Korean Shrimp Tacos

Hey Dude,
I made some fantastic Korean tacos tonight for friends visiting from California, and the flavor balance was perfect.

About 1 pound shrimp
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves minced garlic
Crushed red peper
A little ginger powder
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
A few shakes of Adobo seasoning

Combine all of these ingredients in a tupperware container, shake, and set aside to marinate.

photo

You will also need:
Cilantro, tortillas (preferably corn), red onion, Sriracha, pepper jack cheese, and prepared kimchi (easy to get at an Asian grocer, or make yourself).

Meanwhile, prepare any sides (I did spanish rice and refried beans with organic salsa), cook your tortillas, chop up a good deal of cilantro and fresh red onion (I guess you’d want to sautee these, but I like them raw), and chop up some of the kimchi so it’s not in such big pieces. Shred the cheese.

Cook the shrimp in a skillet, stirring and sifting from time to time. When most of the liquid cooks out, you should be done.

Combining the ingredients is simple: tortilla, shrimp, cheese, kimchi, onion, cilantro, and a single line of Sriracha. These are really good, simple, tacos. And my friend said she DOES NOT like kimchi, but she thought it was great in these tacos.

That’s it! I’ll send a photo over.

Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

from: Jamey W. Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Mon, May 20, 2013 at 9:16 PM
subject: Danger Dogs and Mexican Hot Dogs

Dude,
I already gave you a sneak peek via text message, but I’ve gotta tell you—Mexican hot dogs are the shit. Which is funny, because they’re sometimes called Danger Dogs.

My first experience with Mexican hot dogs is with the variety known as Sonoran Dogs. Philly has the cheesesteak and Tucson has Sonoran Hot Dogs. Named after nearby Sonora, Mexico, these things are incredible, but unless you live in Tucson and have access to the amazing and famous El Guero Canelo or a street cart equivalent, these are tough to come by.

The exception is places like Los Angeles, where you can find little old ladies who have turned old metal trash cans into grills, and can be seen cooking these over a fire on cookie sheets at 2 am to sell to all the drunks coming out of the bars. I first enjoyed this completely unregulated health department Danger Dog nightmare with Pigeon John and King Charismatic after a Rootbeer show in the wee hours of the morning. The second time? Right before seeing LA Symphony and Wu-Tang tear it up. Let’s just say these dogs go well with good times.

My love was rekindled at a local cantina here in Philly. Their food is typically expensive, so when they added $3.50 Mexican hot dogs to the a la carte menu, I was getting them on the semi-regular with free chips and salsa. They recently doubled the price to $7 a dog, so I decided it was time to discover my own dogs.

So anyway, what makes these dogs special? Bacon. And peppers. And everything but the kitchen sink. The basic idea is that you wrap a hot dog wiener in bacon, and put it on a bun with a whole bunch of other stuff. The Danger Dogs in California (in my experience) are usually served with sauteed onions and peppers and whatever condiments you want. The Sonoran Dogs get crazier, usually dipping the dog deep in big buns, and slathering everything on top, including pinto beans. I’ve even heard that so-called Tijuana Dogs sometimes include pineapple and avocado.

In short, it’s a more-or-less a Chicago Dog, re-imagined south of the border style.

Here’s my easy approach to Mexican hot dogs. Gather up the following ingredients:

  • Hot Dog Wieners
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Bacon
  • Fresh Tomato Salsa
  • Queso Blanco (I like real Mexican cheese crumbled, but shredded cheese is fine, too.)
  • Jar of Jalapenos
  • Onions and Oil (to sautee)
  • Fresh Peppers (serrano or jalapeno or something else)
  • Mayo
  • Hot Sauce of Choice

Now get a load of how easy this is.

1. Wrap hot dog wieners in bacon. Cook (preferably on a grill) until the bacon is the way you like bacon. Careful for flare ups, since bacon is so fatty.

2. Begin grilling the fresh peppers. Sautee the onions until carmelized. After the peppers have nice grill marks, throw them in with the onions to add a sauteed touch.

