Thursday, December 17, 2009


Back during the brief time I actually cooked for a living, my main duties were making breads and desserts. Here are two recipes that I prepared every day in order to fill the restaurant's complimentary bread baskets. Both would make an excellent addition to your holiday meals, in my humble opinion.

Sweet Potato Rolls
5 cups Flour
2 cups Sugar
8 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup Oil
25 oz. Sweet potatoes, mashed
1 Egg
2 c. Buttermilk
  1. Combine ingredients and mix well, until a smooth batter forms.
  2. Transfer to greased muffin tins and bake at 375° until a thermometer or toothpick inserted into a muffin in the center of the pan comes out clean. Muffins should have a golden brown exterior and moist consistency.
Sweet Corn Muffins
1.5 cups Oil
1.5 cups Sugar
3 Eggs
3 cups Flour
1.5 cups Cornmeal
2 pinches Salt
4.5 tsp. Baking powder
2 pinches Nutmeg
1.5 cups Milk
  1. Combine ingredients and mix well, until a smooth batter forms.
  2. Transfer to greased muffin tins and bake pan at 350° until golden brown and a thermometer or toothpick inserted into a muffin in the middle of the pan comes out clean. Muffins should develop a somewhat crusty exterior.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pechuga de Pollo!

Oddly enough, I wound up with hardly any Thanksgiving leftovers and found myself, early Friday morning, in an almost apocalyptically empty Food Town #11.

They had chicken breasts on special, which worked out really well for me since that's pretty much exactly what I went there to buy, along with everything else I normally get to make slow-cooked chicken tacos.

As it turned out, my slow-cooker was stuffed way back in my cabinet, and I'm really lazy, so I wound up adapting the recipe to the first pan I laid hands upon: a big saute pan.

Tacos de Pechuga de Pollo
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion, small dice
  • 2-4 jalapeno peppers, small dice
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts, ~ 1 lb.
  • 1 can Ro-Tel or store/off brand diced tomatoes with chiles OR 1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 pouch McCormick Regular or Hot Taco Seasoning
  • 20 corn tortillas
  • fresh white onion, diced
  • fresh cilantro, torn
  • your choice of salsa (you won't need it)
  • cheese (optional)

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion, jalapenos, and garlic and saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice and the taco seasoning packet and 1/2 a packet full of water. Stir until combined. Add the chicken, stir, reduce heat, and cover.

Simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and slice thinly.

To serve, place diced onions, cilantro, and fresh jalapeno slices on warm corn tortillas and arrange slices of chicken breast atop. Pour a small spoonful of the pan sauce on top of the chicken and sprinkle additional white onions over the assembly. Serve immediately accompanied with lime wedges.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes its own salsa.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Cocina Los Jarritos - Revisited!

Cocina Los Jarritos is a new addition to Northwest Mall's food court that I recently posted about. On my previous visit, I ordered three tacos al pastor and a side of rice and beans. I was disappointed with the tacos, which had an off-putting bitter taste, yet I was very impressed with the rice and beans, especially the beans.

I've known since then that I was going to have to go back, both to give some of their other taco varieties a try and to make sure the awesome refried beans I had on my first trip weren't a fluke. I also knew that I wanted to get a second opinion on the beans so, being the classy guy that I am, I invited my parents to meet me for lunch in a mall food court.

I mean, how awesome is that?

The shop itself is clean, bright, and dominated by a colorful menu festooned with pictures of their various plate specials that I didn't bother looking at in any great detail, since I prefer ordering a la carte.

For my second visit, I decided go with something a little more main-stream that than al pastor tacos and went with a chicken fajita taco and two beef fajita tacos, as well as a side of rice and beans. The tacos are garnished with your choice of lettuce and tomato or cilantro and onion.

I went with cilantro and onion, of course:

These were some pretty good tacos. To compare them to other available examples in the area, the fajita tacos certainly stand head and shoulders above the execrable excuses for tacos that I was served on my last visit to Perico's on 290 at Mangum, there's no doubt about it.

If I had to nitpick, I'd say that the chicken was a little dry, but since I go to lunch so late in the day I've pretty much become accustomed to eating food that would have been just that much better if I'd shown up an hour earlier. In any event, dry chicken is a perfect excuse to drench your taco one or both of the complimentary salsas available at Cocina Los Jarritos.

