Hispanic Heritage Month Recipes from Traci Des Jardins

During this year’s celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re partnering with Traci Des Jardins, the two-time James Beard award-winning chef, philanthropist, and restauranteur. Traci has partnered with Bon Appétit for decades to operate celebrated restaurants in California. In recent years, she has focused on marrying the rich culinary traditions of her roots with the local heritage of Northern California, the Central Valley, and coast.

Read on to explore Traci’s recipes.

Carnitas Tacos with Salsa Verde

Serves 12-18 tacos

For the tacos:

  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder with fat
  • 1/4 cup lard, duck fat, or vegetable oil
  • 1 Negra Modela beer
  • 2 tangerines, quartered
  • 1 ounce piloncillo or brown sugar, roughly crushed
  • 1 dried chipotle chile
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 to 18 small corn tortillas
  • 1 bag tortillas chips, preferably homemade

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 pound tomatillos
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 white onion, peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro, thoroughly washed
  • Salt

To garnish:

  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly cut
  • 1/4 serrano chile, finely minced
  • 5 Key limes, halved, or 2 regular limes, quartered


For the tacos:

Remove the outside fat from the meat and cut the fat into strips 1 inch x 1/4 × 1/4.

Cut the meat into 3 × 3 × 3-inch chunks, you do not need precisely this size, roughly.

Place the lard or oil into a sauté pan and heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add the fat pieces and stir with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook over medium to medium high heat, they should be at a slow sizzle. Allow to brown slowly, over a seven to ten minute period, the oil should not be smoking hot. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the fat from the pan when it is golden brown and crispy, retire to a paper towel to drain and season with salt.

Thoroughly salt the pork pieces and place into the hot fat. Cook over medium high heat and brown on all sides until a deep golden brown, probably about 15 minutes.

When deep golden brown on all sides, turn the pan off and wait for 5 minutes. Open the beer and take a big swig and then add the bottle to the pan. Add the tangerines, piloncillo, and chipotle chile, bring to a simmer and cover. Cook at a low simmer on the stovetop or in a 250-degree oven for about 2 hours, or until falling apart.

For the salsa verde:

Remove the husks from the tomatillos and discard. Wash the tomatillos in warm water to remove the film on them. Roughly chop 1/2 of the serrano chile, reserve other half for guacamole. Roughly chop 1/4 of the white onion. Cut 2 inches of the stem off the cilantro and discard. Then cut the bunch in half. Reserve the leaves for garnish.

Place the tomatillos in a blender and blend to smooth. Add the onion, serrano and the stem half of the cilantro and blend to smooth, add salt to taste, about 1 1/2 tablespoons. Place into a bowl.

Tuna Tostadas

Serves 12 tostadas, serves six people

For the aioli:

  • 2 pasteurized egg yolks
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp white miso
  • 1½ cups neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp dashi powder
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp white soy sauce (can use regular soy sauce as well)
  • 2 dried morita chiles, lightly toasted

For the pickled jalapeno:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon salt
  • 7-8 jalapeno peppers thinly sliced

For the tostadas:

  • 1 gallon vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 1 pound sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna fillet, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into 24 slices each 1/8 inch thick
  • 12 lime wedges (about 2 limes)
  • 1 bunch of chives, minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, picked
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Extra virgin olive oil


For the pickles:

Combine the vinegar, water, garlic, sugar, and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add jalapeno slices, stir, and remove from heat.

Let sit for at least 8 minutes then use tongs to remove the jalapenos from the pot to a jar; cover with the brining liquid to fill the jar.

Store in the fridge for up to two months.

For the tostadas:

To make the tostadas, pour the oil to a depth of 1 inch into a large, deep, heavy skillet and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Line a large plate with paper towels. Add the tortillas, one or two at a time (depending on the size of the pan), to the hot oil and cook, turning once with tongs, for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on each side, until a uniformly deep golden color and crisp. Transfer to the towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Fry the remaining tortillas the same way. Set aside.

Remove the pan from the heat, reserving the oil for future use

To assemble the tostadas, place the tostadas on a flat work surface and spread about 2 teaspoons of the morita aioli on each tostada. Then set 2 slices of avocado on top of the aioli. After, place roughly 1oz of tuna on top of the avocado, then top each portion of tuna with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil, salt, and chives. Finally, top each tostada with a few slices of pickled jalapeno, cilantro, and a slice of lime on the side of the plate, enjoy!

Guacamole and home-made Chips  

Serves 6-8 people

For the guacamole:

  • 3-4 avocados
  • 2-3 limes
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed, some stem removed, finely chopped
  • 1-2 Serrano or jalapeños, finely chopped with or without seeds.
  • kosher salt

For the chips:

  • 3 cups vegetable oil (corn, canola, rice bran)
  • 2 dozen corn tortillas
  • salt


For the guacamole:

Cut the avocados in two and remove the pits and peels, place into a bowl add the juice of 2 limes and a few tablespoons of salt.

With a pastry cutter or a potato  masher, mash the avocado to coarse puree. Blend and taste for balance of salt and  acid, add more lime if needed, add the chopped onion and cilantro and blend, the  amount of chile is discretionary, if you’re adverse to spicy foods, remove the seeds  before chopping the chiles, add according to taste and desired spice level.

For the chips:

Cut the tortillas into sixths or eighths.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan to 350 F with a  fry or candy thermometer. Once it has come to temperature, add the tortilla triangles in batches into the fry oil.

Fry for about 2 minutes, move them around with a  slotted strainer or tongs while they are cooking and cook until crisp and just beginning  to brown.

Remove from the oil with a slotted strainer or spoon and place onto  something to drain the oil – paper towels or a paper bag on a tray. Season with kosher salt and repeat until all are fried.