Thursday, April 8, 2010

Taco Night in 1241

Even though Trader Joe's is a 2 minute walk from my apartment, I don't go too often. I love it there, but it's more of a novelty grocery store vs. the place where you pick up your weekly groceries. When we go, we spend a lot (not that it's expensive!) on stuff we probably really didn't need, but is super fun to have around. I mean, I can buy some of the basics that I need there, but I inevitably end up with things like Baked Jalapeno Corn Puffs and such.

The other day I had a huge craving for Pizza Fusion's previously mentioned roasted beet salad, so we popped in there, ordered it to go, then did some shopping at Trader Joe's while it was being prepared. This led to the discovery of their soy chorizo. I said I would make some tacos one night soon. The chorizo was sold in one large link, just like the real stuff. We wondered if removing the casing would allow it to crumble as the real stuff would...

I started thinking about these tacos and I decided I was going to make my own corn tortillas. Could it be that hard? If I messed it up, we could always just have taco salads, right?

I went right to the source of all that is Mexican cooking- Mr. Rick Bayless. The man is not only an amazing chef who specializes in Mexican cuisine, he is an absolute presence. Even from seeing him only on TV, you can tell you'd be better just for knowing him.

Well, corn tortillas really were no big deal. Unless you were going to grind your own corn, and that was not what I was going to do. You only need masa flour. A tortilla press would be great, but a rolling pin would work. I have Grandma Phoebe's rolling pin, so I was ready.

A cup of the masa flour, some water, some salt. You mix it with your hands, then divide it into 8 balls. Keeping a wet tea towel over them is crucial. You must cut a large plastic zip lock bag on 3 sides so it's like a book and you put the ball of dough in between when you roll it out. I heeded the warning: Don't even consider not using the bag. This is apparently the way it is done. Even if you use a press. After a circle is rolled out, (well, mine weren't exactly circles- the pic I'm including in the blog was honestly the best one!) it goes in a dry skillet for a minute on each side and that's IT!!! SO easy! Next time I might make them bigger, but they were sort of cute all tiny too. As I did each one, I added it to the pile I had wrapped in another wet tea towel. When I prepared everything else, I would warm them in the microwave before serving. They were tasty- way better than any I'd purchased from the store. I would be making my own from now on.

I made some pico de gallo with exactly what is in pico de gallo. I decided to stay true to form. Mr. Bayless says this is called Salsa Mexicana and that we're the silly ones who gave it the head of the chicken name. I make salsa often, and I always find when I just stick to the simple ingredients in Salsa Mexicana I am most pleased. Yellow onion, plum tomatoes (seeds squeezed out), jalapenos, lime juice, and cilantro, and salt.

Next up was the Soy Chorizo. I expected it would taste pretty good, and I figured I'd doctor it up to make it taste really good. I sauteed some yellow chopped onion in a good bit of evoo until they were soft, then added in the chorizo. It did crumble easily outside of the casing. I let it warm through just enough for a tasting and exclaimed, "HOLY HELL!! THIS STUFF IS FREAKING GOOD!" I may have used curse words. I made Scott try it right away. He yelled about it too. I honestly was way impressed. Other than the onions and salt I added to them, I didn't touch it. It was fantastic as it was... perfectly spiced.

I shredded some romaine lettuce, got out the pepper jack cheese we also purchased at Trader Joe's, and sour cream. I wrapped the tortillas up in the wet tea towel and put them in the microwave for 20 seconds. They were pliable and soft and ready to be topped with lots of goodness.

If you have a Trader Joe's near you, buy the soy chorizo, I don't care if you are fine eating the real thing- just buy it anyway. It really is crazy good. I believe I might become a more frequent Trader Joe's shopper based on this ingredient alone. If this means I buy a tub of chocolate cat shaped cookies and blue cheese frozen pizza as well, then so be it.


  1. Tacos look great. Congrats on making tortillas. I love it when you cook something that really appeals to you.

  2. Sounds delicious! Now if you could help us to persuade TJ's to come to GSO, I'd be in business. I am going to try to make my own tortillas next time too. Mexican night at our house is always popular..and tortilla making would be fun for Hayden to help with too. Thanks for sharing!