In honor of National Taco Day… may the tortillas be perfect, the fillings be flavorful, and the salsita be perfectly picosa! ¡Viva!
Verify Road Trip’s Breakfast Capital of Texas show was back on the air this week, and we’ve started up the conversation again. So, here’s a repost of the original Breakfast Taco Battle post right before the original air date – with an edit to remove the […]
Although the state food of Texas is officially chili, most Texans would agree that the breakfast taco should really hold that title.
Growing up in South Texas, the breakfast taco was a daily way of life and an even bigger deal on weekends when barbacoa came out to play. For those who aren’t familiar, barbacoa tacos fall into a special category, “solo el fin de semana,” or just the weekend. Much like menudo and pozole, barbacoa breakfast tacos are usually reserved for Saturday and Sunday only.
I remember we would head to my Uncle Turi’s (short for Arturo) house where we experienced our version of the culinary holy trinity, the trifecta of Sunday breakfasts: menudo, pan dulce, and breakfast tacos (barbacoa included). My Aunt Adelma has always been the official family “madrina de menudo,” the godmother of this most prized Mexican delicacy. She’s like a magician in the kitchen, and to this day, I have yet to figure out what she does differently that makes it so incredibly amazing. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. But, I digress…
Even now, being in North Texas, it’s a Sunday tradition to bring breakfast tacos over to my brother’s house where everyone, including my 97-year old Grandma Ollie, gently tilts our heads to lovingly usher in the fluffy, yet toasted, flour tortilla, edges bursting with heavenly combinations of bean and bacon, potato and egg, chorizo and egg, and of course, barbacoa.
So, it should be no surprise that my history with and my passion for breakfast tacos recently lead me on a spectacular breakfast taco-filled journey when I was chosen to be a guest reporter for Verify, a television show that takes interested viewers on road trips to seek answers to life’s most pressing questions, like “What’s the Breakfast Taco Capital of Texas?”
For two days, we traveled through Austin and San Antonio, tasting the best breakfast tacos each city had to offer, and in the end, I had to choose which city would reign supreme in the Texas breakfast taco battle. Talk about controversial decisions. Anyone see what happened to the last guy who spoke up about the subject? Sensitive topic much?
And, during the week of September 12, 2016, the state of Texas will find out my decision, and hopefully, I won’t be banned from either city (or any city across Texas for that matter).
I love Texas! I love breakfast tacos! I love all tacos!
Now, one would think that after two days straight of nothing but breakfast tacos, it would have some sort of negative impact on my affection for the tasty Texas treats, and yet, no – it did not.
In fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what happened.
The day I returned, and every weekend since (just as it’s always been) I either made or purchased breakfast tacos. For me, it’s about a sense of home.
I can remember early mornings at my grandparents’ ranch as a small child, watching Grandma Ollie masterfully lead a sort of ballet where each long, thin strip of bacon danced with her wooden spoon until they furled gracefully into their perfectly crisp positions in the cast iron skillet.
Next would come the potatoes, every piece a blank canvas with nothing but that aromatic, smoky base as the paintbrush, adding the perfect amount of salt over each rich, caramelized cube. Then, the beans would enjoy a bath in that bacony goodness until every one of them had weakened under pressure and transformed into the perfect creamy base for the breakfast taco, refried beans.
To this day, I still follow her steps when preparing breakfast tacos at home. The breakfast taco really means so much more to me than a humble meal in the morning or a Texas tradition, even. It’s about my culture, my history, my family – my own Texas experience.
Having to choose between two cities, knowing there were so many other Texas cities not represented, was extremely difficult for me. I found myself getting teary-eyed whenever I thought too long about not being able to include the Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi, my South Texas, in my decision. I felt like I was denying the existence of hundreds of little taco stands, taco trucks, breakfast taco joints, and too many family kitchens that were all more than worthy of having a shot at the title. I felt silly that this responsibility was weighing so heavily on my soul, and yet, I felt compelled to try and weave in my concerns at every turn – all because that’s how much it meant to me!
Poor David Schechter can attest that I must have mentioned the variety of breakfast tacos that weren’t in the running at least 50 times while on the road. By the end of the trip, I am positive I interjected my concerns on camera enough times to possibly make it through editing – next week will tell.
And, it was all for the love of my beloved Texas breakfast taco and the desperate need to represent my culture, my history, and my food family well. I truly took this decision to heart.
I’m a proud Texan. I love both Austin and San Antonio. So, when you watch the show during your evening news the week of September 12thon any Texas Tegna station, know that I took the responsibility seriously and had my own personal breakfast taco battle going on internally, one that wasn’t easily calmed with anti-acids.
In the end, I know I made the right decision based on a very clear set of criteria, and I’ll stand by that decision when it comes out.
