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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