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Author Topic: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes  (Read 15140 times)

Tipitaka

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How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« on: May 06, 2014, 04:59:19 am »

Okay, so there was a discussion a few days ago where Mouse was trying to figure out Tacos, and someone (I forget who off the top of my head) was trying to help by suggesting the "Old El Paso" brand of "shells" and "Taco Seasoning". Since I grew up around and related to Mexicans and Comanches, I have experience with made from scratch South-Western food. I once had the "Taco Seasoning" that was suggested, and I thought it was awful. Not to dis the person who suggested it... Their frame of reference is just very different. Most Americans outside of the South-Western US and Mexico would probably think that suggestion was solid gold. Then there are "shells". I tried one once and had to have a piece of it removed from my throat in the hospital. Haven't touched one since. I've also never seen them eaten in a Mexican restaurant. Seems to be an American thing.

Sooo... if that stuff isn't good for Tacos, what is? Lots of stuff really. Different regions have different seasoning profiles, filling options, and tortilla recipes. What I'm going to show you here are my step-grandma's recipes that she taught me when I was a kid. She's pure-blood Comanche, and all 3 of her husbands were immigrants from Mexico. Some other relatives own a Mexican restaurant in Roswell. The flour tortillas they used in the restaurant were made by her fresh every day for years until recently.

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First things first, Pinto Beans. When I was between the ages of 8 and 17, there was beans and rice on the table at every evening meal. We often had the leftovers for lunch the next day. It takes the longest to make beans. If you plan to eat at 6 pm, start on the beans by 10 am.

Frijoles Pintos Refritos
2 cups dry pinto beans
water
1 chicken bouillon cube
garlic to taste
2 bay leaves
2 tbs lard

Wash 2 cups of Pinto Beans in a sieve. Put them into a pot of water and boil 10-20 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent boil-overs. Turn off the burner and allow beans to soak for 1 hour. Drain beans and return to pot. Add water and seasonings. Boil for 4-8 hours until beans are tender. They look like THIS when they're getting close to being done. When beans are done, retain 3 cups of the bean-water and drain the rest. Add lard to a skillet and melt it on med low. Add beans and start smashing them with a potato masher or the bottom of a drinking glass. Add beans and liquid as needed until beans are thoroughly smashed, mixed, and heated. Abuelita stops here, mi ermano adds more garlic.  :laugh: Whether you like it thick or thin dictates how much bean water you need.

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Next, time to make Tortillas. You can make Corn or Flour. It might be very difficult or expensive to obtain Masa Harina (Flint-corn Hominy Flour) overseas, so I'm making sure you can have at least wheat flour tortillas. You will need one special tool, a 1" (2.5 cm +/-) dowel 1 ft (33 cm +/-) long. This is a tortilla rolling pin.

Tortillas de Maíz / Tlaxcalli
Masa Harina (Nixtamalized and ground flint corn, a good source of vitamin B.)
water

No measuring amounts here, just put some of the masa in a bowl, add water until it all comes together, form into ping-pong size balls, and roll them out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Try to get them 1-3 mm thick. Cook on a dry skillet at medium heat until it starts to puff up (if you get it thin enough, it will), flip it and cook a bit longer. When it's done, take it off the griddle and put it in a folded kitchen towel on a plate. Press the steam out being careful not to burn yourself. If left puffed up, they get crispy and tough.

Tortillas de Trigo
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 cups all purpose wheat flour
2 tbs canola oil

Mix flour and baking soda, drizzle in oil. Dissolve salt in water. Add water until it all comes together, refrigerate for one hour, form into large-egg size balls, and roll them out between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Try to get them 1-3 mm thick. Cook on a dry skillet at medium heat until it starts to puff up (if you get it thin enough, it will), flip it and cook a bit longer. When it's done, take it off the griddle and put it in a folded kitchen towel on a plate. Press the steam out being careful not to burn yourself. If left puffed up, they will get crispy and tough.

Picture of finished Tortillas.

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Next up, Marinate the Steak (or lamb, or goat, or pork, or venison, or bison, etc... does not taste good with meat substitutes.) This is one of those things you need to have legit tacos. Meat. :/ Why? Ask Tevye. I used the tri-tip cut of beef this time. You can use ground meat, but it won't taste the same or have the same texture as a regular piece of meat.

