Monday, December 25, 2006

HO HO HO! a Christmas story

UPDATE: Epilogue added! Check the bottom of this post.

I am calling this a "Christmas story," but only because it is being told on Christmas day. The actual story-- one of taco-making and danger-- contains bad words, not to mention references to mass murder, semen, and reincarnation. How Christmas-y is that? And while the name "Jesus" gets screamed at one point, it's unclear whether this qualifies as Christmas-y, either.


The taco meal (yesterday's bowl of taco filling, cheese, sour cream, and salsa was merely a sampler) went excellently.


First, the reheating of the meat sauce:

One thing I learned from this experience: with 600 grams of meat, you get about half as much taco sauce as spaghetti sauce. When I make spaghetti sauce (I do 300g each of beef and pork), I add a ton of extra ingredients-- mushrooms, green peppers, onion, garlic, carrots (thanks, Sperwer, for the reminder), chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and so on. A lot of material goes into a decent bolognese, but for taco sauce, at least as I made it yesterday, the main ingredient is meat. The reason is obvious: vegetables are added later, piled fresh into the tortilla along with the meat sauce.

My taco sauce included the following: beef, pork, garlic, onion, and green pepper. After sauteeing the garlic, onion, and green pepper first (mainly because the garlic and onion were old and needed some extra time), I added the meat. The meat and green peppers contributed fat and moisture to the sauce, but to be safe I added almost a half-cup of water for the next step: the powder.

My taco seasoning powder was pretty crude, but it worked. The rough proportions:

2 parts chili powder
2 parts cumin
1 part paprika
1 part cornstarch
salt to taste
sugar-- very little

Some recipes call for oregano. Dry, prepackaged taco sauce packets usually include dried onion. I had fresh onion on hand, so I didn't bother wasting money buying the dried stuff, and I didn't feel like sticking oregano in the taco sauce, which in my opinion would have unjustifiably yanked the sauce out of Mexico and dragged it kicking and screaming toward Italy.

I dumped three heaping spoonfuls of my mix into the already-cooking mixture, and the effect was immediate: within a minute, I had a recognizable taco sauce. Cornstarch is essential for texture.

Next up: the place setting!

Setting for one, alas, but such is life. As you see... I'm not a "real" Tex-Mex'er. I have Korean relatives in Texas, and they love their Tex-Mex, but our family has always been unabashedly East Coast about tacos, so we include relish at the table as a taco condiment. Some people use sweet gherkins instead, but it amounts to the same thing. My apologies to the purists. My other sin is that I didn't include any cilantro in my sauce... and, come to think of it, I neglected to buy or make guacamole. Dammit.

Below, you see that I dispensed with the small plate idea and went for the biggie:

I had bought pre-made tortillas, so it was simply a matter of heating them up in the skillet before laying them on the plate. That plate, by the way, is the type used in Korean-style Chinese restaurants to serve large orders of t'ang-su-yuk.

Below, you see two tacos ready for slaughter. I ate two more after those.

This final picture is (drumroll) the Taco Pizza. Perhaps more popularly known as a "Mexipizza," thanks to the cultural impact of that bastion of haute cuisine, Taco Bell, my Taco Pizza is quite simple and, in a sense, makes itself.

I sense your curiosity (makes itself?), so I'll continue. The Taco Pizza answers a certain need: the need to have something on your plate that shields the plate from a dying taco's excrescences.

Anyone who bites into a struggling taco knows that tacos, like all living mammals, tend to defecate when they die. When you bite the taco's head off, you're essentially cutting through its spinal cord, killing it instantly. Its major sphincters immediately let go and you end up with an all-too-familiar mess on your plate. From that point on, each successive bite only makes things worse as hydraulic pressure pushes excrement and entrails out of the taco's anus. This is a problem when you're ready to kill the next taco: you would, after all, prefer to place the next tortilla shell on a clean plate, yes?

By placing an extra tortilla shell on your plate (or on a plate next to your plate), you allow the dying taco to void without making an unsightly mess. At the same time, as the excrement of several tacos builds up on that ancillary tortilla, you soon realize that you have, in fact, made another taco without even trying.

This ancillary taco isn't nearly as neat-looking as all your previous tacos, of course. When you make a normal taco, you sprinkle the cheese in a neat line, then slop hot meat sauce on top of it, then add the vegetables and condiments that make taco slaughter such a gratifying experience. But the ancillary taco is an unsightly pile of entrails, barely worthy of the name "taco." What to do?

Make a Taco Pizza, of course! To do this: spread the cast-off entrails out on the ancillary tortilla, leaving a border. Sprinkle extra cheese on top of the entrails, and heat up your skillet. Next, carefully place your taco pizza onto the skillet (no oil needed) and let that puppy cook until you just begin to smell something burning. If you're using a flour tortilla, this won't be a big problem: the burn marks will look like large moles or freckles. Do not allow the entire taco shell to blacken!

The end result is a stiff, crunchy, arguably tastier taco shell, plus slightly melted cheese-- in other words, a pizza. A Taco Pizza, to be exact. Do not attempt to fold, as it might crack. Simply enjoy eating the Taco Pizza as is.

I hope you've been having a good Christmas. Stay tuned for a post on eggnog either later tonight or tomorrow morning.


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