Category Archives: Cooking

Thinking Outside The Taco

I love Tex-Mex food, with burritos and tacos being my favorite stand by. And re-fried beans. And rice (so hard to find good rice). And the sauces. And the different fillings. If there was one type of food I could eat forever it’s “Mexican” — probably followed by “Chinese”. Two huge cultures with a huge variety of foods. But let’s focus on the plain-old taco.

I have quick chicken, good ground beef, skirt steak fajitas, and flat iron super-beef flavor. One of my comfort fillings is ground beef with pintos mashed in. I am getting myself very hungry. But sometimes I want something different. The Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Cuisine at Home has two good ones.

The first, which is excellent, is Mu Shu Tofu. A hoisin based sauce, with stir fried eggs, tofu, scallions, carrots, bell pepper, and napa cabbage. Now, you are supposed to serve it in mandarin pancakes, which I’ll try sometime, but I found a quicker solution: The Guerrero Fresqui-Ricas uncooked flour tortillas. They are a good thickness and save a LOT of prep time.  These Chinese Tofu Tacos are fantastic. SO flavorful — and the pressed and stir fried tofu has excellent texture.

How to get your tofu to not suck in a stir fry: First, you need the right texture. Get Extra Firm. Second, you need to press it. All this means is wrapping the tofu in paper towels and put a cutting board/plate over the tofu and let sit. Replace the paper towels 2-3 times, giving a total “press” time of at least 1/2 hour. This gets all the excess water out of the tofu. The paper towels should be wet after pressing — but don’t toss them, just let them dry and re-use to clean up your counters. You’re trying to get that water out of the tofu without crushing it. Once pressed, cut into 1/2″ chunks. Stir fry, on their own, in batches with 1 t of oil. Don’t push them around much — let the sides get well browned and crispy. Then add them toward the end of the recipe — like when you add the sauce at the end of a stir fry. You will never know that you are eating tofu.

The second is the BLT+Chicken Burritos. Fry up some bacon, saute some chicken breasts cut into strips. Then, combine romaine, tomato (sun dried work GREAT), cucumber, ranch dressing + chipotle mix, and reserved bacon bits and toss. Make a burrito with the lettuce mixture, put in some chicken, and roll up. This all takes no more than a half hour, so is great for the week nights. I guess you could call this a “wrap” — but it uses a tortilla, damnit, so I’m going to call it a Burrito.

Mu Shu Tofu: MuShuTofu

BLT Burrito with Chicken: BLTBurritos

My Favorite Tortillas

Yes, fresh from a Tortilla Factory, if you have them near you, is probably best. But if you have a well stocked supermarket, I suggest taking a look at the Guerrero brand of Tortillas. Corn, flour, burrito. The usual sizes and types.

But one day I noticed their “Fresca-Rica” line of UNCOOKED flour tortillas. Just heat them up on a Comal or, on my stove, the big griddle in the middle.

Guerrero-Fresca-Ricas (Medium)Now, I was afraid that maybe they’d be like normal flour tortillas. You know, too thick? Fills you up with too much flour. But these are NOT that at all. Nice and thin, almost like a crepe. And all it takes is about 15-20 seconds each side! That’s just as fast as heating individuals on the open flame.

Guerrero_B (Medium) Guerrero_A (Medium)

Fresh tasting, hot right off the griddle, and thin enough to use in other recipes. Like what? How about Mu Shu Tofu!

MuShuTofu (Medium)




Best Pepper Mill: Unicorn

I have tried many pepper mills. Wooden ones. Small ones. Big ones. High end brands. Low end brands. There is only one brand of mill that now resides in my kitchen, and it’s the Unicorn line of mills from Tom David.

If you want high capacity, not too huge size, and perfect grinding, get yourself the Unicorn Magnum 6″ version. It’s the best $37 you’ll spend. If you want really high capacity, get their giant Magnum Plus 9″ version for $45. The only difference is the height — they both have excellent grinding mechanisms, fill the same way, and are easy to use.

DSCN2548 (Medium)

Above, you can see my “seasoning” tray that I keep next to the stove. From left to right, back to front: pan spray, olive oil, white pepper, peanut oil, kosher salt, table salt, black pepper. The Magnum Plus is in the front, the smaller to the back. Note that the Plus does NOT come with a “dust” tray — but the Magnum 6″ does. Don’t ask me why. The 6″ is perfect.

I have the Magnum Plus filled with Black Peppercorns and the Magnum filled with White Peppercorns. If I was to do it again, I’d probably go with the 6″ version only, as it’s the perfect size. But nothing wrong with the Plus — it holds a shitload of peppercorns. And I do mean a shitload.