The green salsa is very smooth, bright green and too picante for my folk's tastes. The red salsa seems to be made with roasted tomatoes and was definitely the favorite among the three of us. Personally, I like to mix it up and put both kinds on my tacos but, if I had to choose only one, it would be the red salsa.

Against my advice, my folks both ordered chicken fajita taco salads.

These were served on foam plates with iceberg lettuce, onion, tomato, cheddar cheese, avocado, sour cream, and chicken along with made-to-order fried flour tortilla chips. They came with a packet of what I think was ranch dressing on the side, but my folks opted, wisely, to use the roasted red salsa as a salad dressing. Personally I thought these were a little skimpy and would have preferred to see them presented in a deeper container that would have held more lettuce, such as one made out of a gigantic deep fried tortilla like practically every other taco salad in the universe comes in.

After I'd finished my tacos and my folks had pretty much finished up their salads, I insisted that they try a taste of my rice and beans. Both agreed that the beans were notably tastier than average. In fact, Dad liked them so much that he walked over and ordered some for himself.

I'm not 100% sure what it is about their beans that makes them so good. Perhaps I'm not used to eating real, authentic, lard-laced refried beans since when I'm cooking at home, I always get fat-free canned refried beans. I think there's something else to it, though, since it's more of a flavor thing than a texture thing. If I had to guess, I'd say that the beans are prepared using beef broth or beef bouillon or something. They have a complex sort of meaty flavor that I'm just wild about. I think I'm going to have to sample them at least twenty or thirty more times in my quest to determine what makes them so delicious.

What a bummer.

If you're looking for excellent tacos al pastor, Cocina Los Jarritos probably isn't the place for you. As far as chicken and beef fajita tacos, well, the ones served here are perfectly acceptable examples of the type, but I don't think I'd say they're worth making a special trip for (unless you're at Perico's, since Perico's tacos suck), and you can get a better taco salad practically anywhere. However, if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood and have a hankering for rice and beans slathered in a delicious red salsa, you might want to consider dropping by Cocina Los Jarritos.

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Monday, October 26, 2009


So I stopped into La Michoacana meat market the other day while on my continued quest for goat meat with which to make cabrito. Once again, I was disappointed, but while I was there I noticed that they sell fresh telera bread so I decided it was high-time I made my own tortas at home.

I split and buttered two telera loaves and tossed them into the toaster oven. While they were toasting, I pan fried a milanesa cut steak that I didn't bother to coat in bread crumbs because I didn't have any and didn't feel like making some.

When the bread was toasted, I spread a layer of refried beans on the bottom and placed the meat on top. I topped the meat with onions and some jalapenos that I'd had marinating in lime juice and a little salt since the night before, added a little fresh cilantro, a couple of spoonfuls of salsa roja, and then spread mayonnaise on the top half of the bun.

I served the sandwiches with a side of sweet bread-and-butter home-pickled jalapenos and corn relish topped with a dab more of my freshly made salsa roja. The relish is made by combining sliced jalapenos and corn in a container with water, vinegar, and sugar. I first got this idea from the Hollywood Deli on Richmond that, at least the last time I was there, served bread-and-butter jalapenos on their sandwiches. They were delicious and so is my version.

I'm still working on the nailing down the final recipe for the relish; it's intended to replace sweet pickle relish in the Tex-Mex hotdogs I'm planning on making, photographing, and eating sometime over the next week or two.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

Salsa Roja!

Whenever I get asked for my salsa roja recipe, I always have to disappoint people because I've never actually quantified and written down it down, so whenever I give them the general outline of what to do, they invariably come back to me and say they were unable to replicate my results. This also makes it hard on myself because making a "quick" batch of salsa always involves extra time spent carefully adjusting the seasonings because I can never remember how many pinches of salt I added the last time I made it and how big those pinches were and whether it was the juice of three three or four limes.

Well, hopefully, those days are over now. As I whipped up a batch of salsa in preparation to make tortas, I took the time to carefully measure practically every ingredient that went into the batch.

One thing that really shocked me was how much salt it takes. Those pinches really add up! On that note please to keep in mind that the recipe calls for kosher salt, which due to it's flaky nature is less dense than granulated table salt.

If you're using granular salt, I'd say use 1/2 the called for salt as a jumping off point when making your own and adjust from there to your liking.

This makes a little over a quart of salsa.

Salsa Roja
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, stems removed and cut in half lengthwise
2 medium white onions, stems removed and cut in half lengthwise
1 head garlic, with top removed to expose the flesh
2 serrano peppers, stem end removed and cut in half lengthwise
10 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
5 tbsp. kosher salt
5 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 and 1/4 cups fresh chopped cilantro
3/4 cup water

Place the tomatoes, white onions, garlic, and peppers on an ungreased cookie sheet and place into a 450° oven for thirty minutes.

