Archive | May, 2014

Online Top 40 Taco List Dumbfoundedly Overlooks Arizona (and mi concina)

31 May

Top 40 lists are like opinions. Everyone has several. The same cannot be said of assholes, so I wonder, maybe that adage is from The Naked Lunch? Perhaps it was directed at congress.
lyon-griswold-brawl_webEs verdad?

Ascent_of_the_A-Word_by_Geoffrey_Nunberg

Enough with etymology 101. This arsehole needs to put forth his belated; mira, most days I have only one free hand for about an hour max – the other mano diaper/tortilla model/despot of cute bound –  and usually covered in grease..hence I gallo peck, peck, peck my tardy opinion on a top 40 list landing in my inbox, crimeny, has it already been two weeks?

Next slide: The top 40 tacos according to some email/blog featured several Chicago and New York variations  y nunca from the Grand Canyon state.

We will return to the arsehole after this commercial interruption redux:

Sure I know better than to believe everything I see on TV and especially commercials made in the 1980s, in NYC. But cover me in whipped cream and feed me to the Tijuana Brass if there ain’t at least a chunk of truth in what the good people brewing Pace were pushing (a relatively sound salsa in a pinch or on a budget + Costco gallon jugs make brilliant repurposed spicy sun tea breweries – Mexi-Chai anyone?).

fvUG-v8A

We will return to the whip cream covered arsehole after this brassy musical interlude, hit it Herb:

Gracias for that timeless jam El Jefe. And now I will attempt to get out of my own way, avoid getting dragged asunder into the riptide of my mind (take that Jim Morrison) and taking you dear readers along with me to a geology lecture and instead get right down to it….

 

Mi favorite Three North American Mexican tacos in no particular orden:

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2  Tacos for .99 cents @ Jack-in-the-Box (several locations)

For several reasons as to “Por Que?” link to a previously, equally confounding posting para mi here:

https://ifeltlikeagringo.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/jack-in-the-box-tacos-human-behavior/

Additional support points:

1. Viva La Raza: The lovely Mexi-chefs who make them can actually afford to feed their family several dozen for dinner and still have some cash left over for dulce, heck JITB may even provide benefits.

2. Authentically Mexican American: vs. a snarky remark in the top 40 article about “deep fried tacos”: all the Mexican families I know make their tacos at home by deep/pan frying them, usually with ground beef, iceberg lettuce, cheese, hot sauce and beer (served separately).

3. Authentically Aztec: I did once detect hummingbird notes and blood.

4. Location, location, location: This one goes out to all those paises left out of the top 40 List, including, oh yeah, Arizona? Seriously?

5. Taco Sauce – trust me, you’ll make a second pass through the drive-thru for extra envelopes – and “two more tacos for .99 cents por favor”

 

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El Zaragosa – Avenue A/14th St – NYC

This now hip (LOL) taqueria opened one block south of my apartment the year I moved into an illegal sublet I probably should stop blogging about ahora, the apt that is. If I close my eyes I can still see their shiny red/green/white vinyl awning from my window. But I am blogging in a public space where you get kicked in the shin by a security guard for so much as yawning, so scratch that daydreaming bullshit.

I do need to blog this though, I perfected several of the recipes I’ve blathered on about, most notably enchilada sauce, living la vida illegal. El kitchen mucho grande – seriously, for NYC #%@&ing yuge – allowed for several dozen culinary excursions “South of the Border”, though really I only got as far as the Four Corners (ye olde Mexico) with occasional forays through the American South (ye olde Dixie) i.e. chipotle/roasted garlic/smoked cheddar grits loaf, green chile corn bread, chorizo gumbo, bourbon.

Due to the tangential nature of both my living quarters and income, El Zaragosa moslty became a hub for essential AzMex ingredients (Mexican oregano, canned posole, El Pato, caguamas, etc.). They hadn’t yet branched out into serving comida tipica Pueba and I wasn’t making enough money to eat it anyway. The Zaragosas (alias so as not to implicate them in my clandestine rental arrangement) also hooked me up with help in conversational Espanol over cold Tecate caguamas in the back, where we also swapped cooking tips and shared a love of their pais de origen, Puebla.