3. Grill the buns slightly.

4. Crumble the queso, and toss it up with some of the jalapenos. This makes the dressing of the dogs much easier.

5. When everything is done, assemble the buns like so: mayo first, then queso/jalapeno mixture, sauteed onions, and hot sauce. Then add the wiener/bacon and fill in the extra space with the fresh salsa.

6. Now what to do with your grilled/sauteed peppers? You can either add them to the bun for an extra kick, or what I like to do is grind sea salt lightly all over them, and nibble on them throughout the meal as a side. It’s absolutely wonderful. Picked this trick up from an old taco shack in Hawaii.

Finally, eat your Mexican hot dogs with luxurious, inexpensive abandon.

Oh, I almost forgot a very important part. Drink a beer. But you should do this before, during, and after the meal preparation. Also, before, during, and after the meal consumption.

¡Arriba!

Vegan Tamales!!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

So I finally did it.  I took the plunge and made tamales yesterday.  And not to brag, but they kinda ruled.

The plan was to make vegan tamales using this recipe from CheekyKitchen.com.  But you know me, I’m not one to stick to a recipe very long, so I took what I needed and promptly veered off course.  The biggest question for me was how to make the dough.  The article in CheekyKitchen.com was great for that, and I still recommend reading it as a good primer.  Or hell, use the whole thing instead of what I’m about to write.  This is really just an addendum to that article.

I ended up making the majority of the tamales vegan, but I ran out of veggie filling before I did dough and husks, so I just dressed up some left over chicken and finished up with those.  (Chopped chicken, chili, cumin, salsa, and the chipotle sauce you mailed me a while back.)

The Cheeky Kitchen article uses a lentil base for the filling, but I didn’t have any lentils on hand.  I also couldn’t find a can of straight green chilies at Food City (aka, Food Shitty).  This is where I where I went on my own with the recipe.

Here’s what I used for the vegan filling.

  • One can black eyed peas — (insert generic, but accurate Fergie insult here)
  • Two carrots cubed small
  • One zucchini cubed small
  • Half large onion
  • Handful of frozen corn
  • Lots O’ Garlic
  • 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • One small can of Rotel Original tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1/2 TBS cumin
  • A stem of fresh oregano, minced
  • Salt and white pepper

Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the rest of the fresh/frozen veggies.  Sauté for another few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Viola, vegan tamale filling.  It tasted spicier in the bowl than it did in the tamale.

I made the dough pretty much exactly like the Cheeky Kitchen recipe, but I subbed Imagine brand No Chicken Stock for the faux-beef bouillon cubes and water.  I loved the use of coconut oil for the saturated fat.  It gave such a light, fresh flavor that you just don’t get with shortening or lard.  I used organic unrefined oil.

Here’s her recipe, verbatim.

For the Tamale Dough:

  • 4 cups masa
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes dissolved into 3 cups of water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks

Now, I only used a 6 oz package of husks, and I still had WAY too many.  But I have the feeling that I may have rolled mine funny.  Either way, I wouldn’t go overboard and buy more than a 6 oz package of husks.

Again, to her instructions.
“Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of warm water while preparing to cook the tamales.
“In a large bowl, mix the masa, baking soda, and salt together. Add the coconut oil. Stir well. Add the bouillon flavored water to the mix. Add more water, if needed, to make the masa a soft, spongy dough.”

Filling and tying the tamales was frustrating at first, but it’s an easily acquired skill.  Just remember, you’re not making the giant sized tamales that the masters produce, you’re making smaller, more manageable tamales.

Basically, what you want to do is grab a big husk from the water and spread a good coating of masa across the center part of the leaf, making sure to leave room at the top and bottom to fold and tie the husk down.  Leave some room at the edges, too, so you have space to cover the whole tamale with husk when you roll it.

