Monday, February 20, 2012

taco truck

I tried loading up on vitamin C.  I tried sipping, slurping & chugging my lemon ginger tea.  I tried talking myself out of it.

But nothing worked.  I got the sniffles and the swollen lymph node thingies, then I got the cough and spent 14 hours in bed.  Sigh.... I got sick.

First I cut my thumb off.  Now I'm feeling like I got run over by a truck.  I'm destined to never cook a meal again... OK, maybe not never.  But definitely not today.

Instead, I've settled for sharing with you my new favorite spice mixture and how I came to love it.

You see, this year I developed a crush on what I've now come to call the Mobile Mexican Kitchen, aka the Taco Truck.  You may have one (or fifteen plus, depending) in your town, parked in the parking lot of a random gas station, donut shop, or flea market. 

It may have Mariachi, pop, or no music at all, piped in for your listening pleasure.

It may have a walk-up window or it may be a mini bus that one climbs up into for an 'indoor' eating experience. 

It may have a canopy with tables and it might be decked out with colored Christmas lights. 

The staff may or may not speak English and will probably look at you like you're an idiot when you attempt to order your food in their native language, which is always Spanish.

The truck that you visited last month may or may not have been shut down by Immigration or the Health Department.  Don't be too surprised if it's not there next time.

Regardless of the specific details surrounding the decor, location, and logistical setup of your own taco truck, you can almost always find good, cheap, Mexican food.  Not the kind of overdone, Americanized garbage they serve at Chili's, but simple street food created by the people of that country. 

I'm in love with the taco truck.

The problem here in Seattle, is that all of the good taco trucks are way out in BFE.  I stop at them when I happen to be in the area.  Sometimes, though, I want to shove tacos into my mouth without making up an errand that will put me in the vicinity of a truck.

So I decided to copy the tacos at home.  I'm sorry, taco truck.  I still love you.

The A-number-one thing I figured out about making a delicious taco at home is the seasoning.  I'm sure the first thing that comes to mind is the white packet at the grocery store that declares TACO SEASONING across its front side.  I too thought of that paper pouch for my first batch of tacos, but my aversion to packets of things made me think twice. 

What's in that little pouch?  I thought to myself.  Why can't I just make it myself?  Oh, I'm so clever.

So I went to my local spice shop and bought up the ingredients for my own taco seasoning.  I use it as a rub for the carne in my tacos, but, please, don't limit your use of it to Mexican food.  It's an amazing blend to use on other meats, in sauces, on roasted potatoes... it adds a hefty dose of flavor and a little kick in the pants.  I know you'll love it too.

Taco Truck Steak Tacos

For the seasoning:
There isn't a real recipe per se for this spice blend.  This is a rough estimate of the amounts that I use, which differ slightly every time I make it.  Don't be afraid to taste and adjust things to your liking. 

3 T. paprika
2 heaping tsp. garlic powder
2 heaping tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt

For the tacos:
about 1 lb. sirloin steak
1 T. olive oil
1 jalapeno, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
corn tortillas
1 medium onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
salsa of your choice
hot sauce of your choice (optional)

  • Mix the ingredients for the spice blend in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Season the steak with salt and then coat all sides with the taco seasoning and rest on a plate.
  • Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high and coat with cooking oil spray.  Transfer steak to the pan and sear both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  You want to par cook the steaks, which will returned to the pan later.  Transfer to a clean plate and allow to rest 10 minutes. Do not clean the pan.
  • While the steak is resting, toss the chopped onion and cilantro in a bowl together and set aside.
  • Cut the steak into 1/2" cubes (this need not be exact)
  • Reheat the pan used to sear steak over medium, and add the oil.  Add jalapeno and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes.  Add the steak cubes and cook until steak is just browned but still juicy and slightly pink in the center.  Immediately remove from heat.
  • Wrap tortillas loosely in damp paper towels, and microwave for about 1 minute, or until tortillas are soft and pliable.  They will be HOT.
  • Spoon some of the steak mixture into each tortilla.  Top with onion and cilantro mixture, salsa, and hot sauce (if using). 

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