When did “Taco Tuesday” become a thing? Well, according to sources on the internet, we can thank New Jersey’s Gregory’s Restaurant & Bar, in 1982, Wyoming’s Taco John’s, in 1989, and more recently, LeBron James’ Instagram posts about his weekly dinner habits, and the amazing thing is that all three sought to trademark the term, “Taco Tuesday”.
How silly is that?
Tacos have been known to make an appearance on my dinner table more often than just one day a week. I could make tacos for dinner every day for a month and never have a repeat recipe!
Tonight, it’s quick carnitas. Classic Mexican carnitas recipe requires simmering pork for several hours, until the pork is tender and shreds easily. My method is much quicker and better suited for making dinner in a hurry. I use country-style ribs, which, surprisingly do not contain bones and are not actually meat from the rib. Country-style ribs come from the fatty, muscular portion of the shoulder, which gives them a good amount of marbling, making them well suited to fast or slow cooking.
I sear the pork on all sides, in a hot pan, in a little oil. I remove the meat and cut it into tiny pieces and return the pieces to the pan. I add some chopped white onion, cumin, red chili powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of oregano and then mix everything together. I cover the pan with a lid and simmer at low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
As with any dinnertime meal, I like to be efficient while preparing everything, so I start cooking the potatoes in hot oil at the same time I start cooking the pork.
I roast a few jalapeños over the gas burner on the stovetop.
I chop some lettuce, tomatoes, and green onions while the pork and potatoes cook. I arrange the vegetables on a serving tray, along with some cooked corn, sour cream and salsa.
I steam the flour tortillas, just before the pork is ready.
Expect cooking time, including preparation, to be 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Just for fun, anyone who played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, way back in the 1970’s and 1980’s might appreciate THACO Thursdays. That’s a very obscure reference, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it.
I wanted to jump right into this fish taco recipe but I couldn’t resist the urge to discuss the phenomena that is Tilapia.
Tilapia is a freshwater fish that describes dozens of types of fish. If I was an ichthyologist I might be able to go into greater detail about the different types of fish that fall under the umbrella of “tilapia” but my interest lies elsewhere.
What intrigues me is the fact that tilapia have become a predominant food source in a very short period of time. Tilapia have rapidly become one of the most consumed fish in the United States. It is also popular across the globe, due to low production cost.
Tilapia are easily farmed. They are not carnivorous, which make them less expensive to raise than salmon or trout. They mature quickly, which leads to quick harvesting and, they can endure living in close proximity to each other. All of these qualities make them desirable for aquaculture.
I don’t know where I’m going with all of this except to say that I was really curious about the sudden popularity of tilapia and I thought others might be, too. So, before I totally kill the mood and start making allusions to Soylent Green, let’s make some fish tacos…
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 large, or 2 medium sized jalapeños, thinly sliced or shredded
3 scallions (green onions), green portion diced and white portion thinly sliced
½ cup vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbs sugar
1 avocado, sliced
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch of garlic salt
6 to 8 small russet potatoes
¾ lb fresh tilapia filets
¼ cup flour
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbs cornstarch
12 corn tortillas
In a large skillet, add 1 cup cooking oil. Set heat to low.
Add the shredded carrot, sliced jalapeño and the sliced scallion root to a mixing bowl. Stir to mix. Add the vinegar, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Peel and slice the avocado. Squirt some lemon juice over the sliced avocado and sprinkle with a little garlic salt.
Scrub the potatoes under cool running water. Dry the potatoes with a paper towel. Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces. Add potatoes to the skillet and adjust the heat to medium/high. Stir the potatoes after 1 minute and adjust the heat to medium. Leave the potatoes alone for 15 minutes.
Arrange the fish filets on a paper towel-lined plate.
Spread ¼ cup flour over a large plate. Scatter the cumin, chili powder and garlic powder over the flour.
Dust each side of the fish with a scant amount of cornstarch.
Strain the pickled vegetables and discard the vinegar mixture. Put the shredded vegetables in a bowl and keep handy.
Stir the potatoes a few times and strain the oil, once the potatoes have crisped. Store the potatoes in a bowl, in a warm place.
Return the oil to the pan and set the heat to medium. Soften the corn tortillas in the hot oil. Remove the tortillas and store in a warm place.
Crack an egg over a large plate. Lightly whisk with a fork.
Create a dredging station with the fish, egg and flour. Take a piece of fish and dip both sides in the egg. Lay the fish in the flour mixture and shake off any loose flour. Lay the fish in the hot skillet.
