Couldn't decide which blog to put this on. Art o' Doing wins.
Today, I am cooking and testing recipes. Taco recipes. Yeah, tacos.
Not to bore you too much with elaboration, but for quite a while I've been enamored with cooking--one profession I've never had. Local eat 'em joints showcased on the Food and Travel Channels have had my brain stirring for a number of years now. Seems like a healthy portion of these restaurant owners have never been in the industry--just decided one day to start cooking. Whether they bought an old, existing place to keep the heritage alive, or just thought it'd be a cool idea to start a restaurant.
And then I had an epiphany the other day. Tacos. I dig tacos. I dig making them, I dig eating them. So without taking myself too seriously, I started making tacos to see if I could perfect a few recipes. They were good. And today I'm cooking more.
I have never been one to follow recipes, but today I am documenting my ingredients. Helps to perfect them and to stay consistent.
So, here goes.
I'm attempting six different taco recipes today--all from my own imagination. A Philly Taco, a Coney Taco, a BBQ Pulled Pork Taco, a Fried Clam Po'Boy Taco, a Crab Cake Taco, and Bacon & Jalapeno Taco.
I first made a fire in my charcoal/wood smoker. I rubbed my 2.5 lb pork loin roast (for the BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos) generously with Long's Peak Pork Chop Spice-14,255 ft from Savory Spice Shop. Then I made a pitcher of sun tea. No, I didn't make a cocktail--mainly because when I get a cool buzz while cooking, I tend to go a little overboard with the spices/portions/smoke/ingredients/temp. So it's tea...for now.
Next, I julienned some green, red, and yellow bell peppers for the Philly. After that, I made some Carolina-type coleslaw for my Pulled Pork Tacos. It consisted of this...
About a half bag of premade slaw mix. Yeah, I know. But I already had it in the fridge--plus, it totally cuts down on prep time & work, as well as cost. I'll make my own next time.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 vegetable oil
1/2 tspn salt
cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 tspn dried mustard
1/2 apple cider vinegar
1/2 tspn celery salt
1/2 tspn paprika
dash of chili powder
Combine all ingredients, sans veggies, in a medium saucepan on medium/high heat. Bring to boil while whisking. Once spices are completely stirred in, dump in on top of slaw mix in a bowl. Toss and refrigerate. We'll see if it's worth a shit.
My next recipe was chili for the Coney Tacos. It's a very simple, but tasty recipe.
1/2 lb ground chuck 80/20
1/4 cup white onion, minced
1/4 cup refried beans
2 oz tomato sauce
2 tspn chili powder
1 tspn cumin
1/2 tspn garlic salt
touch of veg oil
I generally like getting carried away making chili--lots of great fresh ingredients, slow cooked all day while watching football. But this is good, easy, and goes well on coney dogs. So lay off.
Chili is simmering, and my pork fire is ready. Pork fire.... Lay out the coals, plop the pork on to get a nice sear, then throw on a mix of wet and dry hickory chunks. Wet to increase and smoke and dry to increase the heat.
That's enough prep for now. I've got a lot more coming up, but the major stuff is out of the way. Time to make taco number one!
I've got thinly sliced skillet steak. It's U.S.D.A Choice Beef that's a round eye cut. It came pre-sliced. I've got deli slices of smoked provolone (opted not to do the Cheez Whiz--always kind of weirded me out), julienned onions and our peppers from earlier. Here we go.
The Philly turned out pretty good--especially considering this is probably only my third or forth attempt at a Philly anything. The meat was okay. I think I'll try marinading it in some olive oil and spices next time to give it a little more taste. Salt and pepper normally do the trick, but with this cheaper meat I may need to improvise. Veggies were tasty, as was the cheese. I may try the Cheez Whiz next time, just to compare. Freakin' $6 for a thing of Cheez Whiz though!
The pork is done! About two hours at 250-300 degrees and lots of smoke. I carved off an end and sampled...de-freakin-lious.
Next up is the Coney Taco. My chili is already made, and I've got some diced onions and sharp cheddar. I'm a little disappointed...I don't have any yellow mustard in the fridge. How does that happen?? Oh well, I'll get the gist of how it tastes. Here goes.
I split a jumbo turkey dog down the middle and grilled it. Then I got fancy. Grilled two tortillas, put shredded cheddar on one, then stuck 'em together. Thought I might need two tortillas, seeing as how this is a big, heavy taco. Dog goes in tortilla, chili goes on dog, cheddar goes on chili, onions go on cheddar. Pretty cut and dry.