Spoon some of the mixture into the center of the dough, and roll it up side-to-side.  Pay careful attention to completely cover the filling with the dough when rolling.  This may involve peeling the husk back as you go, kind of like rolling a cigarette in a dollar bill.  Once the dough is closed, and the husk is wrapped, fold the top and bottom edges over and tie them back with peeled strips from another husk.  (Her instructions seemed vague about this, and her pictures made it seem like she only used one tie.  I couldn’t figure that out, so I opted instead to tie the top and bottoms separately.)

She suggests baking the tamales at 400º in the oven on a rack set over water.  This will bake and steam them.  I did it a little differently.  I actually steamed them on the stovetop; in a colander set at the top of a stock pot.

Once all of your tamales are rolled and tied, stand them up in the colander – I had to lay a few flat across to fill it, but they all cooked fine.  Place the colander inside a stock pot filled with a few inches of water and seal tightly with tin-foil.  Once the steam is at a full boil, give it about 30-40 minutes and check them.  The tamales may seem mushy right out of the steam, but they’ll firm up as they cool.

Let me just say that they look as awesome as they taste.  And it makes your house smell wonderful!  We made a ton of tamales, enough to freeze and snack on later.
I definitely recommend giving this a try, dude.  Especially considering how much you like the Mexican cuisine.  It’s damn near authentic!

Carne Asada with Roasted Salsa


from: Jamey Bennett

to: Daniel Larkin

Dude, I made a really delicious, really simple roasted salsa. I just ate a few bites and my mouth is warm and fiesta-like. Four tomatoes, two jalapeños, red and yellow onion roasted for about 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Added it to the blender with four cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, cilantro, cayenne, crushed red pepper, lemon juice, and a splash of white vinegar.

Also, I came up with a good carne asada marinade. I make a lot of tacos (obviously), but my tacos never taste like street tacos. This was my attempt. I marinated cheap, cheap steak with white vinegar, soy sauce, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, a dash of garlic powder, cumin, and paprika. I tried to keep the ingredients minimal, and only enough liquid to fully wet the meat. After a couple of hours, I cut the steak into small chunks, and tossed the pieces (with the marinade) into a skillet and cooked until no liquid remained.

Add to tortillas, throw on your taco toppings, add the roasted salsa, and bam. If anything, I won’t add salt next time, as the sodium in the soy sauce was plenty. I didn’t quite duplicate street tacos, but it was damn good.

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett 

I’ve got the day off today, and I was thinking about brewing.  I might just make a salsa too now!

Whole Food Veggie Tacos FTW!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

I finally did it!  Veggie tacos made with real food!

My main qualm with vegetarian options at home is that they usually involve some sort of processed fake meat.  Not that I’m staunchly opposed to using them (my Skyline Chili knock-off and my chicken-less tacos both rely on faux-meats) but I’ve always wanted another option.  What comes next in this email is an approximation of what I did.  I didn’t do any prior research, I took no notes, and I’m writing this three weeks after the fact.  I tried to mentally tally everything, but you may still have to rely on your ninja skills of adaptation.

In all honesty, I’m not really going not on memory for all of the measurements, but rather guessing at how much I would add if I were to make this again.

Here’s a list of what made up the filling.  It’s kind of like refrigerator soup, in that I just used whatever I had on hand.  But as anyone who’s read about nutrition knows, variety is the best recipe.  The key to making this more taco-meat-esque is to chop all whole foods very small before cooking.  Obviously, you don’t need to chop the beans or corn, but you get the idea.

