Ramps are one of the first signs of spring in a Wisconsin grocery store or farmers’ market. The bright green leaves, tender bulbs and purple hue make people swoon. And ramps are the perfect addition to spring tacos–both blended in a crema and diced into a pico de gallo. They have a delicate garlic flavor that mirrors the beauty unfolding outside. Chef Adam Struebing, executive chef at The Madison Club, shared his recipe for spring tacos featuring glorious ramps, succulent grilled meat and sweet potatoes, which are a quarantine kitchen staple. (I want to also say that cooking with him was an absolute pleasure. And he doesn’t give proportions so this was my understanding of the process.) It took me right to Mexico.
Spring Tacos with achiote marinated chicken, ramp crema, ramp pico de gallo and sweet potato tortillas
2-4 whole split chicken breasts
Marinade ingredients (listed below)
Spice rub ingredients (listed below)
2 sweet potatoes
2 bunches ramps, washed, leaves cut off from stem
2 limes (in addition to 4 limes for marinade)
Maseca for tortillas
Crema (creme fraiche or mexican sour cream)
marinate meat and make spice rub the day before
prep crema and pico
Cooking the meat
2-4 whole split chicken breasts (Chef also used lamb, which I think would be incredible)
1 cup greek yogurt
1/2 cup chipotle in adobo
1 tbsp achiote paste (check your Mexican market!)
Juice of 4 limes
12 garlic cloves
Blend this together and marinate lamb or chicken overnight.
Spice rub for meat: (I used “poc chuc”) which is a spice paste from the Yucatan, Mexico)
Make a paste with 1 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamon, 1/2 tsp oregano, 6 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup orange juice and a tad of vinegar
Before grilling the meat, remove it from the marinade and just use your fingers to remove the marinade. Rub the spice paste on and salt the meat generously.
Grill until done, or pre-mark on the grill and finish in the oven.
Slice ramp stems finely
Finely dice 2 jalapenos, seeds removed
Slice serrano pepper in small ringlets
Mix together in a bowl
Squeeze juice of 1 lime and taste (add more if wanted
Finely chop about 1/4-1/2 cup cilantro and add in (can use stems and leaves)
Add 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Blanch ramp leaves in boiling water for 15 seconds
Move quickly to ice water until cool
Blend crema (use mexican sour cream or creme fraiche) with ramp leaves in a 1:2 ratio (1 part crema to 2 parts ramp leaves.) set aside
Sweet potato tortillas
This is a go-by-feel type of recipe.
Start with about 2 cups of masa
Add about 1 tsp salt or a bit more
Puree the baked sweet potato with a bit of warm water until it’s the consistency of pie filling
Add in the warm puree to the masa until it has the consistency of soft play-doh
Add in 1 tbsp lard or oil
Mix with hands, or stand mixer
The dough should feel wet but not sticky. Make a small ball. It should not crack when you press your fingers into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for about 20 minutes.
Preheat dry cast iron griddle/skillet with no sides over medium/low heat
If you don’t have a press, you can use two cutting boards.
If you have a press, they are great!
Place parchment or a ziplock bag cut into two large squares on the bottom of the press. Make a ball of masa about the size of a golf ball
Press until about 1/8 inch thick
Place on griddle/skillet and heat one side until it naturally releases from the griddle, about 1-2 minutes. Flip over and heat the other side. If it turns too brown or cracks, your heat is too high.
Remove and set on a plate and cover loosely with a clean dry towel.
Thinly slice the meat
Place on a taco
Cover with crema
Pile on some ramp pico
Add crumbled queso fresco
Serve with a slice of lime.