Chili is a tough dish to make to try and please everyone. It's either too hot, not hot enough, too chunky, too saucey, too sweet, or whatever. With this simple recipe, I was trying to play it safe. It was good, but it was much, much better after I threw a little Cholula and sour cream on it. By itself wasn't bad--I actually let out a "damn! that's good" when I took my first bite. I think I'll upgrade my jumbo frank from a nasty Bar-S to a Nathan's. And believe it or not, I'm going to ditch the double tortilla. It was such a cool idea, but next time I'm going to stick to just one. I don't make my own tortillas, so I don't want people to taste a prepackaged tortilla, I want them to taste the yummy innards. Plus, when it's grilled it strengthens it. You don't need two to hold it together.
I'm kind of tired and kind of full. Lots o' prep, lots o' cooking, lots o' snacking. Onward, though.
I'm going to bust out a Crab Cake Taco next. I used to make a pretty mean crab...er, Crappie Cake. Dad and I would catch crappie at the lake, bring them home and fillet them. Then they'd go in the fryer. One day I decided to make a crab cake out of the crappie fillets. It ruled. I'm sticking to the crab meat today, though.
Crab Cake Taco
Sonofabitch! We have a winner, and that winner is Crab Cake Taco. I'm even tired and full, and it still ruled. For documentation's sake, here's the recipe. Keep in mind, these are tiny portions.
3/4 cup lump crab meat
1 tbspn sour cream (actually, I use Fage Greek Yogurt in place of sour cream, yogurt, whatnot)
2 tspn Dijon
1/2 tspn dry mustard
1 tspn Worcestershire
2 tbspn peppers and onions, diced (left over from Philly Tacos)
1 tspn garlic salt
1 tbspn pickled jalapenos, minced
1/4 Italian bread crumbs
Stir everything together except bread crumbs. Once congealed, add bread crumbs until it's a pasty consistency (about 1/4 cup). Pat together with yo' hands a semi-circle, oval, or someshit that fits well on a round tortilla. Oil the griddle and fry. Take a peek underneath to make sure it's golden brown.
Here's the getter...Super Sauce (not to be confused with Action Sauce I make for fish and shrimp tacos--another recipe).
1/4 cup mayo
2 tspn honey
2 tbspn cayenne
Whisk it all together, and shazam! Spread that on your freshly grilled tortilla, lob that Crabby Cake on it, and that's all you need.
This is fun. Well, I've got a smoked pork roast just sitting there...and some vinegary slaw in the fridge. Probably better make a Pulled Pork taco.
Pulled Pork Taco
Well, it was good and it was not that good. The pork was solid, as in really good. The slaw, a little too sweet and overpowering for my taste. My liquid to veggie ratio when making the slaw was a little liquid-heavy. When taking a tongful to drop on my pork taco, it dripped and dripped and dripped. A little drippage is fine, but this shit was swimming. That may be why it was so powerful tasting. Instead of fully complementing the smoked pork, it fought for headliner.
I didn't make my own BBQ sauce, I used some from Oklahoma Joe's in Kansas City (I know, the locations in the name and restaurants don't make sense...) which is some of the best. It was the sloppiest taco yet, mainly due to my liquidy slaw. Still though, it was good. Don't get me wrong, it may not have been my favorite, but I guarantee a lot of folks would dig it the most. Not to toot my own horn...
Okay, I'm saving the messiest tacos for last. The ones that have deep fried ingredients. I'm gonna go ahead and move my kitchen back inside, then I'll hit up the Bacon Jalapeno Taco. Be back in a sec.
I've been at this for over six hours and I've built exactly four tacos. Of course, this is just a test kitchen--making small quantities with numerous ingredients. Takes a lot of on-the-fly prep. If I were the proud proprietor of a funky taco stand, I've definitely have all of my sauces and prep work hammered out before taco cooking time. That's a no-brainer. That way, it's one taco after the other--crank 'em out.
I'm going to hang it up for tonight. I've cleaned up about 18 messes in my indoor and outdoor kitchens today and I don't have it in me to clean up a half dozen more. Especially when having a dredging station, hot oil, bacon grease, and queso. Mmmm, sounds good though. I'll finish up the last two in the next couple days.
I'll keep you updated. Thanks for checking this out.