Mr. Charlton Makes Tacos

You might have read my post about tacos the other day. You might have a lot of things to say when I mention that four dollars for a little taco is unreasonable.”Mr. Chartlton is a cheap asshole” or “Mr. Charlton doesn’t respect good cuisine” or “Why the hell is Mr. Charlton making such a big deal about a fucking taco?”

Let’s talk about tacos, shall we? Tacos originally are from Mexico and predate the arrival of Europeans. The local population was stuffing their faces with tacos before the Spanish popped over. They come in a variety of styles, and there hasn’t been a taco I haven’t liked. I’ll admit, the tacos I had last week, although small, were pretty tasty. So what the hell is my problem?

Tacos are really, really easy to make. I’m not talking about the boxed bullshit that comes from the supermarket, where they have a bunch of nasty old hard taco shells with a salty powder you throw in with some ground beef. I’m talking about real homemade tacos, with homemade tortillas and homemade Pico de Gallo and the works. The whole thing is such a straight forward process I’m going to teach you folks how to make it. Can you put a roast into a pot? Can you make pancakes? Can you cut up vegetables and put them into a bowl? Then you have got tasty tacos under your belt already

Tacos de Lengua – Beef Tongue Tacos

The Tongue – Creepy Looking Deliciousness

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We’re going to make this tasty

Thigns you’ll need:

  • Beef Tongue (go to a butcher and grab one)
  • Bay leaves (About 6-7 of ’em)
  • Peppercorns (Maybe a teaspoon)
  • One Onion, cut into large chunks
  • Five Garlic cloves, smashed
  • Kosher Salt (or regular salt, I mean, fuck it, it’s not that important the salt’s kosher)

Alright, throw all of this shit into a pot or a slow cooker and cover with water, making sure the tongue is submerged. If it’s in a pot, put in the over and set at 225° F. Leave it in for 6 to 8 hours. You have a slow cooker? Throw it in the slow cooker and forget about it for 8 hours or however long one of those things take. In the mean time, while this tastiness is cooking, you can get started on the other stuff. But the other stuff is really quick and easy to make, so you might want to queue up a movie or go run some errands or have a nap.

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All cooked up real good

Once it’s done, take it out of the pot or slow cooker. You see all that liquid left over? Keep it! Or don’t. It’s basically soup. Anyways, there’s a membrane on the outside of the tongue. Cut it down the middle, peel it off and throw it away. It’s tough and nasty, and you’re going to want to get at the tasty stuff inside.

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The tongue, with the membrane off.

Cut it up into chunks and set aside. We’ll come back to it later.

Pico de Gallo – Basically Fresh Salsa

Things you’ll need:

  • Tomatoes (Five medium sized ones)
  • Half an Onion
  • Maybe half a Jalapeno
  • Garlic cloves
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lime Juice

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Vegetables!

You noticed how I didn’t put down an amount for a lot of that stuff? Because it’s up to you. You like garlic? Throw a bunch of it in there. You like heat? Throw in more Jalapeno. I’m leaving this up to you. So people like a bunch of lime juice in there, so they add a bunch. I think cilantro is overrated, but hey, that’s me.

Cut all of that into small pieces and put into a bowl. Oh my God, look at you! You just made Pico de Gallo like a champ!

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You cut up the vegetables!

Tortillas – Small Salty Mexican Pancakes

Things you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (anything works, but lard is best. I used bacon fat)
  • 1 cup of water

Mix all the dry stuff in a bowl. Then add the wet stuff. mixed with anything, like a spoon or a stand mixer or your hands. If it’s sticky, add some more flour. If it’s not smooth and holding together, add some water. You’ll notice I’m using both corn and wheat flour. It’s because I want the best of both worlds. And I get what I want (in regards to flour).

Dry stuff, then wet stuff

Once you have a smooth ball of dough, cover the bowl and let it sit for half an hour or more. Then roll that bad boy out, cut out circles (I used a small bowl) and throw on a hot pan, I had my electric range set at medium. You don’t need any oil or butter or anything, there’s oil in the dough and that will be enough. Once it starts bubbling, flip it over and cook the other side.

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Action Shot!

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Cooking it up!

Boom! You have just successfully made homemade tortillas. They will be the best tortillas you’ve ever had, I promise.

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Plate of tortillas!

The Finish Line – Putting it all together.

We’re going to fry up that meat. Yes, we’re taking that sweet tasty meat we cooked for 8 hours and we’re cooking it again. Heat up a skillet, on my electric range I had it at a 6 out of 10 for heat. Put some of that meat in the pan and fry it up. You save any of that liquid soup you made earlier? You’re going to use a little bit of that to deglaze the pan, I used a couple of tablespoons of the leftover liquid. Once all the liquid has evaporated, get that meat to the table. Set out a spread and there you are; homemade tacos.

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Fry up that meat

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Set up a spread!