•    1 can of black beans (rinsed)
•    about a cup of frozen corn kernels
•    about 1/2 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
•    the tips off one head of broccoli (finely chopped)
•    One or two pablano peppers (finely chopped) — add more or different peppers if you like it hotter
•    1/2 onion (finely chopped)
•    3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    a handful of walnuts (you guessed it, finely chopped)
•    1 pack of firm tofu (it’ll break into small pieces when added and stirred) — extra firm tofu won’t break up enough and silken tofu will just dissolve
•    (I wanted to add small cubes of sautéed sweet potato, but I forgot.  I still think that would be good!)
•    1 tbs soy sauce
•    8-ish oz Guinness Draught
•    3-ish tbs tomato paste
•    2-ish tbs chili powder
•    1-1/2-ish tbs cumin
•    Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
•    A few sprigs of chopped cilantro
•    Salt and red and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic and onion for a minute in the oil of your choice.  Mix all other veggies and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Then add the liquid and spices – again, tasting as you go because I didn’t measure shit.  Simmer everything for 30 minutes, and add walnuts and cilantro in the last 5 minutes.

Fair warning, this made a ton!

Now I didn’t want to just top the tacos off with lettuce and be done with it.  I wanted to go fancy pants.

So I filled a large mixing bowl with green cabbage sliced thinly and evenly with the mandolin.  Then I threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and an half-and-half mix of plain greek yogurt and sour cream —enough to make a slaw-type consistency.  I mixed in some salt and pepper, about 3 tbs of granulated sugar, about 1 tbs red wine vinegar and the juice from 2-1/2 limes.  (I used the other half lime to keep the avocado from browning) Then I tossed it all by hand until it was even and put it in the fridge to settle for about an hour.

The final setup went like this; tortilla, veggie filling, cheese, cilantro slaw, sliced avocado and hot sauce.  And it was phenomenal!  The mix of veggies and tofu was the perfect consistency, and the small crunch of walnuts kept the texture interesting.  The fresh slaw was a perfect compliment, and was way more interesting that lettuce and sour cream could have been by themselves.

These tacos made me realize that vegetarian eating doesn’t have to be about avoiding meat.  When done right, it’s really just a tasty way to eat your vegetables.  The variety of plant-based foods on this plate made for one of the most wholesome meals I’ve had in a long time.  And one of the tastiest.

Unexpectedly Delicious Salsas

from Jamey W. Bennett
to Daniel Larkin 

Dude,

So with #weddingweek craziness upon us, I thought it would be nice to have my brother, sister-in-law, and parents over for dinner right when they got to town. I had intended to get a locally-sourced brisket for my smoker, but the lady at the buying club dropped the ball somehow.

Anyway, so I decided to make tri-tip tacos. I smoked carne asada-style tri-tip, premarinated from Trader Joe’s. I wanted to have some vegetables for the tacos, but thought maybe going fajita style with them would be a nice touch. So I sliced up jalapenos, cherry peppers, several colors of bell peppers, yellow and red onion, cloves of garlic, and tomatoes, placing them in a bread pan. I poured a generous amount of Italian dressing over the top, and let it marinate for a couple of hours. Then I put the pan in the smoker for a couple of hours. Honestly, it could have used more time, or I should have just done it in the oven. But they came out great. Oh, and when I was done, I threw the veggies in a colander to get the excess dressing off. In the end, the tacos were a smash hit.

Now, let me digress. I made guacamole and fresh salsa to go with the tacos. My regular “staple” salsa is simple: tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, lime juice, salt and pepper. Never measured, all to taste. But that night, it was perhaps the best it has ever been. My secret? The juiciest, deepest red, large heirloom tomato. Oh my gosh, that salsa was like candy.

Needless to say, while I was running around the kitchen finishing up the tacos, my giant bowl of homemade chips were being used to devour my salsa. By the time I sat down for dinner there wasn’t much salsa left.

Since then, I’ve been craving salsa, and #weddingweek has made it impossible for me to get back out to the store for another gorgeous heirloom tomato.

So this morning, I scooped a bunch of my leftover marinated and cooked veggies into my food processor, grabbed and rinsed a handful of cilantro, added salt and pepper, and blended until nice and chunky. It is really damn good. The Italian dressing adds a nice subtle vinegar tang and the olive oil gives it a good mouth feel. It’s heavier on sweet peppers and lighter on tomatoes, but the sweetness of the roasted vegetables makes it difficult to stop eating.

I think I may have just stumbled onto something awesome.