The Zaragosas y yo grew together as neighbors and friends. I got more and more in touch with my inner-abuela en mi cocineria gigante. The Zaragosas embraced their outter-capitalists and acquired the permits to serve hot comida in a makeshift kitchen about the size of a gas station counter.  They must have illegally pre-prepared some foods at home or had some Garbriel Garcia Marquez magical realistic method for cooking in their crotches and armpits, for the Zaragosas were as round as they were tall and yet offered a complete menu. Stuffed in there among the Narcorrido CDs and cigarettes, there wasn’t enough room to safely sneeze, let alone smoke a goat. I blog still baffled, but who am I to talk shit, everything I did in my apt was illegal.

This was the Fall of 2001 when the whole world was trying to put itself back together again.

Enter: Summer 2002, I am gainfully employed for the first time in several years and the Zargosas might as well have been taking reservations, business bustled so. As a reward for my patience and deftness at dodging bill collectors I’d treat myself to tamales fresh from Mrs. Zaragosa’s armpit and/or microwave – green and red and sabrosa and 2 for $3 – with me newfound liquid capital.

The absurd sacrifices Mahattanites make for apartment porn bragging rights borders on a pathology worthy of a DSM entry or at the very least a Sex In The City app. Escuche: Most often heard response to the size of my illicit lodgings: “Oh. My. Gawd.” Sure, 13C was huge but it was also – running the sexual subtext into the ground – incredibly hot. As temperatures rose so did my kitchen slowly shut down. In addition to having faulty appliances I could not call in a supe to repair without risking incarceration or eviction, one other “without” I went with was absolutely no A/C.

By July I have no doubt I was paying the note on the Zaragosa’s new pick-up truck. It’s also possible I was making a goat farmers in Queens quite rich. Over the course 6 weeks I must have eaten at least 100 tacos chivos, while also introducing several friends to one of Mexico’s most divine – and underappreciated – comidas. Each bite was like soaring through smokey clouds over a Puebla zocalo while exotic odors arose from below. Unbelievably, not until the Gods hooked me up with cheap rent and Satan took away my icy summertime BTUs did I ever put voca to chivo. Incredibly, I was a virgin. By the end of Summer I was a serial killer.

The Queens goat smokers struggled to keep up with the demand en mi El Barrio. Weekends, when the chivo and menudo were at their freshest, in orden to beat the crowds, I had to start taking my lunch earlier and earlier until at last I was eating tacos chivos for breakfast (and lunch) (and sometimes dinner). I’d draw a bead on the line of mostly Mexican families from my bathroom window through a paper towel tube periscope rigged up….JK…about the periscope. Until one slightly excruciatingly hungover Sabado I missed the last of the chivo by un pello.

Gods look after drunks and poets and so a handmade sign advertised a weekend special: my beloved ceso. I blathered to Mrs. Zaragosa in broken Spanish my astonishment that of all the taco stands in NYC I should have walked into one serving this sacred Sonoroan dried beef dish I mistakenly believed was unavailable outside the confines of my beloved Southwest. Mrs. Zaragaso, as was her custom, nodded enthusiastically through a smile that would melt Pluto while ladelling full an aluminum para llavar tin. The thickness of the crowd and mild late-morning temperature sent me back to my casa grande to inhale my mana in peace.

We interrupt this blog to present a phone call from blogger to amigo respectfully renamed anonymous from said date with ceso…

 

 

Me: “Hola anonymous. What’s up?”

Anonymous: “Nada. You up early for a Saturday?”

Me: “Yeah, I grabbed almuerza at the Avenue A goat taco palace but they were out of chivo and you won’t believe it but they had or at least I thought they had carne seso but it doesn’t look anything like the carne seca I know or even machaca for that matter.”

