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.