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These tacos are bigger than the ones I had last week. No joke.

The Final Word

Were they any good? You bet. Was it worth the hassle of getting a beef tongue? Not really. If you got a cheap roast instead you would be just as well off. There’s this weird hipster idea that an establishment has to have beef tongue tacos in order to be a legitimate taqueria. It used to be a really cheap cut of meat, but the weird body parts of animals that used to get tossed are becoming somewhat gentrified.

The amount of actual cooking time is less than an hour. You are going to spend a lot of it sitting around. If you want to cheat and grab some store bought tortillas and salsa, I ain’t going to judge. The point I’m trying to make is tacos are so stupidly simple that selling them is almost a crime.

I think I made my point. Tacos are easy. If you folks like this I’ll put up other recipes or write a cookbook or some shit. Let me know.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yes, my beef tongue tacos are better than the ones you get at Native Tongues, but only because the tortillas are crazy fresh.

Mr. Charlton Goes for Tacos

I was in Calgary for a wedding this weekend, and although it was a whirlwind trip, I had a great time. The wedding was fun and it was great to see a lot of faces I haven’t seen in a while. I didn’t get to see everyone I would have liked to, but a couple of days in my old stomping grounds is never enough time to get in and see all the sites.

Now, I love two things. Going out for food and Mexican cuisine , so one of the joints I was told to check out was a taco bar called ‘Native Tongues’. I had a couple of friends hype this restaurant up to no end, saying it was the one place I needed to hit up while in Calgary. So, me and my partner in crime Kat decided that after a long car ride, we would crush our hunger pains with some delicious tacos. I was really excited to make this taco thing a reality, so parked the car and sat down for some tasty Mexican food.

It was okay.

Here’s the deal. They were pretty good tacos. I wasn’t completely blown away, but they were tasty authentic tacos. The problem I had with them is that they were small. Adorably small, actually. Which would have been okay, except they were four bucks a pop. We both had four tacos apiece,  which is what the server recommended. We could have easily eaten ten. It’s not like me and the girlfriend are huge eaters, either. We don’t get excited for all you can eat buffets. We don’t get giddy over the prospect of massive portions. On the flip side, it kind of sucks to go out for lunch, drop $40 and walk away hungry, getting what amounts to basically a snack.

I mention this to my buddy, one of the guys who recommended the place to me. When I mentioned the price and how it wasn’t really worth it, he put up his hand, stopped me right there, and said, “Don’t talk to me about price point”.

Hell yes, we are going to talk about price point.

It reminded me of the time I went to a Tapas place in Edmonton called Three Boars. Now, I’m going to start off be saying Tapas are bullshit. Not my thing. But Three Boars is a good place, has a nice tap selection and I was usually pretty impressed with the restaurant. The guys running it are creative and I usually walked away happy with the food. Except for once.

Me and my lady friend at the time, the good doctor, went to Three Boars and got a new item. The kimchi salad topped with foie gras. I thought, sounds good! I like some spicy kimchi, I love me some foie gras, how could you go wrong?

We get this dinky little bowl of kimchi, and there was foie gras shaving on top, layered so thin it might as well have been canola oil. To top it off, this little bowl of salad (I mean it was tiny) was set at $16. It wasn’t very good. I earned the title of honorary French man that night, as for the next forty-five minutes I raged about the salad being overpriced hipster garbage.

Before I went to Native Tongues, I was told it was a little hipster-ish. Now, I listen to eclectic music you probably haven’t heard of, shop at thrift stores, and think that punk rock was at its peak in the 1980’s. If I’m not a hipster, then I’m pretty damn close. One thing I don’t get pretentious over anymore is food. I don’t have a problem with paying four simoleons for a little taco, but that taco better be worth four goddamn dollars. The tacos at Native Tongues were good, absolutely, but they weren’t four dollar tacos. It was the kind of taco platter I’d expect at Hudson’s, not at a place of this hype.

The pork and chicken tacos were a little dry, the flavor on the pork was a little weird. To be honest, the best part of the taco was the tortilla, and it wasn’t the best tortilla I’ve had (that would be Jalapenos, which unfortunately shut down recently). They were dinky, slightly boring little tacos. The first bite at a restaurant should be “Wow, that is amazing” not “Man, I can do this at home with minimal effort”.

If some clown tells you that price doesn’t matter, tell ’em to stuff it. Price matters when you’re going out for food, and if the money your spending outweighs your enjoyment of the meal, then take your money elsewhere. Life is too short to be eating over-price hipster bullshit.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Native Tongues did give me a bunch of great ideas for making my own tacos, though. The meal wasn’t a complete wash.

p.s.s. I’ll try anything twice, so maybe I need to hit up Native Tongues again at a different time. Maybe the cooks at night bring their A game.

p.s.s.s. The secret to becoming an honorary French man is to use the word ‘abomination’ to describe a salad.