Fry the fish for about two minutes and then turn the fish over, with a large spatula. Fry for another two minutes and turn the fish again. Fry for another minute and remove the fish to a paper towel-lined plate.
Slice the fish in bite sized pieces.
Assemble the tacos. I like to use two tortillas per taco but one is perfectly fine, too. Add avocado slices, pickled vegetables and fish.
Top with cilantro and green onion and serve with home fries.
Working moms and working dads are challenged every day. On any given day, parents and kids are both worn
out by the time they come home. I have
learned that if I sit down, when I come home, I’m pretty much done for the
day. The longer I sit, the more likely I
am to order Pizza or Chinese food. There’s
nothing wrong with that but I find more satisfaction by staying on my feet and
cranking out a quick, nutritious meal.
Ironically, the more difficult my workday is, the more
likely I am to push through and cook something.
Once I get started cooking I get into a rhythm and the act of cooking
becomes therapeutic and strangely relaxing.
The best part is, I get to talk to my family in the kitchen while dinner
is prepared and then we all get to sit together and have a meal.
Ground beef tacos are super-easy to make and they can be
accompanied by as much or little as you wish.
This time it was just my wife and me having dinner. My kids are young adults now and we don’t all
gather for dinner, like we did in the past.
I miss that, but at the same time, I know that’s just the way life works.
After a long day of work, moms and dads don’t want to waste precious
time or energy.
Use every shortcut. Work efficiently and always make one thing special, or out of the ordinary, and include some sort of fresh vegetables.
No recipe this time…just pictures. It’s tacos for crying out loud!
Tacos de Carne Ranchero con Papas Fritas… Steak Ranchero Tacos with Fried Potatoes.
Well, here I go again with another Tex-Mex recipe. I never knew just how often I go to Tex-Mex until I started a food blog. Mexican cuisine is just so versatile that it’s hard to resist.
Growing up in Texas meant that I was surrounded by Tex-Mex. It was only natural that I gravitated to
Tex-Mex when I started cooking. Now that
I live in Mississippi, I suppose I could refer to my Mexican dishes as
Miss-Mex, but it just doesn’t sound as cool as Tex-Mex.
When I cook Mexican food I don’t aim to achieve
“authenticity” in a recipe. I have to
laugh when I see Mexican restaurants that claim to serve “authentic Mexican
food”. I’m sure that those restaurants
mean well but, if you want authentic Mexican cuisine, go to Mexico.
Consider everything that goes into a meal…the vegetables,
the fruit, the meats, the spices. They
are a product of the sunlight, rain and soil of the region that they come
from. Anyone who has moved from one
place to another usually recognizes a difference in the taste of the local
water. Every aspect of our natural world
is unique to specific regions and even though those differences may seem subtle,
they play a major part in authenticity.
The point is, it doesn’t matter what you call it. It just needs to be good. Learn cooking methods from other cultures and
apply them to what you want to make.
This recipe was intended for two to four people.
1 ½ lbs top round beef roast
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs red chili powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp chili piquin powder (or cayenne)
3 green onions, separate white from green parts
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 ripe tomatoes
¼ cup prepared picante sauce
1 medium yellow onion (chop half and slice the other half)
12 corn tortillas
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded lettuce
1/2 cup cotija cheese
12 corn tortillas
2 russet potatoes (or 1 very large potato)
1 cup prepared guacamole
On a clean cutting board, cut the beef into ½” steaks.
Remove the tough connective tissue. Look at the white strips and feel them with your fingers. If they feel tough, cut them out.
Combine the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and chili piquin in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the spices over each side of the steaks. Set aside.
Wash and scrub the potatoes. Dice potatoes into ½” pieces.
Heat a skillet to medium/low and add about ¼ cup of vegetable oil. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and crispy.
Strain the potatoes and keep them warm until ready to serve. I usually keep them in a bowl on top of the stove, with the oven set to 250°.
Chop the other vegetables and slice the lime into
quarters. Set aside.
Prepare the ranchero
Heat a skillet to medium and add 1 tsp cooking oil. Add garlic and chopped white parts of the
green onions and sauté for about 30 seconds.
Add about half of the chopped tomatoes, half of the chopped yellow onion
and the picante sauce. Simmer for
several minutes until the vegetables are fully cooked and soft. Remove the sauce and keep warm.
Prepare the tortillas
Heat a skillet to medium.
Add ¼ cup of cooking oil. When
oil is hot, prepare the tortillas by cooking on each side until the tortillas
are firm, but not crisp.