Anonymous: “Did you say ‘seca’ or seso”?

Me: “Seso. It’s all the same, right?”

Anonymous: “Seso is brain.”

CLICK

So I ate my seso, every last drop. And if you’ve ever eaten hot rubber band bits stir fried in potting soil, then you too have enjoyed this rare – and by the looks of the line still leading around the block – extremely plata populare. I even went so far as wiped the tin clean with one of Mrs. Zaragosa’s microwaved corn tortilas. A few hours later I called anonymous back for bragging rights:

Me: “Yeah, the whole thing. And then I shit my brains out.”

 

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I labored over that last bit about the brains – it kind shows through in both the syntax and diction I am sure – to make a point about how to best measure not “the best” of anything. Soapbox please: There are more varieties and variation of Mexican food – and let’s be honest here, it’s really Mexican American food – available it hardly seems fair, let alone accurate to judge one taco stand or restaurant against another. Rather I rather like what I concocted here which is to measure a stand’s tacos against one another. They’re cheap and small enough for anyone to do this. And really, you owe it to yourself to at least try the lengua once or even the seso because – ready for a really onslaught  – really, a bad taco is better than no taco any day.

And because I once again have a cocineria grande en Chicago, I’ve yet to eat any tacos outside of my own casa which is why number tres is:

 

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Tacos en Dulce Casa: Chicago

My home is where my favorite tacos are served nearly daily. It’s why I blog and if you are still with me, need to check out some of my taco styings and hustle up a batch on yer own.

IMG_3005Chi-mex taco

If you want ’em to keep coming back for more, always, but always toss in a little Spanish Fly, I mean Flea dammit, flea (though I bet Herb meant fly – or maybe go-go dancers):

 

 

 

Plata de jour: Chilaquiles de Ochco de Mayo

9 May

Even though Cinco de Mayo es mas or menos fading in the rearview mirror, may of us celebrants are still charged with lingering clean up and/or consumption of what’s been leftover or left behind, dealing with reconnoitering the den for piñata limbs, fishing empty Coronita bottles out of the shark tank, corraling the stray chihuahua or two,“What the hell are those rubbed into the rug, ironic Frech fries? Can French fries even be ironic? Oh, they’re from McDonald’s? Still warm? Give me one.”,  breaking down the occasional mechanical bull

 

Got gist?

And if like some revelers I know, who perhaps dove down into the deep end a bottle of Hornitos, and maybe lost a battle of their own with say the Ziploc seal on a bag of corn tortillas, leaving them on the counter for, oh, a couple days, to grow stale, I am here to share with you a time-worn El Sul recipe that will at once salvage both said tortillas and trounce any accompanying agave-fuled shame.

Nun

 

 

Bonjour Chilaquiles!

While around Chicago chillaquilles has come to mean “awesome trendy brunch Mexican food/hangover treatment” (practically everyone I know seems possessed with a burning desire to tell, text and tweet me with the what they think I’ll rush out an order in a bistro de gringo what is actually one of the easiest Nah-Az-Mexi-cago-uatl dishes one can cook) as often as it is mispelled, most Mexicans and Nahuatls you meet think of chilaquilesas little more than misplled leftovers cooked con mucho awesome (pronounced “Aw-eh-saw-meow).

 

Before we get to the recipe and obligatory gustatory iPhone pix, consider yourself warned, while freakishly deliciouso, chilaquiles are no feast for the eyes (“gourmet food for the blind”, according to my imaginary abuela) and hell on pots and/or pans.

Oh yeah, chilaquiles also leave your cocinera smelling like a Tijuana taco truck (sans diesel). To my nariz, the last detail esta fairly awesome, to mi esposa’s not so mucho.

