photos of colorful dishes. Each recipe is explained in easy-to-follow steps that make preparation seem easy, even for the more complex dishes.

The chapters are grouped in four sections: base, toppings, fillings and sides. The recipes are made for pairing and sharing and are easily tailored to your cravings and any occasion.

Recipes range from salsas to slaws to tostadas topped with roasted meats and veggies. I was tempted by a lobster guacamole until I realized it called for six lobster tails, quickly putting that into the “most expensive guacamole ever” category for me.

After a long debate with myself about what to try first, I settled on Cuban-style pork. The bite-size pieces of pork, marinated in a citrus-garlic-herb mix, are topped with peppery smothered onions and served atop a warm corn tortilla (I went with store-bought this time). Though the onions were a tad too peppery for my taste – I’d reduce the pepper next time – the marinade won me over. I think it would be great on grilled chicken as well.

I’ve already decided my next dive into “New Taco Classics” will be to make the roasted beef and potato tostada and, if I’m feeling ambitious, to make my own tortillas.


Makes 8 tacos

8 soft corn tortillas

1 recipe Cuban-style pork

1/4 cup cilantro sprigs

Lime wedges


1 pound pork loin, cut into bite-size pieces

8 whole garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons fresh oregano, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

Zest of 1 whole lemon

Zest of 1 whole orange

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1 tablespoon butter

2 cups white onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon celery leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper


1. In a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, place pork loin cubes, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon and orange zests. Set aside and let pork marinate for at least 21/2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove pork from refrigerator and remove excess marinade from pork cubes.

3. Heat saute pan over high heat. Add vegetable oil and pork to the pan. Saute pork cubes until they are seared, about 2 minutes.

4. Spread browned pork cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and set saute pan aside for the moment. Place the baking sheet in the hot oven and roast the pork chunks for 10 minutes.

5. Turn the oven to broil and cook the pork at the higher heat for 5 minutes, until golden brown.


1. In the saute pan, add butter and onions and saute over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

2. Squeeze lime juice over the onions and add vinegar, remove pan from heat. Finish with celery leaves, salt and pepper.


On a warm corn tortilla, place the pork chunks and top with the smothered onions. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and a lime wedge.