The skin on the tomatoes should begin to loosen and split and the tomatoes will shed some liquid:


Turn the oven to broil and cook for another 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes begin to darken; remove all vegetables from the oven:



Transfer the tomatoes to a high-walled container or the goblet of your blender.


Transfer the remaining roasted vegetables to a cutting board.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out through the cut end and chop the onions and serrano chilies roughly to aid in blending:


Transfer the garlic, chilies, and onions to the blending vessel.

Add the water.

With an immersion blender or your traditional blender, blend the roasted vegetables together until smooth:


Add the cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper and blend to thoroughly combine. You may wish to add only half of the salt and pepper and then adjust to taste with the rest in case your personal preferences do not match my own.

Enjoy your finished salsa roja!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Cocina los Jarritos!

I'm planning on doing some cabrito tacos next week and decided I'd have some for lunch today to serve as a jumping off point, since I haven't had them in a long time I wanted to see what other people were doing when it came to putting goat meat on tortillas, so I swung by Perico's 290 at Mangum, only to find that the promised I was told about the menu not changing when they changed their name from Arandas were actually vicious lies, so no cabrito was to be had.

With a heavy heart I ventured out into the wilds, indecisive about where to eat. I considered having some pupusas at La Playita at 3406 Mangum, but decided to wait on going back there until I could take some company with me. In the end, I decided to try Cocina los Jarritos, which had recently opened in the NW Mall's food court.

Frankly, I did not have much hope for any food coming out of a food court that wasn't prepared by the good folks at Chik fil'A, but I figured it was worth trying out if only for the sake of the coworker who had first mentioned this new source for tacos and had solicited my opinion.

I decided to try their al pastor tacos to see if they lived up to or exceeded my own version, as well as some rice and beans. The tacos were very reasonably priced at $ 1.35 per, and the rice and beans were each $ 1.00 for a 4 oz. serving. I was offered the option of having my tacos dressed with either lettuce and tomato or cilantro and onion, and of course I went with the cilantro and onion because that is how I roll.

I was really impressed with the rice and beans. I think it's safe to say that the beans were some of the most flavorful refried beans I've ever gotten from a taco joint. They had a rich, deep flavor that was quite remarkable. The rice was just fine stirred up into my beans, just as I've eaten them since I was about four years old.

The tacos were not a complete disappointment, I suppose; unlike so many other "al pastor" tacos I've been served over the years, these actually had pineapple in them! (I'm of the opinion that al pastor tacos served without pineapple are not al pastor tacos at all.) Unfortunately, practically everything else about them was a let-down. As you can see in the picture below, the meat was cooked in a very bright red chili sauce, but unfortunately that chili sauce had strong, distracting bitter notes and was overly greasy.

The sample of fajita meat the man at the counter handed me as I walked up to order was quite good. In retrospect, I probably should have ordered fajita tacos instead. I don't understand why it's so hard to get good tacos al pastor around here, but I suppose that I should be thankful. It was eating another al pastor taco just like like these that finally prompted me to learn to make my own and to make them properly.

The available red sauce had a good, smoky flavor but also had quite a bit of unexpected sweetness. I guess they must have put sugar in it. It would have been excellent if not for that. Their green sauce was a smooth, creamy green variety that I am not a huge fan of.

I guess, in the end, I really can't recommend Cocina los Jarrito's tacos al pastor, but their fajita tacos might be worth a try, especially with another side of those rice and beans.

Does anyone know who else is offering up cabrito near the 610/290 interchange?

Cocina Los Jarritos al Pastor

Fun with Lunch Meat!

Since I have been in the mood for sandwiches all week I wound up with some slices of mechanically separated roast turkey in my fridge. I'll admit that most of the sandwiches I wound up making with it were remarkably uninspired but I did manage to make a pretty awesome sort-of-torta. To do so, I sliced up some of the turkey and tossed it in a pan with a little butter, black pepper, diced onion, diced fresh jalapeno, and about 3/4 cups worth of home-made red salsa I found stuck back in the back of the fridge.

While the sauce cooked down and thickened, I sliced and broiled two bolillo buns along with some Kraft slices. I transferred the cooked mixture from the pan to the buns and topped it with more sliced onion and squeezed a lime over it.

