Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ol' Fashioned Mexican Standoff

As per popular opinion, James has officially won this battle. It was a good fight, but I threw in the towel on that Saturday night. Thanks for your votes!

This Saturday's battle? Tacos.

We had all week to look up competing recipes. And we did. Only to discover on Saturday morning on our way out to the store to stock up for Battle Tacos that we had both chosen the same recipe. Since Adri knew she wouldn't be able to win if I used that recipe, I let her go ahead with the shrimp tacos. I would return to my Mexican roots and create the traditional food of my people, the tribe of street food junkies. I'd be rockin the carnitas.

The best thing about food like this is that, in addition to being ridiculously good, it's also cheap. I started with a whole pork shoulder and did the butchering myself. while you can buy the individual pieces, or get it done in the store, we only spent about $3 on the whole bit. A little anatomy learning and a sharp knife can work wonders. make sure to set aside the skin and bones if you want to make pork stock later.

(note: the 11 photos following and one previous to the above make up the "anatomy learning")

Once you've got all your pig bits ready to go, add a little oil to a cast iron skillet or dutch oven and brown the meat.

Meat brown? Pull it out and set it aside on some paper towels, cause we're going to bust out some hardcore culinary technique. We're going to deglaze the pan, from the french tradition meaning "lets add some wine!!!". I just used some water, then scraped the pan to get all the good stuff off of it. Add the spices and the meat back and stir to mix everything into a wonderful mess. Add more water, so the meat's about 2/3's covered.

Now pop the whole thing into a 350 degree oven (that's Fahrenheit for our SI friends). This bit should take about 3 hours or so. Check on it about ever half hour or so until the pork falls apart to the touch. Add water as necessary to keep everything from drying out, but try to time it so that the sauce is thick when you pull everything out. When pork is cool break it up with your fingers.

Now for my secret weapon, home made tortillas. This was my favorite part a saturday night out. We'd stop at a food truck near the university and there's be the owner's mother, making tortillas on a griddle over a coal fire. I was always amazed she was able to put up with the hordes of drunken college students that flocked to her son's truck every night.

These are easy. Flour, hot water, baking powder, salt and lard. Yes, Lard.

Isn't it beautiful?

comebine the dry ingredants with the lard then, while mixing everything, slowly add the hot water until you get a doughy consistancy. Dough shouldn't be sticky.

Let it sit in the bowl for a bit. This is a good time to make a little pico de gallo. Just chop some tomatoes, onions, and cilantro and combine in a bowl with some lime juice.

Warm your skillet or griddle over medium heat and roll out your tortillas. The dough-balls (heh) should be about the size of golf balls. You don't really need specific tools, though throwing a little flour on your workspace helps keep everything from sticking. In this case, thinner is better.

Once you see bubbles start to form, it's time to flip. Sooooooooo gooooooooood.

Now, I want to clear my name. I just simply pointed out that we had the same recipe, and immediately Jay started looking for new recipes of his own. I never said I wouldn't switch mine out, and he KNOWS I would have if he'd been dead set on doing it. He just knew that I'd brought shrimp with me from my dorm to his apartment and would have felt bad if he'd used my food. But yes, I made Chipotle Shrimp Tacos and to accompany guacamole! Neither of these recipes are mine, nor are any of the ones Jay used. We won't pretend they are when they aren't. Though I will point out there are a number of places that this taco recipe can be found. Which is how we both ended up wanting to make the same shrimp tacos.

My tacos did take significantly less time to make than Jay's. Part of their beauty, I could feasibly make this for dinner one night without having the day off. That and they did have a vital ingredient to life: BACON. Lots of bacon. A half package of it. We each made about half of what the recipe called for, as we we're only two people eating enough tacos for twenty. But! back to the bacon. I cut it up into tiny tiny pieces and threw them into the pan to start rendering down.

While that was cooking up I chopped up 1/4 onion (though really could have used a 1/2 onion), one big and one teeny tiny chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and un-tailed my shrimps. Then I covered my shrimp in a decent sprinkling of cumin, 'cause I love cumin and think it goes well in most everything. Not in the recipe, but I liked it. I'd also prepped up some simple guacamole a little earlier while Jay was checking every half hour or so on his roasting pork. It's just simply an avocado, a small tomato, some onion and lime juice all smooshed around in a bowl until consistency is achieved.

When bacon's half done, pour off the grease and add the onion. Then cook until almost done, pour off more grease and add shrimp and the peppers. Give it a good couple stirs while the shrimp cook up.

Now you're pretty much done. Super simple right? When they are done squeeze over some lime juice. What I did for the last few minutes before the shrimp was one I laid out my taco-shells-from-a-box on a cookie sheet and put them in the still warm oven. About on 350 ish. About 5 minutes ish. Just enough to warm them up, crisp them up and make them not taste like plasticy gross.

And I'm done! Do your best to spread a little guacamole down in there and shake on those bacony shrimp. They tasted mighty fine, and we learned after the presentation photos that it was actually easier to eat my tacos if you popped open the shell and treated them more like giant nachos. The flavor was light and salty, with just the right amount of spicy to be appealing. Just perfect really. I had three. This morning we even found out that the leftovers made great omelet fillings on top of Jay's left over tortillas.

Now! As we were unable to get anyone to meet up with us for Battle!Taco! we need you are few readers to choose whose taco's you'd rather eat. Let us know! I know who my vote is going to be for! We shall let the interwebs decide.



  1. Damn you!!

    They look effing AMAZING. I'm going with Adrienne's right now (although I could wolf down about a million of both).

    So put down a vote for Shribacon tacos.

  2. I have to go for the boys tacos, i mean c-mon all that effort. Geeze handmade tortillas, its hard to find a resturant that goes thru that trouble, and i live in the land of mexican reasturants. They both look delicious tho.

  3. Shrimp and bacon? I love it!!

  4. Those tortillas look great! Sorry one of you had to win because I think the carnitas AND the tacos look great. :)

    Thank you for visiting and referencing back to my blog.