Sunday, April 10, 2011
Tack-O's or Who-AY-vo's Ranchero's?
Diversity is important in our world today - you can't throw a rock in Washington County without hitting a restaurant, cafe, or food cart peddling food from another culture. And I don't mean yogurt...altho some of them are actually serving that too. But then I don't really consider McD's to be terribly diverse....unless you count the occasional nod to the South with the McRib. Which bears zero resemblance to anything even closely related to the real thing....it's like they have a gigantic machine that looks like Ronald's head that they throw whole pigs in and it chews them up and spits them out into weird, pseudo-rib shaped patties to be boiled and then re-heated with a sauce that would make your dog tuck tail and run the other way. Oh, and pickles...because southerners always eat pickles with their ribs....right before the cucumber sandwich course and after the vichyssoise (tater soup for the snooty).
Growing up, my only experience with Mexican food was tacos, and a couple times those canned tamales wrapped in paper. A few years back, I found a book at Goodwill about food in Minnesota. They touched on Mexican food and talked about "Tack-O's" made with meat, cheese and ketchup. I was laughing so hard people were looking at ME weird....in GOODWILL. You have to be pretty special for Goodwill shoppers to think you're odd - I should know, I've shopped there for years. I still regret to this day that I did not buy that book for my SIL from the land of 1000 lakes, but I was afraid she would be insulted and call me a hoser, don'tcha know. Anyway, we had tacos regularly, and they were simple and different from what other white people had...we bathed the corn tortillas in hot oil just to soften them, then added ground beef with taco seasoning (I grew to hate it and refuse to use it anymore), cheddar cheese, lettuce, fresh tomato, chopped onion and ALWAYS Rosarita taco sauce. Yum.
I still eat them to this day, I just adjust a bit so my ass doesn't rival the Alamo in size and shape. I use ground turkey, seasoned as per my friend Jennifer with garlic, lime and a little salt, use those itty bitty tortillas, and just spray them on both sides and heat in the pan. I also have to pull back on cheese (sigh), so I use extra sharp so a little goes a long way. And I skip the sauce/salsa...I like the freshness of just tomato - I can't eat off taco trucks because they season their meat with something that should come in a flame thrower..."tastes like burning" is my wussy sentiment.
An old friend who was half German, half Mexican and who gave me the cottage cheese noodles and bacon recipe once told me to bring in my "salsa" and she would bring hers, so I whipped up a batch of deliciousness and brought it in for lunch. She quite insulting sneered at my offering and said "That's PICO, THIS is salsa" and whipped out this soupy, full of weird vegetables bowl of strangeness. Stung by the slam, and ready to blow it in her face, I took a chipful of it and put it in my mouth....I'm pretty sure I saw Our Lady of Guadalupe before it even hit my stomach - never had such a delicioso concoction, and I was hooked. Not that I don't like Pico, this was just an entirely different animal. She told me her fave breakfast was huevos rancheros with that salsa, and she reeled me in - for whatever reason, eggs with tomatoes are an incredible pair, and adding beans, cheese and a big margarita for breakfast makes your day go so much better!
So here is the recipe for Viki's Salsa, followed by my version of Huevos Rancheros - its quite delicious, and if you don't like eggs, just eat the salsa with the tortilla and beans...but you're missin' OUT.
I didn't learn this with amounts, and it always turns out fine, but I'll give you some estimates in case you're afraid to experiment...but I'm pretty sure it won't matter in the end - you would be hard pressed to screw this up. Well, most of you.
Roma tomatoes - 3-4 lbs. YES, Roma's - they have less juice
Bell Peppers or any mild pepper - Anaheims, banana...probly 6-12ish?
Yellow onion, 2 to 3 large
Cilantro, one or two bunches
Garlic, probably up to a whole head
Water (as needed)
First you want to roast the peppers - do it on the BBQ, or in a broiler - just cook until they are blackened, the throw in a paper bag and close the top for a few minutes - it will steam the skins loose and you can rub it off under cold running water. Some skin is OK, and bits of black make you look all fancy. Cut out the top and the seeds/veins, then slice into long strips.
Peel onion, quarter and slice. Divide cilantro in half, rinse really well and chop coarsely, but don't use the stems past the leafy part of the bunch. Core tomatoes (I use a tomato shark, which is the worlds coolest tool...see picture), then slice and chop coarsely. Put everything in pan except half the cilantro, and cook over medium heat about 20-30 minutes, adjusting seasoning to your liking. Don't be a wuss about the cumin - I did not care for it before this, but you need to be able to taste it and it may take a lot. Add water if it's too thick...it should be slightly more soupy than most prepared salsas. At the very end, add the rest of the cilantro - adds a fresh kick of flavor that makes it! I freeze this in 2 cup containers (i.e, used sour cream containers I can mark "Viki's Salsa" and then throw away when I've used it up) - I have some I just used that is at least 2 years old, and it tastes like fresh!
Corn tortillas (I prefer white...so much for diversity)
Refried beans (from a can is fine - don't judge me)
Cheese (that cool crumbly Mexican cheese would be da bomb, but I mostly use cheddar)
Oil for frying
Heat Salsa, keep warm. Heat beans, keep warm. Heat a half inch of oil in a small skillet over medium high heat until hot, slip in tortillas one at at time and fry on both sides until golden brown and crunchy. Use a metal spat and press them down to flatten out and eliminate the worst bubbles - but be careful, they can spit and make you spend mucho hours in the laundry room with a bottle of Shout - then drain on paper towels. When you have enough for the number of eggs you're SURELY cooking, drain the oil from the pan, let it cool a minute, then start frying eggs. That is classic, over easy/medium/hard (gross), one egg per tortilla - if you really want you can scramble them too. Spread a thin layer of beans on each tortilla, top with one egg each, then a big spoonful of salsa and a sprinkling of cheese. Serve with some fresh fruit and a cup of coffee and a liberal hosing off of Tabasco if you like tasting nothing but Tabasco...it'll rock your hacienda!