I would have liked to have had some cilantro, avocado, and refried beans in order to really take this sandwich to the next level, but when you're hungry and it's late you use what you have and you make it work.

I think it worked out pretty well.



The next night, the situation was even more dire. I was completely out of bread, and had exactly four slices of mechanically separated roast turkey left. As luck would have it, I had some corn tortillas jammed back into the corner of my freezer, so I decided to have mechanically separated roast turkey tacos.

I diced the remaining lunch meat up with some white onion and jalapeno and fried the mixture in a little butter with some salt, pepper, and garlic. I really need to start keeping eggs on hand because a couple of eggs thrown into this would have really pushed this meal over the top

Since I used the last of my salsa the previous night I had to resort to using some bottled habanero sauce my folks brought back from a recent trip to Mexico. This was yet another successful late night snack, but it's come to the point that my larders are pretty much exhausted.

I guess it's time to go to the grocery store. I think all I have left to eat at home is some milk and a half-eaten box of Grape Nuts...

Lunchmeat Tacos2

Lunchmeat Tacos3

Lunchmeat Tacos4

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pho Binh!

We've already established that, despite it's name, this blog is not solely dedicated to the production and consumption of tacos and pictures of other things I cook. It is also about bringing attention to other sorts of eateries, especially those located on the NW side of town.

Now, admittedly, this is probably not the optimal part of town for a foodie to live in, especially if they hate driving as much as I do, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of good food to be had if one's willing to look and, occasionally, compromise.

When one gets a hankering for a banh mi, the delectable Vietnamese version of the hoagie is, so far as I'm aware, only available locally at Pho Binh (address below). Unfortunately, they have precisely two options available: pork and chicken. Worst of all, there's no pate spread and no obvious sign of that magical mayonnaise I've gotten elsewhere.

Having said that, the pork banh mi I picked up this afternoon really satisfied my cravings. The french roll it was served on was still satisfactorily crunchy even at the ass end of the lunch hour, and the pork was perfectly charred. They normally serve cucumber on their sandwiches, but don't freak out if you don't see any cukes in the pics below; their absence was intentional because I hate cucumbers.

Pho Binh has also serves bun and pho, and I'll get around to reviewing their pho right around the first big cold snap.

Pho Binh's dining room is serviceable. It was really dead on this visit, with only one other patron waiting on a to-go order. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, which probably had something to do with it.

They have this neat cycle rickshaw tucked away in a corner:

The neatest thing about Pho Binh is that for a little over four dollars, they'll stuff one of these in your face:

Pho Binh's exterior is also serviceable.

If you're on the North West side of town and absolutely, positively have to have a banh mi as soon as possible, give Pho Binh a try. (Or, better yet tell me about an even better banh mi hookup in the area!)

Pho Binh
2021 Mangum Rd
Houston, TX 77092-8529
(713) 686-6408

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Monday, October 19, 2009


Now, H-Town Tacos is primarily, but not exclusively, about making and eating tacos. Sometimes, we might make and eat a hamburger, or some spahgetti alla carbonara, and sometimes, such as in the case of this Sunday, the whole family gets together and we make barbecued beef ribs.

Dad did most of the work on the meat, and Mom made the potato salad. The beans were provided by the good folks at Bush's Baked Beans, and they weren't bad at all as far as canned beans go. My actual contribution was the BBQ sauce, which was pretty much perfect. I don't want to break my arm patting myself on the back or anything, but damn, I'm good at making BBQ sauce.

No, you can't have the recipe.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tacos al Pastor!

The first tacos I ever ate in my life were prepared by my mother using a pound of ground beef and a package of McCormick's taco seasoning mix. These were served on crispy taco shells with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, and diced tomato. A jar of mild Pace picante sauce was available for the daring! Taco Bell will sell you an inferior version of this right now for around, as I recall, sixty cents.

Now, I'm still a fan of this style of taco. I mean, not only did I grow up eating them, they're also objectively delicious. I make this style of taco a few times a year when I'm feeling particularly lazy, but when I'm really in the mood to exert myself, I'll whip up some tacos al pastor.

To hear Wikipedia tell it, al pastor tacos were invented in Mexico City and were derived from the shawarma brought over by Lebanese immigrants. Like shawarma, proper al pastor tacos are cooked on a vertical rotisserie or trompo, but unfortunately I don't own one so please bear with me if I take some liberties.

