Posts Tagged ‘tacos’

Everything Old is New Again: Cheater’s Chicken Mole

Chicken mole with pickled onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For most of my life, I thought Mexican food was a can of Old El Paso refried beans covered with iceberg lettuce, sloppy tomatoes, and shredded cheddar cheese. What a surprise, then, when I bit into my first real taco from the truck in the gas station parking lot off Exit 33 and discovered that real Mexican food has very little in common with that. The flavors were fresh and incredibly present – aggressively green cilantro, tangy lime and such tender meat it felt ready to fall apart before I even took a bite. And the tortillas were a far cry from the brittle taco shells of my childhood. You could taste the corn with its gritty, dense texture scarred by the bitter burn of an open flame.

This was back at Davidson, and I don’t remember who it was who discovered the taco truck, but after we found it, we were always there – on lazy weekend mornings, on trips home from the Lake Campus, any time we could convince someone with a car to drive us.

Lime-pickled onions (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Browning chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chopped onions and garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Rehydrating ancho chiles (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

In Brooklyn, I lived down the street from a tortilleria, and many of my favorite evenings began at those dim and sticky tables, ladling plastic spoonfuls of spicy green salsa and pickled jalapeños on tacos and washing it down with garish pink Jarritos.

It was in Brooklyn, too, that I expanded what I knew about Mexican food beyond tacos. I lived in a neighborhood where every bodega sold giant fresh bunches of cilantro and bulk bags of masa harina and dried ancho chiles. My grocery store had an entire aisle dedicated to the Goya line of products. If ever there were the right time to experiment with the flavors of Latin cooking it was there, surrounded by easily-accessible ingredients and inspiration. » Continue reading this post...

That’s When I Gave Up My Writing Career to Make Tacos

Tacos (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Here’s something I’ve gotten really good at, as the title implies: making tacos. I’m not really sure what inspired these beauties, but I have a feeling a conversation with a coworker of mine started the whole thing. I was raving about my first trip to La Isla, a tiny storefront on Flushing where you can get a half chicken, rice, and beans for $5.25. Whoa, right? Enough chicken, rice, and beans to last for four meals anyway. I was talking about maybe making tacos when she mentioned this Honduran crema she makes for her family – sour cream mixed with heavy whipping cream and a little bit of salt to taste. Yes, please.

The whole delightful combination on a corn tortilla: diced tomatoes, slivers of jalapeño, shaved cabbage, a bit of melted cheddar, and cilantro on rich, salty rice and black beans mashed with juicy chunks of roasted chicken and topped with crema.

So it’s not traditional or authentic – but if it’s good, does it have to be?

Taco fever (Eat Me. Drink Me.) » Continue reading this post...

A(nother) Moveable Feast

Tacos with lime (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have been to the taco truck four times in the last seven days, and I just can’t seem to get enough. Set squat in the middle of the Citgo parking lot, the taco truck doesn’t look like much. Its whitewashed walls are stained with cooking smoke and the menu scrawled in magic marker is just barely legible. But out of that trailer, hitched to the back of a pickup truck, drift the most magical smells of lime, sizzling meat, and roasting jalapeños. One woman is responsible for all of this, simultaneously taking orders, assembling tacos, and pressing fresh corn tortillas as she whisks her way around the small insides of the truck.

Let me preface my enthusiastic endorsement of the taco truck by saying this. I do not like Mexican food. I will almost always pick somewhere else over the kind of Mexican restaurant where one dish is indistinguishable from another, where every plate is a variation on the theme of refried beans, rice, meat wrapped in tortilla and smothered in iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. If this what you like, don’t expect it from the taco truck.

There aren’t many options – eight types of tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and hamburgers – but even still, I’ve never known anyone to eat anything but the tacos. These are served simply, in a Styrofoam box lined with aluminum foil, garnished with queso and crema, and served with a roasted jalapeño, lime wedge, and salsa verde.

The menu (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m not sure if I can do justice to the fiery, flavorful taste of a taco truck taco. Although they’re so small you can finish one in three bites, those pungent bundles pack a big punch. The basis for each of the tacos is meat; there’s beef, chicken, chorizo, tongue, and barbeque, among a few other options that my extremely limited Spanish cannot decipher–pastor, campechanos, chicharron–and this is really the heart of the tacos. » Continue reading this post...