August 21, 2005

Tacos!

I thought the tacos came out quite good this weekend. They were very similar to No Problemo tacos. I was working completely from memory rather than bringing some home and analyzing them, so I’m convinced I’d be able to get closer if need be.

If Maggie and Julie come along soon, maybe they’ll chime in with their opinions (less biased, I should think).

Read on for the instructions.

Prepare the following marinade for about 2 lbs of meat. I used steak tips because they were a good deal this week. And they are delicious and easy to marinate and cook. But you can use flank steak or other cheap cuts because of the long marinating time.

Marinade

  • 3/4 cup tequila
  • 3/4 cup lime
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 4+ cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine those and place in a container with the meat. I find a ziplock freezer bag works great for maximizing marinade contact.

Let it marinate for 4-6 hours but probably not more than 8.

There are a number of ways you could cook the meat, from broiling to pan frying. I chose to cook it outdoors over a grill with mesquite smoke (mesquite chips soaked and thrown in with the hot coals).

Once the tips were grilled to medium rare I diced the meat and tossed it into a saucepan on low. The meat needed salt and pepper at this point. The saucepan keeps the meat hot while I prepare the taco shells.

I heated up a 9-inch cast iron skillet to medium-hot. It was just a little bigger than the burrito-size flour tortillas I had bought. One tortilla goes into the cast iron skillet and 1/2-3/4 oz of shredded Monterey Jack cheese is sprinkled in a line down the center of the tortilla (bisecting it). As the cheese melts, the outside of the tortilla is toasting. Depending on the temperature of the skillet, this can happen quickly. You can check the progress of the tortilla’s toasting with a spatula. Light brown in spots is good. It will start to get stiffer, too.

Take your diced, cooked meat and quickly place a couple of ounces on top of the cheese.

Next, if you like black beans (and I do) spread a couple of tablespoons of black beans over the meat and cheese. See below for suggestions on preparing the black beans.

When that’s toasted, lift the skillet with a gloved hand and tilt it over a plate while you use a spatula to coax the taco to slide out. Careful, it’s hot!

Once in the plate, add a few tablespoons of pico de gallo (recipe below). Fold the tortilla in half.Wrap the bottom half of the folded tortilla in foil if you wish on getting even closer to No Problemo.

Pico De Gallo

This is a kind of a mild tomato, onion cilantro salsa or salad. Prepare it no later than 15 minutes before you want to use it, because it takes a little time for the flavors to marry. The longer in advance you prepare it the more it macerates. The liquid will come out of it and it will be a little less fresh. Aim for 15 minutes to an hour.

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 scallions or green onions, sliced greens and all
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers chopped (remove the seeds, if you like)
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • the juice of 1 lime, fresh squeezed
  • tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • kosher salt to taste (about 1 tsp)

Combine all the ingredients. That’s it. No one will complain if you also throw in a tiny splash of tequila.

Black Beans

To prepare black beans for an additional delicious taco filling, try this:

  • 1 15oz can of Progresso Black Beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and fry up the onion until translucent. Toss in the beans and the spices. Add a little water to keep it from drying out and to make it easy to stir. You don’t want soup, but you don’t want the beans to break up. This is easier to achieve than it is to describe.

Notes/Variations

  • This was a fair bit of work, but it was well worth it. Most of the stuff can be prepared in advance and assembled when the guests are there.
  • For vegetarians, note that the meat is only one part of this flexible recipe. Omit it altogether and you still have something yummy.
  • For red-meat avoiders, the marinade works quite well for chicken, too. I haven’t tried it, but that’s what I hear. I’d cut the marinating time down, though. Maybe a couple of hours. Try it and see.
  • I overdid the lime in the marinade. You could probably stop at 1/2 a cup.
  • I overdid the onion in the Pico de Gallo. 1/2 a red onion would be enough.
  • Also, less cilantro in the Pico de Gallo would still work, for people who are not fond of a lot of cilantro. It is a pretty strong, distinct flavor.
  • Drink tequila while eating this. At least a couple of shots will probably improve your mood and the flavor.
  • Hopefully, there are decent gluten-free wraps that can be substituted.
  • Be careful not to overstuff your taco. If you overstuff, you won’t be able to close it.
  • If you know you are going to overstuff it, use bigger wraps and fold them more like a fajita or burrito. It works, but I think the taco fold is better.
  • Before you fold your taco up, remember that this recipe is not spicy at all. If you want a spicy taco, apply some sort of green jalapeño sauce. In lieu of that, red Tabasco works pretty well, too. Or, Chipotle Tabasco is yummy. Experiment.
  • I don’t feel the need for either sour cream or guacamole in these tacos, but don’t let that stop you. Both go really well.
  • If you don’t like black beans or just want something easier, use a pre-made can of refried beans over the meat.

Above all, enjoy!

Posted by James at August 21, 2005 10:28 PM
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Comments

I thought the amount of onion in the pico was perfect. That's my unbiased opinion.

Posted by: Julie at August 22, 2005 10:45 AM

Does No Problemo marinate with tequila too?! I don't doubt they do; they rock!

Posted by: Sharon at August 22, 2005 2:45 PM

If there were any tequila at No Problemo, the odds are against it getting into a marinade.

Posted by: ThirdMate at August 23, 2005 12:33 PM

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