Tacos in Tijuana

Marcela Valladolid goes home to Mexico to host the ultimate girls' night. 

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Photo By: Dave Lauridsen ©copyright dave lauridsen 2014

Marcela's Hometown

In some parts of Mexico, making chiles rellenos with jalapenos instead of the traditional poblano chiles would be downright scandalous. But in Tijuana, where Marcela Valladolid grew up, cooking traditions are meant to be broken. The city is a sort of culinary melting pot because it attracts people from all over Mexico. "We're a newer city as opposed to Oaxaca or Puebla, which have very deeply rooted traditions and recipes," she says. "In Tijuana, we're allowed to play with our food." 

Tacos and Tequila Party

These days, The Kitchen co-host and Mexican Made Easy star lives in Chula Vista, Calif. But she regularly makes the short drive back across the border to see family and friends — and to cook with them. Usually the get-togethers are potlucks, but on this visit back, she took over as host at her aunt's house and treated her sister and a few friends to a night of tacos and tequila.

An Unorthodox Menu

The menu was anything but traditional: Baja-Mediterranean-style octopus tacos, mini tamales and those shocking little chiles rellenos made with jalapenos. 

Jalapeno-Pineapple Tequila Cocktails

Marcela kicks off the party with tequila cocktails. Instead of salt, the glasses are rimmed with demerara sugar. 

Chiles Rellenos Jalapenos 

"Instead of having a huge chile relleno that's going to fill you up, I wanted to have a bite-size option," explains Marcela in reference to her choice to use jalapenos instead of poblano chiles. "In Puebla," she says, "the grandmothers would roll around in their graves."

Rajas con Queso Mini Tamales

Roasted poblano chiles add smoky flavor to these cheesy vegetarian tamales. Make them mini and serve as an appetizer so guests have room for tacos (or more tamales) later. 

Pulpo Encebollado Tacos

"You can't have a party without tacos!" claims Marcela. In this version, she serves cool, tender octopus with fragrant sauteed red onion, garlic and chiles. 

Puerco Enchilado Tacos

The secret to these spicy tacos is simmering the pork butt and potatoes in the guajillo salsa. And they're most delicious when the salsa is homemade, of course.  

Next Up

50 States, 50 Tacos

In search of America's tastiest tacos, Food Network Magazine discovered that chefs will stuff anything into a tortilla: mac and cheese, hearts of palm, octopus. The magazine's taco team tried hundreds of tacos to come up with this list of the best in every state (and D.C. too!). Wherever you are, these picks are worth the trip.