Happy Cinco de Mayo, Everything Taco!
It’s May 5th, Happy Cinco de Mayo, the celebration recognizing the Mexican victory of the Puebla over France.
Few will inquire why we celebrate this holiday but otherwise it gives us each the opportunity to have a little bit of Mexican in us even for one day in being part of a celebration sharing festive foods and drink inspired through a wonderfully colorful and vibrant culture.
Mexican foods and those inspired have always held a special place in my heart, even beginning with my earliest memories while living in Texas as a very young child where we would cross the border on weekends to eat a meal at a local restaurant.
Included in these earlier memories is an indescribable flavor, a scent, covered on top of a specially seasoned rice. I suspect it was a mole sauce and though I have sought it at times throughout my life, there is still nothing that can precisely match this particular flavor that ever remains ingrained in my memory.
I still seek the scent and flavor today and while I have never prepared a traditional mole sauce for some reason doing so is still at the back of my mind. I think it is probably fair to say that recreating this flavor is a part of my life’s bucket list, though perhaps its memory has become so grand in my mind I may in reality lack the confidence in its attempt.
Living in Arizona for some years easily enabled a quick re- ignite appreciating Mexican foods and all of its Tex-Mex, or, Arizona-Mex, as I like to say my favorite inspiration is the Arizona style shredded beef chimichanga topped with sour cream and guacamole, which incidentally, I have yet to ever taste in its precise technique or flavor on the east coast.
On this one though, well, like I recently shared with my dearest native Arizonan friend, Debby, I’m definitely feeling the spirit of a future visit coming on. This being said, there is one common Mexican style food that we can all recreate quite easily, the Taco, well, all but the exception that there are so many choices and bursting complementary flavors of ingredients it really is quite hard to decide, hence today’s Happy Cinco de Mayo Everything Taco!
You see how it goes. I initially decided to just prepare a simple taco. A fresh local taco corn tortilla. Some chopped smoked brisket cooked with the rub of some assorted Mexican spices, cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano. And then the dilemma begins. You see there was this little can of chile peppers in my pantry staring right out at me, hey, probably a foresight designed to stir through this chopped brisket.
OK. Keeping it simple. I then spread the smoked, seasoned, chopped brisket, with stirred through green chilies on top of the fresh local taco corn tortilla.
And then. Well then I thought to myself it is Cinco de Mayo after all, got to have some re-fried beans, very traditional, and they do taste so good, there was one can sitting in wait on my pantry shelf just for this special purpose. Off goes the spiced, seasoned, brisket stirred with green chilies from the fresh, local taco corn tortilla.
O.K. now the smoked, seasoned beef brisket with the green chilies can go back on top of the grilled fresh local corn tortilla, topped with those traditional style refried beans.
And there is no such thing as a taco without the onions, not in my book anyway.
And we can’t forget the tomatoes, right?
Oh gosh. I remembered I had just picked up these lovely green tomatillos, boy would they be great.
But the tomatillos need a little spice and tang, so in they go to the mini food processor, that is, with the jalapeno pepper, another proper Mexican side, right? Add a little of that chopped red onion, salt, pepper, a touch of wine vinegar, some fresh lime juice. You’ve got to have the lime juice, right? Stir in some fresh chopped cilantro. Yes. You must have the cilantro too.
And then, wait. You remember the recent Rick Bayless show you saw on TV sharing one of his fabulous Mexican parties and realize you also have a papaya sitting in wait in the frig. Another perfectly complementary Mexican ingredient inspiration, to be sure.
Wait just a second now, the final couple musts, avocado, a dollop of sour cream, all topped with fresh grated cheese, O.K. now you’ve got the simple version of one completed Everything Taco!
A collaboration of colorful, beautiful, bursting of flavors, the contributions of a history, foods, of its people, those of Mexico, and those of us who for just one day can be a part of this culture in spirit. Happy Cinco de Mayo Day!
- For the Mexican style spiced beef or pork:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 pounds pork roast or brisket
- 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 2 cups water or chicken broth
- 2-3 tablespoons canned chopped green chiles
- For the Tomatillos:
- 8 tomatillos
- 2 tablespoons red onion
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- juice of half a lime
- 1 tablespoon chopped jalapenos
- couple pinches coarse kosher salt
- few grinds black pepper
- For Assembling the Taco:
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 can re-fried beans
- 1 red onion, chopped, 2 tablespoons reserved for the tomatillos
- 3 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
- 3 plum tomatoes, halved, lightly squeezed of seeds, chopped
- 2 cups thinly sliced lettuce
- 1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped, half reserved for the tomatillos
- 2 avocados, cut into cubes
- 1 papaya cut into cubes, optional
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- cilantro leaves for topping
- hot sauce, served on the side
- 1 lime cut into wedges, served alongside
- Preparing the Mexican style Spiced Pork or Beef: Heat a large sized skillet, add in the olive oil, swirl to coat the pan. Set in the beef or pork and brown all sides on low heat, Transfer browned meat to a slow cooker. Sprinkle all over with the salt and spices. Pour in the water or chicken broth and cook until very tender and meat can easily be pulled, around four hours. Transfer to a large sized bowl, cool, then use a pork to pull the meat then chop into bite sized pieces, stir in the chopped green chiles, set aside.
- Preparing the Tomatillo: Remove the papery outer coating. Rinse very well to remove stickiness, wipe dry with a paper towel, core the top. Chop the tomatillos finely. Combine with a red onion, jalapeno, vinegar, lime juice, chopped cilantro and the salt, check seasoning, adjust to taste
- Assembling the Everything Taco: Spread warm re-fried beans across the top of each tortilla, then cover with the shredded meat. Layer on the tomatillo salsa, red onion, scallions, tomatoes, lettuce, jalapenos, avocado and papaya, scatter over the cheese, dollop with sour cream then arrange the cilantro leaves on top. Serve alongside hot sauce and lime wedges
Top tasty, colorful ingredients onto a tortilla keeping in mind the challenge of fitting all of these delicious, heaped on ingredients into your mouth while holding it at the same time! Delicious inspirations and influences of Mexican food.
Cooking time reflects meat prepared in a slow cooker. Actual prep and assembly time for eight tacos is around twenty five to thirty minutes.