UPDATE: Verify Road Trip will air the week of September 12, 2016 on all Texas stations listed in the video below! If you’ve been anywhere even remotely close to my Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages lately, you noticed I’ve been on a two-day breakfast taco […]
My head’s about to explode. Four days ago, I was scrolling down Facebook and noticed a video in my feed with the title, “Are you a foodie?” Naturally, I hit pause on the cat video and clicked on the foodie link. It was ABC affiliate WFAA’s David Schechter and a producer, […]
Today has been a pretty awesome day. A few days ago, I was notified that I was chosen as one of the top five finalists for Bravo TV’s Best New Restaurant “The Mentorship” contest. And, today, they posted my video submission to their YouTube page. On March 9th, we shall see who gets to spend the day with Chef and Restaurant Entrepreneur, Tom Colicchio. He will be mentoring one very lucky individual, and my friend Mary has advised me to “start packing my bags” because I’ve already won. I love the positive thinking, and I couldn’t agree more with having a winning vision. While I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and Best New Restaurant, this opportunity is way more than just being a fan. It’s an incredible chance to change dreams to reality, as my Bear and I have long dreamed of owning our own restaurant.
At the very same time, the DFW area has been blasted with snow, frozen pellets of ice and other cold weather phenomenons that require copious amounts of hot chocolate and warm food to be consumed. So, this morning, I got the cast iron skillet out, heated up some butter tortillas from Central Market, got some bacon in the pan, and took my already-created Borracho Beans (drunk beans) to task with a masher to make refried beans!
The combination of bacon, beans and Bravo TV’s finalist news was the absolute perfect combination to celebrate while staying nice and toasty inside. I’m also posting today because my friend, Kerrie, has been asking about this Borracho Bean recipe for months now and will hunt me down to kill me if I don’t post sometime soon. So, here we go!
1 lb dried pinto beans
1/2 medium white onion chopped
1 large tomato (or 1/2 package of cherry tomatoes will do)
3-4 uncooked bacon strips chopped
1 bottle of Mexican beer (Negro Modelo or Dos Equis preferably)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste
6 quart pot (cast iron enamel preferred but not required – the pot will be roomy for the beans)
Separate then discard any broken or unappealing dry beans, as well as possible rocks or inedible pieces from the dry beans. Rinse the beans in a 6 quart pot with warm water, slush around and discard the water, leaving the beans in the pot. Add water to the pot to cover the rinsed beans, then place the pot on a stove top and boil rapidly for 45 minutes. Be sure to watch the pot and add water if it reduces too much. The beans must stay completely covered during this process.
Once the beans have boiled for 45 minutes, remove from the stove top, carefully discard the water only and gently rinse the beans again. (You can use a sieve, but I find that covering the top with the pot cover and being careful over the sink with pot holders usually does the trick.) Add the chopped onion, tomato, bacon strips, and beer to the pot, then cover the rest with warm water until the beans are completely covered with about an inch of water above bean level. Return the beans to the stove at medium heat.
In a separate skillet pan on medium heat, lightly toast the cumin seeds and black peppercorns until they become aromatic. Add the toasted cumin seeds and peppercorns to a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Roughly chop the peeled garlic cloves and add them to the molcajete. Crush the cumin seeds, peppercorns and garlic together until they become a paste. You can add a little water to make it easier once the peppercorns are broken up. Add the mixture to the beans, adding more water to the molcajete to help motivate the paste to leave the surface. Gently stir the simmering beans and leave to cook for another hour.
Towards the mid-end of the cooking process, add salt to taste. This is a controversial thing, as some say adding salt at the start makes the beans hard and others say you can’t add salt at the end because it doesn’t flavor anything. Well, I add right towards the middle of the end and it usually does the trick – happy medium. I’m positive there is a scientific reason for each method out there, but my way works. And, if it ain’t broke…
At this point, if you’d like to add salsa, jalapeños or additional seasonings like garlic powder, cumin powder or onion powder, you can. You can even add roasted green chiles which make a flavorful addition. However, I have found that simple really is best, especially if you want to make refried beans with the borracho beans. And, let them simmer but don’t boil to mush. The flavors must develop but the beans will get too soft if you keep them simmering for too long. Just keep an eye out and a spoon handy for tasting.
To make refried beans (the right way, in my opinion), fry up some bacon in a cast iron skillet. Remove the bacon, leave the drippings in the pan and add the borracho beans, liquid and all, to the pan and let out all your aggression with a potato masher, creating a creamy, textured, bacony bean to eat with tortillas. The longer they sit on the heat, the thicker the beans will become, and that’s what you want. Don’t serve the beans too runny. That’s never fun for anyone. Add bacon to the bean-smeared tortilla, and you have my very favorite breakfast celebration taquito in your hands, my friend.
Here’s to hoping there’s another celebration taquito in my future. I’ll keep you posted!