Carne Asada de Res
2 lbs (1 kilo) of well-marbled Beef sliced into 1"/2-ish cm thick pieces (not chopped up, big slabs)
1 tbs dried oregano
1 handful of minced cilantro (leaves of coriander)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
juice and pulp of 2 key limes or one california lime
2 tbs minced onion (Abuela uses Spanish, I prefer Red)
4 cloves minced garlic
dash of black pepper
dash of salt

Marinate meat in this for at least an hour then grill it over a wood fire using extra marinade to baste after every turn. When my step-grandma taught me this recipe, she cooked it in a plough disk with a bit of rebar welded on as a handle. I don't have such a device. I used a BBQ grill. Result was the same. Cook to medium for beef, well for everything else. Let rest for 30 minutes while you make the rice and fixins, then dice it into 1 cm cubes right before serving. Should look like THIS.

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Rice. As mentioned before, it is at every meal. Like the beans, it is not inside the taco. It's next to beans on the plate. It's also good on its own... One of my uncles likes the crusty rice from the bottom of the pan. It does taste pretty good; but I think it might be an acquired taste. This dish is like Paella without the seafood. Probably created by land-locked Spaniards in New Spain back in the 1500s (This is step-grandma's theory. Seems plausible to me.)

Arroz de España
2 cups of long grain American rice
4 cups of water
2-4 tbs canola oil or lard
1/2 minced yellow onion
garlic powder to taste (I use 2 tsp)
chicken bouillon powder or cube, enough for making 2 cups of broth
6-8 oz tomato sauce
dash of ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Saute the onion in the lard, when the onion turns translucent, add in the uncooked dry rice, and keep it moving until it's starting to turn very white with small bits of browning. Add everything else, stir, cover loosely, and cook on med-low for 20-30 minutes without stirring. When rice is tender, fluff it with a fork and serve.

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Fixins. This is where it gets hairy. Everybody likes their Tacos different.

Step-grandma:
Lime, cilantro, minced onions, table cream, occasionally sliced avocado.

Dad:
Sour Cream, over-ripe smashed avocado, radishes, sriracha sauce.

Mom:
sliced pickled jalepeños, cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes or Pico de Gallo.

Step-uncle that was mentioned before:
lime, pico de gallo, table cream, queso seco, crusty rice from the bottom of the pan

You'll see how I like it when we get to the assembly bit in the next section, but this assortment of preferences is common for all foods. When someone tells me they hate _____ food, I always tell them to try it again made by a different person.

Here are the fixins you can make at home without investing in dairy cattle:

Guacamole (Step-grandma doesn't make this; this is my recipe.)

2 ripe avocados
1 tbs olive oil
juice of 1 key lime
dash of lawry's salt
dash of garlic powder
dash of ground phrik thi na chili from my garden (you can leave this out, it's way too hot for chili n00bz)

Dice the Avocado, add all else and lightly mash with the back of a spoon. Should be a chunky paste like THIS.

Sriracha Sauce (This stuff is Thai and Viet, but very popular in California.)
2 cups of de-seeded hot red peppers
1/4 cup of roasted garlic cloves
2 tsp simple syrup (simply sugar dissolved in water) or honey

puree all in a blender, keep refrigerated and may not last long

Pico de Gallo
6 roma tomatoes, diced
1 handful of cilantro leaves, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red or spanish onion, minced
juice of one lemon
dash of salt (optional)
minced fresh green chilies to taste (I prefer 2 Serranos or under-ripe super-hots from the garden. But I'm kinda crazy, so that's probably too much for kiwis.)

It's like a chutney, just mix it up. Looks like THIS.

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Assembly time! There are actually 2 ways to eat this stuff. You can stack up components on the plate, tear off bits of tortilla and use it to pick up the other stuff and eat it. This takes a bit of practice. The other way, is to lay a wamed tortilla on the plate, add in the filling and fixings, spoon the sides onto the plate beside it, and chow down.

To assemble, start with a tortilla, warm it up, add meat.

Step 2, add any solid dairy and/or vegetables.

Step 3, add your non-newtonian fluids (guacamole and/or sour cream), hot sauces, lime juice, etc...