Store the tortillas in a warm place. The stove top works for me.
Heat a skillet to high heat.
Add 1 Tbs cooking oil. Once the
oil is hot, add the steaks to the skillet.
Leave the steaks alone…don’t mess with them. Once you see a char developing on the bottom
of the steaks, turn them over and cook for another minute, or so. Total cook time should be about 2 or 2 ½ minutes. Don’t overcook them!
Remove the steaks to a clean cutting board.
Slice into ½” strips.
Heat a skillet to low/medium heat and add the steak and
ranchero sauce. Cook for a minute, just
to warm everything.
Prepare the tacos
I like to use two tortillas per taco.
Add strips of steak to each taco.
Add chopped lettuce, cilantro, diced tomato, sliced yellow
onion and chopped green onion. Squirt
some lime juice onto the tacos.
In my never-ending attempt to rid my refrigerator of leftovers I found myself falling back on a familiar theme: Tex-Mex. Mexican cuisine can be made with all sorts of things and that’s what makes it so easy to rely on, when having to decide what to scrape together for dinner.
For this meal, corn tortillas tied everything together. I made three different types of tacos, two with beef and one with turkey. All of them shared some of the typical taco toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro and sour cream. Each one had at least one signature ingredient and each had a different kind of cheese.
Each taco had its own, unique quality. Everyone that ate them had their own
This was fun to make but, I have to admit, it didn’t come together
as quickly as I wanted.
I had some tomatoes from the garden that needed to be used so I cooked them down to a sauce and added jalapeños, onion and garlic. I pureed the sauce after it cooked for about 40 minutes. Normally, I would use picante sauce from a jar but I just can’t resist fresh sauce, when I have the ingredients in my garden.
One more comment before we jump into the recipe. I sometimes use two corn tortillas per taco, instead of just one. These tacos are prepared like “street tacos”, which is to say they resemble authentic Mexican tacos. They are not the crispy corn tortillas that you might find at a grocery store, or ones that you might get at a fast food restaurant.
The tortillas are heated just to a point where they are still soft and pliable. Doubling up on the tortillas means that the tacos are more durable. I hate tacos that fall apart in my hands!
½ cup beef barbacoa
½ cup cooked ground beef
½ cup cooked ground turkey
1 cup prepared spicy tomato sauce
1 Tbs chipotle in adobo sauce (diced)
¼ cup sautéed sliced mushrooms
½ cup borracho beans,
¼ cup spicy mayo/sour cream sauce
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
½ cup cotija cheese
½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
¼ cup diced tomatoes
½ cup shredded lettuce
¼ cup diced onion
½ cup cilantro
6 pitted black olives, chopped
¼ cup sour cream
18 corn tortillas
Directions for the
If you don’t want to make fresh salsa, use a store bought salsa of your choice…otherwise, this is what I did to make the salsa for this dish.
Dice 6 to 8 small to medium sized tomatoes. Add to a large pot and simmer at low
heat. Dice ½ onion and smash 3 garlic cloves
and add those to the pot. Add 1 tsp dry
oregano and 1 Tbs cumin powder. Simmer
at low/medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the
sauce from burning on the bottom of the pot.
Puree the contents. Now you have
fresh sauce! Set this aside.
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the rest of the
ingredients for the tacos. You will be
chopping, peeling and slicing vegetables so keep a bowl handy for the refuse.
Peel, chop and dice all of the vegetables. Set aside.
Grate the cheese and set aside.
Break apart and crumble the meat. Lay the meat in separate piles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and warm in the oven at 250° for about 15 minutes.
Heat a pan, or a comal, on the stove to low/medium heat. Add a little oil and cook the tortillas on each side. Add a little more oil after two or three tortillas are cooked. The tortillas should cook for about 20 seconds on each side. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
I kept forgetting what I was going to put on each taco so I
decided to write it down on a 3×5 index card.
Not a bad idea, especially for someone with the attention span of a
gnat, like me.
assembling the tacos:
I recently got some taco holders as a gift and, although I don’t use them often, they made it easy to assemble tacos and they made a nice presentation.
I worked on all three tacos simultaneously.
For the barbacoa
Start by adding some barbacoa. Add borracho beans, followed by salsa and
For the ground beef
Start with ground beef. Add minced chipotle sauce, salsa and cotija cheese.
For the turkey taco:
Add ground turkey, followed by mushrooms, followed by the mayo/sour cream sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and black olives.
Top all three tacos with lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, cilantro and finally, a small dollop of sour cream. Serve with lime wedges.