Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Taco Talk

I'm not a burrito guy. I can understand the appeal of wrapping up a whole meal in a single tortilla shell, but apart from that, the taco is the burrito's better in every way. Tacos are simple and elegant. When you're halfway through a taco, you happily chow down on the remaining half. There's nothing aesthetically displeasing about it, nor does it feel overwhelming, or like too much food. Maybe you only have room for a couple of tacos, maybe you're hungry for a few.

Tacos are stress-free and laid back. Burritos make no such claims. These overstuffed tortillas ascribe to the bigger is better, let's-buy-a-Hummer mutation of the American ideal. The excesses of a sit-down restaurant burrito and a fast food burrito are no different: the burrito is a behemoth in any setting. With a taco, you get to see exactly what you're eating, and for me, the aesthetic is a crucial part of the eating experience. All you see of the burrito is aluminum foil, tortilla, and that deeply unappetizing cross-section revealed by your last bite. Further, the burrito makes for an exhausting endeavor. Unlike a taco, when you're halfway done with a burrito, a food coma slowly begins to set in, and by the time you've reached the 2/3 mark, you're staring down the unappealing last few bites of the burrito, debating with yourself whether you have room to finish it or whether you should wrap it up and have it for lunch the next day, eventually remembering how terrible burritos usually are the next day, their smushed components done no favor by the passage of time or refrigeration.

So, it should come as no surprise that I present below a plethora of taco photos for your viewing pleasure, with some accompanying ideas for different tacos to try at home.

Breakfast Tacos

These breakfast tacos serve as a more restrained and refined counterpoint to a traditional breakfast burrito. In each flour tortilla: Hass avocado; 1/2 farm fresh egg and applewood smoked bacon omelet; mixture of Monterey Jack, Mild Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero cheeses. The trick to turning out a bunch of these at once is to cook the bacon first, crumble it, and cook the egg and the crumbled bacon together, Denver Omelet-style. The avocado provides a welcome, buttery contrast to the protein-heavy egg-and-bacon combo.


Personally, I much prefer ground turkey in tacos to ground beef. The leaner meat packs plenty of flavor and provides the same chewy, pleasant texture as ground beef.


While you can easily make both hard and soft-shell tacos simultaneously, soft-shell tacos require slightly more preparation. To achieve the warmed, slightly charred effect of this flour tortillas, rest a tortilla over a gas burner set to medium-low, wait for the first sign of steam escaping underneath (about 15 seconds), flip with tongs, repeat, and remove to a plate for taco assembly.


Hard-shell tacos aren't really my thing, but my girlfriend Jen has a soft spot for them. If you are making hard-shell tacos, diced tomatoes provide a nice contrast to the crunch of the hard shell.

Carne Asada

These Carne Asada tacos contain charred sweet Vidalia onions, grilled spice-rubbed Organic flank steak, and a blend of Queso Quesadilla, Asadero, Queso Gallego, Anejo Enchilado, and Manchego cheeses. Flank steak lends itself extraordinarily well to steak tacos. Onions provide a sweet, refreshing accompaniment to the meaty flavor of the steak.

Chicken for Tacos

These chunks of chicken breast, for chicken tacos, are shown mixing with a Mexican-spiced pan juice reduction. Rather than using a traditional taco sauce (homemade or otherwise), a reduction is quick and easy to whip up with the leftover pan juices, and can be quickly tossed with the cooked chicken prior to assembling your tacos.

Chicken & Avocado Tacos

The above chicken brings us to our final taco: stovetop-grilled flour tortillas; freshly-sliced Hass avocado; Organic boneless chicken breast with a Mexican-spiced pan juice reduction.


Thanks for stopping by Beach City Cooking, and be sure to come back tomorrow for the first edition of a weekly series here at BCC. Have a great evening, and think of us when sending blind carbon copy emails!

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