Step 4, add sides (sorry about this picture, beans were a bit behind schedule)

Step 5, Thank Jesús for growing it for you and eat.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2014, 12:44:22 am by Tipitaka »
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Moonbeam

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2014, 05:22:23 pm »

It's probably more accurate to say that something is authentic. And note that even among the cultures the dish originated from there will be variations due to familial adaptions that get passed down through the generations. Of course, a several countries will lay claim to be the origin, so you will have those variations as well. A lot of the food in the US has been "Americanized" such as Chinese food and pizza, and that's fine too.

I grew up in part in Texas (a lot of Tex-Mex) and pinto beans were a staple. While in South Florida I had access to all kinds of wonderful cuisines, especially all the Spanish foods: a lot of Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Columbian, and a few Mexican choices. Red kidney beans and black beans are the norm, not refried beans. 

There is both Old El Paso and organic taco seasoning I get from the local Farmer's market in my house. We use soft flour tortillas and hard corn shells.

Mouse, the bottom line is that you cannot mess up tacos. It is whatever you, or rather your grandchildren want to eat. My DD does not care for red meat. So on taco night (which happens to be this evening) I fill her shell with turkey. :)
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securitysix

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2014, 05:45:15 pm »

Okay, so there was a discussion a few days ago where Mouse was trying to figure out Tacos, and someone (I forget who off the top of my head) was trying to help by suggesting the "Old El Paso" brand of "shells" and "Taco Seasoning". Since I grew up around and related to Mexicans and Comanches, I have experience with made from scratch South-Western food. I once had the "Taco Seasoning" that was suggested, and I thought it was awful. Not to dis the person who suggested it... Their frame of reference is just very different. Most Americans outside of the South-Western US and Mexico would probably think that suggestion was solid gold. Then there are "shells". I tried one once and had to have a piece of it removed from my throat in the hospital. Haven't touched one since. I've also never seen them eaten in a Mexican restaurant. Seems to be an American thing.

'Twas I who suggested Old El Paso.  I live in the Southwestern US.  My mother learned to make tacos from a Mexican family she lived next door too as a young girl.  Between her home made stuff and the Old El Paso brand stuff, there is a little bit of a difference in flavor, but Old El Paso is as close as I think you're likely to get from a common store brand, hence why I suggested it.  My mother is also not the sort to take the time to make hand-made tortillas, so I grew up on store bought.

If you have a Mexican market nearby, feel free to try them for alternatives.  Not everyone has a Mexican market close.

For filling, beef is common around here (I live in Oklahoma, so most of what we get around here is actually Tex-Mex, and the Tex part of that influence means we're in beef country).  In Mexico, beef is rarely used for taco filling.  Chicken and pork are far more common.  I don't like chicken in my Mexican food, personal preference, so I avoid it.  I have a friend who makes tacos using ground turkey (or mixed turkey and beef), because ground turkey is cheap.  They come out pretty good.

But, to each their own, and as Moonbeam says, it's tough to mess up tacos.

Quote
It takes the longest to make beans. If you plan to eat at 6 pm, start on the beans by 10 am.

Does it ever!  We use canned re-fried beans because it takes too long to cook them.  That said, dad likes pinto beans cooked low and slow all day with a side of corn bread.  He'll eat on those for a couple of days and whatever is left over makes its way into a pot of chili (more properly, chili con carne, but again, I live in beef country, so chili always has beef in it).
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Tipitaka

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2014, 01:22:23 am »

Updated op.

Has anyone told Mouse this thread is here?
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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2014, 03:10:07 am »

In the Pico De Gallo; you say the salt is optional! Are you kidding? No offense intended, but you must be from California.
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Tipitaka

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2014, 03:52:41 am »

In the Pico De Gallo; you say the salt is optional! Are you kidding? No offense intended, but you must be from California.

Bakersfield, and more recently, Reedley.

My family has water retention issues related to salt. Our feet swell up. It hurts, so we avoid the stuff in general. There's plenty of salt in the beans, rice, meat, tortillas, and guacamole. No need to add more.
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bennie

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2014, 04:20:00 am »

I like tacos of every kind. Hard Corn Shell... Soft  Flour Tortilla ... etc ... and especially a Soft Flour Tortilla that is is fried with fixings already packed inside.