 

keep-calm-and-vamos-a-comer

 

CHILAQUILES DE OCHO DE MAYO

INGREDIENTS (amounts vary according to size and flavor)

Stale corn tortillas torn into 2 inch pieces (of El Milagro)

eggs (of the chicken)

minced onions (of the yellow variety)

cheese (of your choosing)

salsa and/or enchilada sauce (of your choosing)

sour cream (of the cow)

oil (of the vegetable)

INSTRUCTIONS: Cover the bottom of a deepish sauce pan with oil, heat till smokey. Toss in tortilla strips. Stand back. Cook and stir till crispy. Crack and stir in an egg or two. Nearing cooked, add enough sauce/salsa to cover all ingredients. Remove from heat and stir in queso. Topped with sour cream dollop.

Mira: The obligatory iPhone pic:

photo 1 (2)

(the brilliant Herdez 5 chile salsa was used in the making of this dish, though my personal favorito mole es leftover chipotle enchilada sauce)

NOTE: I prefer my chiliquiles sans meat. Don’t let this stop you from adding leftover carne o pollo o chihuahua.

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Here is the aforedescribed “hell on pot”:

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Y aqui estas Ocho to help turn cleaning the whole confounded filthy Cinco de Drinko mess up into a funky bailar:

 

Avarice, Lent & Microwaving Burritos

2 May

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Even though I am not a Catholic, I soooo wanted to give up Googling for Lent. The thought – remember those? – being I might reconnect with my brain via a neuron and/or God by way of prayer. “Figure stuff out” like they used to in the old days. Put one’s faith in a higher power (though we kind of do when prostrate before Father Google) or if that fails at the very least a real live human being. Seek fantasy baseball guidance from a Mayan shaman. Talk to a barista about the foam futures. Haggle with a librarian over overdue fines. Ask a gas station attendant for directions to Wrigley Field. Get a tip on a racehorse from the shoeshine man. Man, am I starting to sound like an old fart or what? (Google: “Old fart”, yep, that’s yo.)

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So novel a Lenten undertaking lasted a whole three hours. I blame the devil: my iPhone. Look no further than this dastardly device Father.

(And then forgive me, gracias).

Steve Jobs confounded invention neglected to remind me to grab my nightly burrito before bicycling workward on Ash Wednesday. (yeah, I know this was like three months ago but I get a lot lost online with my fantasy baseball waiver wire wanderings. I still eat pretty much the same stuff daily which is the point entire). And since Madison Avenue regularly adds a tentacle here a forked tongue there to the ever-colonizing tattoo of Taco Bell cravings (viva almuerzo!) en ye olde frontal temporal lobe, come break time, I rocketed West to inhale a trio of Taco Supremes (hard shell/ground beef/yum) and nick a few dozen hot sauces for future reference.

The only Loop TB serves only lunch. Or at least that’s what Google once told me. Google must have. Must have been why I forgot. Google never forgets. I do. I think. I think I forget. I forget therefore I am not Google. I think it Must have been why I ended up rattling the 10’ foot high steel gate separating me from a Run To The Border instead chowing down on PepsiCo Mexi-versimilitude….

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We interrupt this blog to post a conversation overheard on the Red Line Elevated Train yesterday around suppertime, a testament of sorts to the power of the T-Bell:

Kid 1: Isn’t Wrigleyvile at Addison?

Kid 2: Yeah, you ever been there?

(NOTE: At the corner of Addison and Clark, larger than the Saturn, rises from the concrete one Wrigley Field, international temple to recreational day drinking and oh yes, home to those loveable losers The Chicago Cubs.)

Kid 1: Is there a Taco Bell there?

Kid 2: Yep.

Kid 1: Yeah, I walked to that Taco Bell once.

Kid 2: Cool.

Back to our regularly scheduled blather:

Though I do recall this episode now without the aid Google. I think. But is this my memory or is it Google’s? Won’t Google please pay David Byrne to re-record Once In A Lifetime with accompanying video and replace the lyric “My Google, what have I done?” Because even though eerily silent – not unlike A God – the sound I always imagined Google makes while Googling is something akin Eno’s digital burbling chimes that open one of a few tracks God most certainly had a hand in recording:

Blog to Blogger: “Where exactly the fck are you going with this?”