To turn a 2.5 pound Boston butt roast into delicious al pastor tacos, I start with about ten or fifteen guajillo chiles, which you should be able to get at most Houston area supermarkets. I remove the seeds from them, chop them up, and simmer them in about a cup and a half of water and a tablespoon of vinegar. After about ten or twenty minutes (I'm horrible with time) they will absorb most of the liquid and plump up nicely:

The next step is to toss in some garlic, salt, and pepper and then whack it with a stick blender to make a thick marinade:

The marinade is then mixed with the pork, which is diced into ~.5 inch chunks:

Afterwards, you can let it sit overnight or however long you want to, but according to the good folks at America's Test Kitchen, marinating doesn't actually work very well, so if you're really hungry go ahead and throw some of the sauced-up pork in a hot pan and toss in some pineapple chunks and about 2 tablespoons or so of pineapple juice and cook through:

When the pineapple juice has pretty much cooked down to nothing, transfer the meat and pineapple chunks to a tortilla and top with cheese. I suggest queso fresco. Place the taco on a cookie sheet or pie tin or what-have-you and broil it until the cheese is melty. Next, garnish with cilantro, onion, and tomatillo salsa. Serve with lime wedges on the side and enjoy!

Here's the formal recipe. Please note that I hardly ever work from recipes when I'm cooking so if the measurements are a little off I'm sorry. I'll take careful notes the next time I prepare this and update the post if necessary, but if you're not completely clueless in the kitchen you should be able to pull these off even if I'm a little low or high on the amount of water to use, etc.

Tacos al Pastor

2.5 lbs Boston butt pork roast, cut into little chunks
10-15 guajillo chiles, de-seeded and rough chopped
1.5 c. water
1 tbsp. white vinegar
6 cloves garlic, minced
corn or flour tortillas
cilantro, chopped
white onion, fine dice
limes, cut into wedges
1 can (18 oz?) pineapple chunks in juice
cheese (queso fresco or your choice)
your favorite salsa

Place the chiles in a sauce pan with the water and vinegar. Cover and simmer for 10-20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Add the garlic and blend with a stick blender to form a thick marinade/sauce. Combine the meat and marinade and mix well so that the meat is covered evenly and allow to refrigerate overnight*.

To prepare, place 1 cup of meat/sauce mixture in a saute pan and add 1/4 cup of pineapple chunks and 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice. Saute until pork is cooked through and pineapple juice is reduced and thickened well.

Transfer the meat and pineapple mixture to tortillas and top with cheese. Broil until cheese is melted, then top with cilantro, onion, and salsa. Serve with lime wedges on the side, one wedge per taco.

* This step is optional.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So, I got tired of paying for the sub-standard carnitas at the local carniceria so I decided to come up with my own version.

This is what I came up with.

The Meat
2.5 lbs Boston butt pork roast
2 tbsb. kosher salt
1 tbsp. black peppercorns, ground
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. achiote (annato)
1 tbsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. Mexican oregano
1/2 tbsp. onion powder
1 small white onion, sliced thinly

The Tacos
3 dozen corn tortillas
3 cups white onion, finely diced
6 jalapenos, finely diced
2 bunches cilantro, washed and chopped roughly
Salsa of your choice
3 avocados, peeled and sliced


Combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, achiote, cayenne pepper, Mexican oregano, and onion powder to make a dry rub. Liberally coat the meat on all sides and place in a slow cooker:

Place the sliced onion on top and cook on High for 5 hours or more, until the meat is extremely tender.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker and shred using two forks:

Transfer to a cookie sheet or wide, shallow pan and place under a broiler, stirring occasionally, to crisp up the tips of the meat, about 10-20 minutes.

Remove from broiler and serve on corn tortillas topped with onions, jalapeno, cilantro, salsa, and avocado.

The festive red tortillas are optional!

I was really, really happy with the way these turned out, but there are a few things I want to try the next time I make them.

Instead of cooking the entire roast whole, I plan on cutting it up into large cubes, say about 1 inch to 1.5 inches per side. This will give the spice rub more surface area to cling to, which should get even more flavor into the meat (which was already very flavorful).

Additionally, rather than shredding the pork, I'm going to leave it all cubed when I put in the broiler, as the cube form is the most common way I've seen this dish prepared.

UPDATE: The good people over at the Houston Press food blog, Eating our Words, decided to feature an optional photo of this dish today! What a nice way to start my morning!

Apart from their bizarre obsession with Anthony Bourdain, they're great folks.

Thanks to Katharine and all the other folks at the Houston Press!