If I eat a regular old hard shell corn taco with basic lettuce, tomatos, cheese, refries, meat at home ... I like to dribble a bit of French Dressing on it.

A taco is just a taco and is just what you want it to be.

Some of the best Mexican food I have eaten in the US or in Mexico is a somewhat bland and not particularly a hot and spicy concoction. I like hot stuff but too much hot pepper/spice takes away from the blend.
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Moonbeam

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2014, 10:29:00 am »

My DH enjoys fish tacos. For me, something that was carried over from my childhood in Texas: breakfast tacos!

SS - I use some canned beans in my cooking, too. I rinse the black beans in cold water, drain well, add to the pot, drizzle some olive oil over them, add some minced garlic, cracked black pepper from the mill, and a dash of cinnamon. Muy buena!
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Tipitaka

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2014, 11:37:58 am »

My DH enjoys fish tacos. For me, something that was carried over from my childhood in Texas: breakfast tacos!

SS - I use some canned beans in my cooking, too. I rinse the black beans in cold water, drain well, add to the pot, drizzle some olive oil over them, add some minced garlic, cracked black pepper from the mill, and a dash of cinnamon. Muy buena!

I learned to make fish tacos from a half-polish, half-puertorican chef from New Jersey.
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Moonbeam

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2014, 11:43:38 am »

Oh yeah?! I once knew a Chinese man, named Tom who delivered pizza!  :laugh:
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I'm not where I want to be, but I'm better than where I was!

Freedom is not being able to do what you want to do; freedom is being able to NOT do what you don't want to do.

"We must not amuse ourselves with the notion that we have done something when we have only formed a good resolution. Power comes by doing and not by resolving." Charlotte Mason

"Don't hurt people and don't take their stuff." Courtesy of FreedomWorks

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2014, 02:33:53 pm »

Amusingly...I ordered a pizza from a place I frequent and a oriental sounding voice answered the phone. I'm thinking how the heck did I call the Chinese place instead of pizza.  But I was an older Chinese lady working at the pizza place.    ^_^
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Tipitaka

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2014, 03:59:30 pm »

Amusingly...I ordered a pizza from a place I frequent and a oriental sounding voice answered the phone. I'm thinking how the heck did I call the Chinese place instead of pizza.  But I was an older Chinese lady working at the pizza place.    ^_^

I like Mexican pizza... Which is actually 2 tostadas stacked on top of each other with enchilada sauce and extra cheese. Still epic.
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securitysix

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2014, 05:27:54 pm »

In the Pico De Gallo; you say the salt is optional! Are you kidding? No offense intended, but you must be from California.

Salt is optional.  And I generally recommend salting things to taste.  This can get dangerous if you're serving other people.  My mom really likes salt.  She once said to me "I thought I ate a lot of salt, then I met your daddy.  Then I thought he ate a lot of salt until I had you."  Different people have different tolerances for salt, both by taste and by what their body does with it. 

Amusingly...I ordered a pizza from a place I frequent and a oriental sounding voice answered the phone. I'm thinking how the heck did I call the Chinese place instead of pizza.  But I was an older Chinese lady working at the pizza place.    ^_^

I like Mexican pizza... Which is actually 2 tostadas stacked on top of each other with enchilada sauce and extra cheese. Still epic.

My mom once made Mexican Lasagna, which was basically flour tortillas layered with taco meat and cheese in a cake pan and put in the oven long enough to melt the cheese.  I personally think this would be better with enchilada meat instead (same thing as taco meat, but you use enchilada sauce instead of taco seasoning).  She also makes taco "casserole", which is taco meat spread over a layer of tortilla chips, topped with cheese, and again, put in the oven long enough for the cheese to melt.

I love enchiladas.  My dad hates them.  Just a random observation for you.

But I was an older Chinese lady working at the pizza place.    ^_^

LOL!!!  OK, I added some emphasis so people could share in the humor of the typo...
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Tipitaka

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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2014, 07:20:00 pm »

You suppose I should do more detailed tutorials for foreign lurkers and Mouse?

Could do tamales, enchiladas, chilli verde, 3 color rice, roasted salsas, chocolate mole, barbacoa, etc...
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Re: How to Taco: A Guide for Gringoes
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2014, 07:42:36 pm »

Who said it was a typo?    :thumbsup:
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