Taco Bell fue cerrado. Mi Corazon fue triste. My break lasts only an hour. The walk from my Mies Van Der Rohe work container to some other smug Modern architect’s steel and glass terrarium that is the Thompson Center takes eats up a quarter of that time: 15 minutes, if my math is correct.

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In a bit of a state, all Burt Lancastery at the end of The Swimmer – though dry & clothed – I tried God real quick, as in, “God expletive, where the expletive is an open Taco Bell?” When he/she didn’t answer I turned to the devil (iPhone Google app cuz  Siri has been about as helpful to me as an STD) and paid dearly for my transgression (even though I’m not a Catholic).

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No matter how many times ways or means I turn, rotate, wrap, and yes, even gently Kobe beef massage a nuked burrito (any variation: frozen or fridged)/machine, Mexican or homemade), upon inhalation, I somehow always manage to melt off several layers of inner-mouth flesh, blister tongue and gums and yet eventually bite into a gag-reflex flexing 60-30 degree Fahrenheit kernel of blech.

With the nearest Taco Bell being in Wrigleyville (about a 30 minute bike each way), time running out I settled for a quick fix at the 7-11.

7-11s in the Loop, and possibly Chicagoland, to deter either theft or microwaveable crystal meth cook ups, keep their microwaves behind the counter. Patron palates are victims of the culinary skills of 7-11 employees. True to stereotypes and The Simpsons, these Loop convenience stores are manned by men from India and/or Pakistan. (I suppose you could throw Trinidad into the mix too.) The point being, expectations for something piping hot and delicious cooked by such capable hands (Indian food (naan not fry bread) nips at the heels of Mexican food on the race to my mouth for eating bliss) were running high when said Michigan Avenue 7-11 Counter Man (his nametag hung blank) dispatched my dinner. Heck, MA7-11CM was forward thinking enough to bag said gut bomb, noting how obsessively I took to checking the time, before handing it over.

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Cut to: Divine Intervention: Here the Gods make me pay for poking fun at Lent, cursing them for closing Taco Bell, thinking for a second they are above Googling, my cultural insensitively, and being a smart ass at meal time when I should be grateful simply to have something to eat not dropped from plane, a pachyderm’s anus, and/or made of millet and/or dirt.

We covered the Donner party (as in chili con cousins not celebration con Kool and The Gang) here once already.

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As unappetizing a subject as they are for a faux-food blog I need to rear their ugly heads up again because the first bite of my quite room temperature dinner, both in tortilla texture and filling flavor suggested nothing less than forearm. I spit the limb chunk onto the sidewalk and with even less time to complete dinner returned to MA7-11CM requesting he throw the limb back in the nuker for another 2 minutes. MA7-11CM  happily agreed, not catching the arm joke – or maybe he did and took offense. (Take note germo-phobes: dbl nuking; though something tells me nuclear rays sanitize thoroughly evertying.)

 

Round-Two
Round two/bite two*

Score:

Gods: 2

Nedduh: 0

(*Like being French Kissed by Gene Simmons)

Lesson learned: don’t mess with the Gods, MA7-11CM, rock stars on fire, and never trust a microwave. So until Google innovates a way to cook using gamma rays beaming out of Google Glasses I am going native. From this day forward I will re-heat burros over open flames, er, on our Weber. (During regularly scheduled work hours will prove trickier.  Just have to burn that bridge when I get to it.)

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Parties interested in the open flame/conventional oven technique should know, time permitting, this may be the most thorough and by far sabrosa way to heat up burros. Es muy facil: Set grill to medium or oven to 350, wrap burro in aluminum foil and cook for about 10 minutes. Toaster ovens rock the re-heated burro tambien.

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Here’s a Chi-Mexi-Ski burro (refrieds, raw onions, pre-shredded cheddar, grilled kielbasa, fresh NM green) fresh off the grill:

unnamedHere’s a tasty polka to go with it: