Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eat the Menu: The Shirt!

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Thursday night, this crazy journey reached its end. We had a "Jon the Geek Week Wrap Party" at Tacodeli (open after its usual hours to give us some more of those delicious Jon the Geek Week Specials). The tacos were great, but the best part was the official introduction of the award for the first 24 people to complete an Eat the Menu Card: the "I Ate the Menu at Tacodeli" t-shirt! I got the first copy of this limited run. My favorite part is on the middle of line 6.

I know one person was already at 12 on Thursday, but I think there's still time for the less-obsessed to make it into the "I Ate the Menu" club. Eat the Menu cards are available at all three Tacodeli locations.

On a related note, a my sister's friend Maria made some tasty-sounding Vegetable Mole Tacos inspired by this experience (and the yumminess she experienced at Tacodeli). I can't wait to try out her recipe!

How close is everyone to eating the menu? I'm not making much progress on my second time through (the Portabella Mole slowed my progress), so SURELY people will make it through their first time before I make it through my second time, right?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Food Revolution: Chicken Korma to Chicken KorMex

This is part of a series of posts in which I cook something from Jamie's Food Revolution and then make it again with a twist. Find the other posts here.

I have definitely learned something from Jamie's Food Revolution: I really love Indian food, especially when it's homemade. This time I made Chicken Korma, and the rule definitely still holds true. This stuff is amazingly delicious. I technically tweaked Jamie's recipe a little, but that was just because some of his amounts were stupid:
  • 2 chicken breasts (translated to human measures from "1 3/4 pounds chicken breasts")
  • 2 medium onions
  • optional: 1 fresh jalapeño (translated from optional: 1 fresh green chile)
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
  • a small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 x 15-oz can garbanzo beans
  • peanut oil
  • a pat of butter
  • 1/2 cup Patak's mild curry paste
  • 1 x 14-oz can lite coconut milk
  • a small handful of sliced almonds
  • 2 heaped tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups lite natural yogurt
  • 1 lemon
Cut the chicken into chunks. Halve and finely slice the onions (tip: be sure to slice, not crush, to avoid tears). Slice the jalapeño from the tip up to just before the seeds, cut the remainder in half lengthwise, cut off the end, and push out the seeds (this is the technique that I've finally figured out will work to get the seeds out cleanly, let me know if you have a better technique). Put a few of the prettier slices aside for plating Peel and finely chop the ginger. Pick some cilantro leaves to use in plating and finely chop the rest. Drain the beans.

Put a large pan on high or medium-high heat (Jamie says high, but everything gets golden before 10 minutes either way, and I had to turn it down to avoid burning) and add some oil (about enough to just cover the bottom of the pan). Add the onions, pepper, ginger, cilantro, and butter. Cook for about 10 minutes (until the onions are golden), stirring pretty close to constantly. Add the curry paste, beans, coconut milk, coconut, almonds (except a little for plating), garbanzo beans, and slicked chicken. Stir. Half-fill the empty coconut milk can with water, and add it. Stir again. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes with the lid on. Jamie says to check it regularly to make sure it's not drying out and add extra water if necessary, which makes me think Jamie usually cooks in a desert with a dehumidifier running; this stuff was soupy when it finished, there was no risk of it drying out. The chicken should be tender and cooked when you finish. He says to season with (sea) salt and pepper, but I didn't need to add anything to make it delicious. I cooked some rice during the last 15 minutes or so of the simmering, and served the korma over that with some yogurt, the pretty bits, and a lemon wedge.

Trying to come up with a way to remix this one was daunting. First off, it was so super delicious, I didn't want to mess with it. Second, Patak's is a super cheaty way of cooking, but I wanted something at least close to the same: a paste of spicy goodness. What to do?


I decided to pick a type of food, and just substitute each of the ingredients as best I could, and see what happened. I knew I'd have a lot of work to do, so I picked something I'm familiar with: Tex-Mex. Here's what I did to Tex-Mexify each ingredient:
  • 2 chicken breasts to 2 chicken breasts (we have chickens in Texas)
  • optional: 1 fresh jalapeño to not optional: 1 fresh jalapeño
  • a small bunch of fresh cilantro to a large bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 x 15-oz can garbanzo beans to 1 x 15-oz can whole-kernel sweet corn
  • 1 x 14-oz can lite coconut milk to 14 oz 2% milk
  • a small handful of sliced almonds to a small handful of crumbled pecans
  • 2 heaped tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut unchanged, because I need to use this stuff up, but I think I'd use shredded jicama if I didn't already have coconut
  • 2 cups lite natural yogurt to 2 cups lite sour cream
  • 1 lemon to oh crap I forgot the lemon
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger to I can't think of anything ginger-like, and ginger is tasty, so we'll call it fusion; I probably could have switched this to a few cloves of garlic, though
That leaves the paste. Well, this is supposed to be Texan, so I used 1/4 cup Salt Lick Chipotle BBQ Sauce thickened to something more paste-like with 1/4 cup chili powder.

I made everything just like in the original, except I added the milk last at the add-everything-else step, and didn't quite bring it to a boil after adding the milk. I had no idea how this stuff would taste.

It came out pretty tasty, but my crazy concoction just couldn't top the concentrated deliciousness that is Patak's. Curries are just so good. I'll probably make it again, but probably not before I run out of curry pastes.

If you have any ideas for things I could have picked that were more properly Tex-Mex, or if you try a remix using a different theme, let us know in the comments.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eat the Menu: New Additions! (now with DeliBelly description)

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.


Today was the independently organized Taco Tweetup that Tacodeli thought would make a good preview event for my week. Tacodeli was offering a special on three-item breakfast tacos, so I headed to the site to see what might make a good mix (I always get named stuff off the menu, so this mix-and-match thing was new to me). To my surprise and delight, I was greeted on the site by... me! Well, ok, not me, but the cartoon me created for Jon the Geek Week by Victory Dog Design. They also have a nice explanation of what this whole Jon the Geek Week thing is all about on their events page (at least at the time that I'm writing this they do; presumably that'll change eventually).

Once I got to Tacodeli, there was another surprise waiting: a new taco! I mean, not just mine, but another new taco! I still got the breakfast taco special (Chorizo, Egg, and Papas, aka Mexican mashed potatoes), but I just had to try the brand new DeliBelly, and of course the delicious Jon the Geek.

The Jon the Geek Special (aka Mole Portabella) is "Grilled portabella mushrooms smothered with our traditional, made-from-scratch mole and topped with avocado, cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco." That's a fancy way of saying YUM! I'm so glad we were able to find something I like even better than Mole Chicken and Scallops. I give it 1.2 moles. I also found out that this is really similar to a taco Roberto (the owner of Tacodeli) used to make sometimes when he'd open up the original Tacodeli for his friends after they went out for a night on the town. In other words, the Jon the Geek Special has its origin in drunk food. I wholeheartedly approve. This is extra funny, since my roommate has been known to make sure our fridge is stocked with breakfast taco fixings before we go to anything where I might imbibe alcoholic beverages, because more than once I've felt the overwhelming urge to make elaborate breakfast tacos when I get home.

I forgot to write down or photograph the full description of the DeliBelly: (hopefully I'll be able to edit that in soon), but it's locally raised pork belly, avocado, cilantro, onions, and some sort of honey salsa "Richardson farm's pork belly, roasted and served with a serrano-tomatillo-Goodflow-honey salsa and served with cilantro, onion, and avocado." I'm not a huge pork fan, but this was about as good as pork can get. I give it 0.9 moles, which means it edges out the Lomo Especial as my favorite pork taco.

However, the most awesome part may have been the introduction of the official Tacodeli Eat the Menu Card. Inside, all 24 lunch tacos, 6 breakfast tacos, and 9 lunch specials are listed, along with space for four "Super Specials," with the "Jon the Geek Week Special Portabella Mole" pre-filled. When you order, the cashiers punch out the dot next to the taco(s) you order. Punch them all by the end of 2010, and you get a special "I Ate the Menu" t-shirt (assuming nothing goes wrong with that plan; the shirts aren't actually printed yet). I started my second trip through the menu today. Let me know in the comments if you plan to try.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eat the Menu Aftermath: How I Got a Week

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Life is crazy. When I was Eating the Menu at Tacodeli a couple months ago, I was hoping the people who worked there would get to know me well enough that I wouldn't have to give them my name when they took my order. I never expected more than that.

But then, at the end of June, I got a direct message on Twitter from Tacodeli. "Hey Jon!" it started. "I was wondering if you could give Roberto (owner of Tacodeli) a call? He'd like to talk to you." The message ended with cell phone number of the owner. I called immediately.

The Tacodeli twitter crew had been keeping Roberto up-to-date about my quest, and he thought it was hilarious. He wanted to do something to celebrate. It took us a few tries (and one lunch with almost too many tacos), but we found a worthy recipe for my taco. Putting together the description hit three very different parts of the menu, which seemed appropriate:

  • From Vegetarian/Frontera Fundido Portabella: "Oven roasted portabellas..."
  • From Chicken/Mole Taco Chicken: "...smothered with a traditional, made-from-scratch mole. Garnished with cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco. (sauce contains nuts)"
  • From Breakfast/The Jess Special: "...and fresh sliced avocado."
Ok, we had to edit a little to mix those together, but it comes out as the Jon the Geek Special, "Grilled portabella mushrooms smothered with our traditional, made-from-scratch mole and topped with avocado, cilantro, onion & crumbled queso fresco."

I'll give the taco an official taste soon (complete with photo), but wow is that thing good. I hope others like it and help me convince Roberto to make it available more often than just this coming week.

Speaking of that... in addition to the special, Roberto decided to put together a Jon the Geek Week, starting this Sunday, 8/22 (my big sister's birthday)! He also printed up some official Eat the Menu cards. If you get a card completely punched (and all you have to eat is the tacos, he's making it almost easy), he's going to have a prize of some sort (I don't want to say more in case there's a problem with the planned prize). All because I randomly decided to try everything and blog/tweet about it!

Oh, there will also be a "wrap party" for Jon the Geek Week, Thursday night at my "home" Tacodeli (Tacodeli Central). Details here.

The future is awesome.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Why I Ate the Menu

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

It's said that variety is the spice of life, and Tacodeli knows a thing or two about spicing things up. Tacodeli has twenty-four lunch tacos and six named breakfast tacos on their menu, plus an additional seven tacos available as daily specials. However, thirty-seven tacos is a lot to keep track of.

Taking on the challenge of eating the menu gave me a reason to keep track of which tacos I'd tried and which I hadn't, ensuring that I'd experience all of that delicious life-spicing.

If only there were a way for others to keep track of their own quests to eat that menu...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Food Revolution: Vindaloo to Incaloo

I finally got back to Jamie's Food Revolution this week. These recipes were more involved than the ones I'd made so far, but I think they both came out really good... once I fixed my remix. More on that in a bit.

Strangely, I can't find Jamie's vindaloo recipe online. Here it is:

  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 fresh chilis (I use serranos)
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root
  • "small bunch" of fresh cilantro (I take that to mean about a quarter of what HEB thinks a bunch is supposed to be)
  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • peanut oil
  • pat of butter
  • 1 3/4 pounds diced pork shoulder (but he said chicken's also fine, so I used chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Patak's vindaloo paste (check your international aisle)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • about 2 cups rice (I cooked mine in chicken broth, see below)
My remix was about a year in the making. Last August, the chefs on Top Chef Masters were challenged with making gluten-free, soy-free, vegan food for Zooey Deschanel (one of the few human beings capable of convincing people that such restrictions are more endearing than persnickety). The winning dish was quinoa spaghetti. After (or, more likely, during) the episode, I had to look into this "quinoa" stuff to see what the heck it was.

From the Wikipedia article and a few other sources online that I can no longer remember, I learned that quinoa is a grain that, at least according to its advocates, is easier to grow, more nutritious, and otherwise simply better than corn, but which the Europeans didn't understand and associated with non-Christian Incan religious ceremonies, and thus suppressed. It's higher in protein than other grains, and is thus very useful especially for vegetarian diets. It isn't every day that you get a chance to try a whole new grain, so I had to try it.

But, apparently, this need wasn't very strong. I put off trying quinoa until about a month ago, when it appeared  at the Central Market Cafe here in Austin in a salad of some sort. I don't remember anything else about the salad, but the quinoa passed that first test, and reminded me that I wanted to try this. I decided to mix it with other ingredients available to the Inca civilization that gave us quinoa, because, why not?

I replaced the ginger with turmeric, the lemon with a key lime, the curry paste with Peruvian yellow pepper paste (aka "aji amarillo" paste, since it's made from yellow aji peppers), and the meat with about 1.75 pounds new (small/baby) purple potatoes and a couple ocas (because I'd read that the people of the Andes ate ocas, and my grocery store happened to have them). I also added a tablespoon of cumin, but I forgot to do so until after my first serving. Do not forget the cumin! It is absolutely vital. I also replaced the rice with quinoa, which I again cooked in chicken broth. While that's technically cheating (since Incas didn't have chickens), using cuy broth seemed like it'd probably be going too far (and boiling a pan of just water indicates a lack of creativity).

Peel and slice the onions, turmeric, and garlic. Slice the serranos. Pick off a handful of cilantro leaves, then chop up the rest of the small bunch. It's probably a good idea to peel your ocas (if you used them) at this point, but keep those aside; they aren't part of this first batch of veggies.

Heat a large pan on medium-high heat, and add the pat of butter (optional and honestly probably unnecessary, and also kind of cheating since the Incas didn't eat dairy) and a "couple of lugs" of peanut oil (Jamie always puts it that way; it seems to mean about what it seems like it would mean when you start pouring the oil in and get that "glug glug" effect). Add the chopped veggies, and cook for 10 minutes.

While that's cooking, cut your potatoes in half, chop your ocas (I chopped them up like I would carrots), and quarter your tomatoes. Add the potatoes and ocas to the veggies once the veg is softened and golden, along with the pepper paste. Stir everything to coat, and add a little salt and pepper. Much more importantly, add the cumin. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, honey, and about 2 cups water (enough to just barely cover everything; it wouldn't be a terrible idea to use broth here, rather than water). Stir again, then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.

When you have about 20 minutes left, boil the broth, and then add about 2 cups of quinoa (check your packaging; you may, like me, have to rinse and soak the quinoa the night before). Reduce the heat and cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes. It didn't seem to be super picky, so basically simmer it until everything else is ready.

I served it with yogurt in the photo, but I should have left that out to fit my self-imposed rules. I left it out when I had leftovers just now, and I don't think the recipe suffered for it. I don't show the key lime here, which I sliced in half and squeezed over the top (like you might a lemon).

The crazy thing to me about this is what a huge difference the cumin made. I was thinking last night that I'd have to break the rules and use some chicken or pork (or maybe cuy, llama jerky, or penguin, since those were among the Incan meats I could find) if I made this again. The cumin made all the difference. This definitely stands on its own without meat now. You could probably add some if you like, but I don't think it's needed.

Don't be fooled by the similar appearances of the dishes in my photos here. Despite some commonalities, the difference between the curry paste and the pepper paste + cumin was enormous. I definitely recommend trying both, though.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Food Revolution: Chicken Chow Mein to Basil Fennel Chicken Pasta

I remixed another recipe from Jamie's Food Revolution last night and tonight, and I think I won again. To be fair, the thing I made using Jamie's Chicken Chow Mein recipe hardly looked like the thing in the book. His looks soupier (I assume the "if necessary" step seemed necessary to him), and I don't think that would have been a good thing. Then again, maybe I had a lot of yumminess stuck to my pan that he released. If I make it again, I'll probably try the wet version, and I'll use sliced water chestnuts instead of whole. Otherwise, this was pretty darned tasty. It was good, but I don't think it was as good as the alternate version I made last night. Note: If you make it, make sure you get actual chow mein noodles, not the dry things La Choy or whoever calls chow mein; those aren't the same thing (as is probably obvious from the photo).

For my remix, I substituted the following:

  • Bay leaves for cilantro
  • Fennel for bok choy (roughly as much fennel as a baby bok choy)
  • Thin spaghetti for chow mein noodles
  • Olive oil for peanut oil
  • 6-oz can black olives for 8-oz can water chestnuts
  • A large handful of largish cherry tomatoes (larger than cherry tomatoes, smaller than normal tomatoes, I can't think of what they called them) for the hell of it; I think I meant for them to replace the bok choy, but then I saw the fennel and the gears turned
Prepare everything using Jamie's recipe, but with the substitutions above (adding the quartered tomatoes to the veggie stir fry mix, but reserving a couple quarters for the pretty). Also, rather than simply cutting it in half like the bok choy, chop the fennel up. You want it to have lots of surface area in the water, so it can get tamed a bit.

This very much may be one of those things that other people can't stand, but I thought this was super, super tasty. I think it's the tastiest thing I've ever cooked. It was the first time I'd used fennel, and I was really worried once I tasted it raw (raw fennel tastes like black licorice). Boiling it for a few minutes calmed the flavor down considerably, though. I was also considering leaving out the ginger in my version, since ginger isn't used much in Italian cooking, while the rest of the ingredients felt fairly Italian. Luckily I saw an article online discussing a new trend of "Indian-Italian fusion," and I thought that sounded like such a wonderful idea I had to leave the ginger in. I doubted myself again when I decided to go with the fennel (licorice and ginger? won't that be too much?), but I'm so glad I left it in.

This might be it for a while. I need to use up some leftovers this week, and then I'm out of town for two weeks. I'll have my copy of the book with me, though, so maybe I'll do a remix while I'm up in Michigan.

If you have any ideas for what I should call this thing (because I'll certainly be making it again), let me know in the comments.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Food Revolution: Salmon Fish Cakes Accidentally Remixed

Last weekend I had my first accidental remix. According to the recipe I was reading, I was making Salmon Fish Cakes from Jamie's Food Revolution, but that's not how they ended up.

The main thing I'm using Jamie's book for is to learn new techniques. The whole point of it is to get people to cook, so surely he'll be really teaching people, right? I'm starting to think, well, not so much. His goal is noble, but I've had a couple experiences now where he seemed to assume I knew a little more than I knew. This time the results were nearly disastrous.

Specifically, I was steaming the salmon for the fish cakes in a colander above the boiling potatoes. This seemed like a really cool idea to me, but I was doing this at a rental beach house, and I hadn't brought quite exactly the right equipment. That led to water boiling up into the colander with the salmon, making it a bit soggy. The result, after the rest of the process, was too soggy to form into fish cakes.

However, it wasn't a total loss. A little later than I should have, I decided to stop trying to cook the excess moisture out, and just made it a hash for sandwiches. I added a bit of the salad we were making for the side, squeezed on the lemon, and came up with something that was still pretty darned tasty. I think it would've been far better if I'd given up on the cakes earlier, but it was still pretty good.

Jamie has the recipe for the fish cakes on his site, but on his site it's in metric. Use 1.25 lbs potatoes (about 2 largish potatoes) and a pound of salmon. I also used far less parsley than he advises; I think Jamie must have very small hands, because a "handful" or "small bunch" is always way too much; if I'd used what he advised, my cakes would have been green and tasted purely like parsley.

Despite my annoyance at this recipe (and the very mediocre Sizzling Beef with Scallions and Black Bean Sauce, which I didn't bother remixing and didn't think was very good), I'm going to continue working through as many of Jamie's recipes as I can. Stay tuned for his Chicken Chow Mein (and my remix thereof), as soon as I've had a chance to cook them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Day 31

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

I started Eat the Menu when Tacodeli's central location opened on May 11. Since then, I've gone through 61 separate menu items (plus a hat), virtually all of which were delicious.

Friday morning I finished my quest to eat everything on the Tacodeli menu. The photo might not be great, but I wanted to get a shot of that tasty tasty tortilla they use on their breakfast tacos. Yum! This time the tortilla was filled with a Migas Taco, "Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese." It wasn't quite as yummy as its cousin, the Migas Platter, but it was still quite tasty. I give it 0.85 moles.

So, that's everything! It was a delicious task, but somebody had to do it! Now all that are left are...

Summaries:
Breakfast:
  • Tastiest Breakfast Taco: (tie) Sirloin, Egg, and Cheese / Migas Taco (0.85 moles)
  • Tastiest (and only) Breakfast Non-Taco: Migas Platter (0.9 moles)
  • Overall Breakfast Winner: Migas Platter (0.9 moles)
(Non-Breakfast) Tacos:
  • Tastiest Beef: (tie) Cowboy / Mole Taco Sirloin (0.95 moles)
  • Tastiest (and only) Bison: Thunder Heart Bison Picadillo (0.9 moles)
  • Tastiest Chicken: Mole Taco Chicken (1 mole)
  • Tastiest Fish: Scallop Taco (1.1 moles)
  • Tastiest Pork: Lomo Especial (0.85 moles
  • Tastiest Vegetarian: Frontera Fundido Portabella (0.9 moles
  • Overall Lunch Taco Winner: Scallop Taco (1.1 moles)
Other Stuff:
  • Tastiest Side: Mexican Mashed Potatoes (0.65 moles)
  • Tastiest Ensalada o Sopa: (tie) Any Salad (0.8 moles)
  • Tastiest Tortilla Creation: Vegetarian Burrito (0.8 moles)
  • Tastiest Torta: (tie) Probably Any of Them (0.8 moles)
  • Overall Other Stuff Result: It's all pretty good, but none is spectacular (0.8 moles)
Overall:
  • Taco I Most Want to Try Again 'Cuz Man That Was Interesting: Picadillo (Beef) (0.85 moles)
  • Tastiest Thing On the Menu: Scallop Taco (Thursday Special) (1.1 moles)
  • Tastiest Non-Special (and Least Surprising Result): Mole Taco Chicken (1 mole)
So... where should I obsess over next?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Food Revolution: Chicken and Leek Stroganoff to Vegan Mushroom Leek Heaven

On Tuesday, I made my second recipe from Jamie's Food Revolution: Chicken and Leek Stroganoff (sorry for the blurriness of the photo, I didn't notice that my lens was a bit dirty). The recipe is available on this blog. All I can say about this one is, well, they can't all be awesome. The parsley dominated the flavor way too much for my taste, and not in a pleasant way. I tasted a bit of it as I packed up the leftovers, and it was a little better after it sat for a bit... but last night I ate some of those leftovers, and it had gotten far worse. Anything with such a small window of deliciousness is a loser in my book. Sorry, Jamie, but I won't be making this one again! Oh, it also way failed the time test (over 40 minutes instead of the promised 19), but my version the next night took way less time, so I think at least part of it was me.

Something good did come of this recipe, though. I decided to remix it vegan (just to see how hard it would be to do so), and, in my opinion, my vegan remix is far tastier. It may be a bit sweet for some, but I liked it quite a bit (including in leftover form). To be clear, it really doesn't taste anything like the original, but the recipe is very close to identical and the process was exactly the same.

To produce the remix, I swapped portabella mushrooms for the chicken breasts in Jamie's recipe, cilantro for the parsley, coconut oil for the olive oil, and coconut cream for the heavy cream. I left out the pat of butter. I also mixed in a bit of a simple flour roux to thicken up the sauce, but I would do the same if I made Jamie's recipe again. Otherwise, I made everything exactly like Jamie's recipe. I will definitely make this again.
  • a couple pinches sea salt (I use iodized sea salt so I don't get a goiter)
  • 3/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 large leek
  • a big handful of crimini mushrooms
  • 3 portabella mushroom caps
  • coconut oil
  • a glass of white wine*
  • a pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • a bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut cream
  • 1 lemon
Paraphrased from Jamie's recipe, with my substitutions and notes added in: Heat water to boiling in a kettle or large, covered pan. Transfer the water to the large pan (if necessary), and add a pinch of salt. Add your rice and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. Do the prep while the water is boiling, and you should, with luck, finish everything else about the time the rice is ready.

Cut both ends off the leek, quarter lengthways, and slice it into ~1/4-inch slices. Rinse well under running water in a colander. Slice the crimini mushrooms, and cut the portabella mushroom caps into "little-finger-size" pieces (to quote Jamie's description of what to do to the chicken).

Heat a large frying pan on high heat, and add a dollop of coconut oil. This is the point where hopefully your rice water will be boiling, and you can add the rice to it, maybe just a bit before here. Add the leek, white wine, and about a half a wine glass of water to the melted coconut oil, along with a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Cover it loosely with aluminum foil (honestly, I think a lid would be fine, just placed on loosely). Let it cook for 5 minutes. Chop the cilantro (stalks and all) while it bubbles. Remove the foil (or lid), and add everything but the lemon (and a little cilantro to add at the end to make things pretty): mushrooms and mushrooms, cilantro (except for a tiny bit of it), and coconut cream. Stir and bring back to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes. I removed as much of the solids as I could at this point and removed the heat, stirred in some flour-in-water, then heated back to boiling while stirring (to make it more gravy-like). I also squeeze half the lemon into the mixture at this point (after tasting it and deciding, yes, the lemon would be quite tasty in this sauce).

Drain the rice, and put it on each plate. Add some of the sauce, then the veggies, then finally the last bits of cilantro. Place a quarter of the lemon on each plate (which you can then squeeze on if desired). Jamie says season to taste, but does that really need to be included in the recipe? I say put salt and pepper on the table like a normal person, and people can use them if they want to use them.

Let me know if you try mine, particularly if you can think of a way to make it prettier. The sauce came out an ugly gray-brown, so I'd like to figure out a way to make it prettier... but other than that this may be my favorite "Hey, I came up with this!" recipe yet.

* I heard once that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink, so I bought a reasonably priced bottle of wine that HEB's label told me would pair nicely with chicken (since it was originally paired with chicken). Drinking it as I made the recipe, it definitely passed the "I'd drink this" test. Unfortunately, I can't remember what it was, and the bottle already went out in recycling.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 29 and 30

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

I haven't been to Tacodeli for two whole days, and yet I haven't caught up on my blog. I apologize. I think I'm going through withdrawal. All I have left is a breakfast taco, but I've eaten breakfast twice now without remembering that. Tomorrow morning I should finish it off.

Monday, June 14
I started off on Monday by knocking two things off the menu, the Avocado Salad and Chips and Queso. The Avocado Salad is described as "For avocado aficionados! Fresh avocados with a dressing made of tomatillos, serranos, cilantro and lime." Being an avocado lover, I expected this to be yummy, and I wasn't disappointed. I had finished it off before I remembered to take a photo. I give it 0.8 moles (and call the salad part of the soups and salads menu complete with this). The Chips and Queso was also pretty good, but I'm not really much of a queso fan (I know, insane). I put a little Salsa Roja into the somewhat-too-runny cheese, and it did come out pretty darned tasty. I give it 0.6 moles, which puts it just below the fantastic Mexican Mashed Potatoes as far as yummy sides.

Tuesday, June 15
Tuesday was the last lunch of my trek through the menu. Don't get me wrong, I'll be back at least weekly, but I don't have anything else new to try. It's both exciting and sad. Of course, now I get to work through the ties and refine my scores a bit, so I may not be done, exactly. My excitement got to me again on Tuesday, and the Frontera Fundido Chicken taco, "Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese," was gone before I remembered to take a photo. The Frontera Fundidos have been strong in general, but the Portabella is still my favorite. The chicken was mighty tasty (0.85 moles worth), but I'll still stick to Portabella if I'm in a Frontera Fundido mood. I rounded out the meal with the Sopa Las Mañanitas, "Cuernavaca inspired tortilla soup made with a homemade chicken broth, chicken, fresh onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado and lime." As far as I could translate the name, I thought it was "soup the little tomorrows," but Google Translate says it's "Happy Birthday Soup." I guess maybe that makes more sense. I always like Mexican and Tex-Mex soups, but there is only a small part of the year in which I actually want to eat them, and Tuesday wasn't such a day. It's also a little pricey for its level of yumminess (I'd rather get a taco), so I'm giving it 0.75 moles. It might score better on the 2-3 days of winter we get here in Austin every year.

Summary:
  • Avocado Salad (and all other Tacodeli salads): 0.8 moles
  • Chips and Queso: 0.6 moles
  • Frontera Fundido Chicken: 0.85 moles
  • Sopa Las Mañanitas: 0.75 moles
Tomorrow I plan to finish off my trek with a Migas Taco! I'm going to be on the coast for the weekend, but I should be able to upload the final update at some point. I may get a second taco to go with the Migas. What should I get?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Food Revolution: Salmon Tikka to Chipotle Chicken

Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable MealsLast week, my sister, Libby, invited me over for amazingly yummy Chicken Tikka Masala. She purchased Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Food Revolution, and wanted to try out one of the curries while her less-adventurous-foodwise hubby is out of town. It's hard to say for certain, but I think that chicken might be among the five best things I've ever eaten. I'm sure it was at least in part my sister's touch, but that recipe was amazing, so I bought my own copy of the book.

Part of the goal of the book is to get the people reading it to get their friends and family to cook, thus the "Revolution" part of the title. I'm stealing Libby's idea of using my blog to serve as part of that part of the process, but putting a bit of my own spin on it. Each time I make a recipe from the book, I'm going to try to also make my own dish inspired by that recipe. Hopefully by the end of this post that'll make more sense.

Since I loved the Chicken Tikka Masala so much, I decided to try the Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt (that recipe is very close to the same, but the one in this book uses cilantro rather than coriander leaves) first. But before I could try that, I had to find some curry paste. Jamie mentions a specific brand, Patak's, as particularly good curry paste, but really any would have been fine... if Libby hadn't told me that her grocery store had the specific one he recommended. I tried four grocery stores (including the awesome MT Supermarket, "Central Texas's Premier Asian Grocery") with no luck, and was about to drive out to Libby's grocery (about a 20-minute drive) when I decided to try one more grocery store... which I happened to be near when I started my quest, but had assumed wouldn't have it. For the record, HEB at Parmer and Mopac currently has a special on Patak's Curry Pastes, while the HEB at Parmer and I35, the Hancock HEB, and the Far West HEB didn't have it as of yesterday.

When I finally made it home with the Patak's and the other ingredients, I started a timer. The book said the  would take 17 minutes, and it did have "Quick" right there in the name, "Quick Salmon Tikka with Cucumber Yogurt." My attempt didn't go quite that fast. Still, 33 minutes didn't seem too bad, especially since a good part of that was spent scaling the salmon that I thought was scale-less but turned out not to be. I'm pretty sure I could get it down to 17 minutes if I made it a few more times, so strong work there, Jamie. I somehow managed to forget the lemon juice, but it was still fantastic. It wasn't quite as good as the Chicken Tikka Masala, but, given the reduced prep time, it definitely passes. And, holy crap, it even turned out pretty (except for that piece of I think skin falling off on the left, I'm not sure why I allowed that in the photo)!

I had half a cucumber, half a lemon, and a ton of cilantro leftover from that recipe, and I purposefully got a bit extra plain yogurt with the intention of making more things with it... so I decided to try something, which is where I get to the whole point of this series. Each time I try one of Jamie's recipes, I'm going to try to also make something similar but not quite the same. To add to the leftover ingredients, I grabbed a jalapeño, a red bell pepper, and some chicken. Importantly, I already had some Tabasco Brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce (because that stuff is awesome and I try to always have at least one bottle of it around). This is what came out when all of that turned together in my head. It serves a little more than one but probably not quite two (I have leftovers, but I don't think it's quite a full meal's worth of leftovers). Add a chicken breast and make more of the Tabasco/cumin mix to coat it if you want to fully serve two:
  • 1 chicken breast
  • ~2 tbsp Tabasco Brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cucumber seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ~2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno seeded and deribbed, finely chopped
  • ~2 tbsp chopped red pepper
  • 2 pieces flatbread
Heat the flatbread in your oven at 225 °F (just so it's warm when you put everything else on top of it). It can keep heating while you make everything else.

Combine everything but the chicken, Tabasco, and cumin in a bowl (although you should keep back a bit of each of the veggies to add to the top to make it pretty).

Heat a frying pan, and add just a little olive oil to the heated pan. As that heats, cut the chicken into strips. Combine the Tabasco and cumin in a bowl. Lightly coat the chicken in this mixture. Cook the chicken in the oil for about a minute and a half a side. I ended up cooking that covered on low for a while as I sorted out the other half, but, with the thin strips, it shouldn't take much longer than that to cook it completely. It stayed plenty moist for me, though, so it doesn't seem to hurt to throw a lid on the chicken, turn down the heat, and let it go for a bit as you sort everything else out..

Serve on the flatbreak (flatbread, yogurt mix, chicken, bits of veggies for pretty).

BTW, I had the flatbread from the Salmon (because I didn't feel like going on another hunt for naan, as much as it probably would have been worth it). If I didn't, I would definitely have used a tortilla of some sort to properly fully southwesternize this.

If you try it, please let me know... especially if you adapt the general idea into another variation.

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 27 and 28

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Friday, June 11
Friday I had my first item from the Ensaladas y Sopas (salads and soups) menu. The Ensalada Tacodeli (with chicken) is "A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and your choice of chicken or sirloin." I got it with the Jalapeño Ranch dressing. I'm glad I didn't get a side to go with it, because the salad was just about exactly the right size on its own. The chicken was tasty, but I think it would have been fine with just the veggies and saucy bits. I give it 0.8 moles.

Saturday, June 12
I stopped by the office yesterday for my headphones, so, of course, while I was in the area, I had to stop for some Tacodeli brunch. I had the Migas Royale Plate, "A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas." I'm glad the only other thing I have left from the breakfast menu is the Migas Taco, because I don't think I'll be ordering much non-migasy breakfast at Tacodeli anymore. The Migas Platter was super exceptionally tasty. I could try to describe it better, but you should really just go get it if you're hungry for breakfast. I give it 0.9 moles.

Summary:

  • Ensalada Tacodeli (with Chicken): 0.8 moles
  • Migas Royale Plate: 0.9 moles

I'm planning to try the Sopa Las Mañanitas tomorrow. What should I have with it?
  1. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  2. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  3. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Verde ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and topped with avocado.") (Also available with Spinach)
  4. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Tacodeli ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and your choice of chicken or sirloin.") (Available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  5. Ensaladas y Sopa: Avocado Salad ("For avocado aficionados! Fresh avocados with a dressing made of tomatillos, serranos, cilantro and lime.")
  6. Ensaladas y Sopa: Small Side Salad
  7. Ensaladas y Sopa: Sopa Las Mañanitas ("Cuernavaca inspired tortilla soup made with a homemade chicken broth, chicken, fresh onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado and lime.")
  8. Sides: Chips and Guacamole
  9. Sides: Chips and Queso
  10. Sides: Roberto's Brazo-Fuerte Dip with Chips ("A power combo of queso, guacamole, pico and spicy ground beef.")

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 23, 24, 25, 26

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

I've been busy watching the Texas Stars try to lose the Calder Cup this week, but I've kept up my trek through the Tacodeli menu. I just haven't been so good at blogging about it. Here's what I tried the last four days, which gets me a heck of a lot closer to finished with the menu.

Monday, June 7
I started off the week with the second-to-last item on the Tortilla Creations menu: the Grilled Steak Wrap ("Grilled steak with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese rolled in a 10" tortilla"). It was good, but Tacodeli can definitely do better. I give it 0.7 moles. Of the three wrap-ish items on the Tacodeli menu (El Dizzy Chicken Wrap, Grilled Steak Wrap, and Vegetarian Burrito), what I assume is healthiest (Vegetarian Burrito) was my favorite at 0.8 moles, and the probably-second healthiest was my second favorite at 0.75 moles. I paired the steak wrap with a side of Sauteed Veggie Mix, which, unsurprisingly based on those ratings, rated very high for sides at 0.5 moles (the sides are still just sides, so none of them have climbed much higher than that on the mole scale).

Tuesday, June 8
On Tuesday I had my second selection from the Torta menu. I had started with the Adobo Torta since I'd rated the Adobados tacos at 0.9 moles, so I decided to go to the opposite* end of the spectrum for my second Torta. As I suspected from the good-but-kinda-overpowering "black bean and jalapeño spread" that's on all of the tortas, the Pastor Torta tasted exactly as good to me as the Adobo Torta. Based on that, I'm giving the whole Torta menu 0.8 moles. I also tried the Pinto Beans for the first time, which I thought were a little tastier than the Black Beans but not quite as tasty as the Sauteed Spinach or Mexican Red Rice. That puts them at 0.35 moles.

* The actual opposite end of the spectrum is Borracho, but I couldn't bring myself to try another Borracho.

Wednesday, June 9
I stopped at Tacodeli yesterday morning for breakfast, rather than my usual lunch trip. I had my favorite breakfast taco yet: the Sirloin, Egg, and Cheese. There isn't much to say about it other than that it is exactly what it sounds like it is, which added up to 0.85 moles. Yum.

Thursday, June 10
Today I finished off the Tortilla Creations menu with a Tacodeli Quesadilla (specifically the chicken variety), described on the menu as "Our special veggie mix of carrots, onion, celery, red bell, poblano, zucchini, mushroom and cabbage sautéed to order with olive oil and sherry stuffed in a cheese quesadilla." All of that was delicious, but notice how they spent so much time describing everything other than the cheese? That's because this quesadilla was very light on the queso part. Again, it was good, but it wasn't as much as I think it could have been. That was fine, because I don't really want a ton of cheese right now, but I'm rating these things on their deliciousness. I give the quesadillas 0.7 moles. I didn't want much more than the quesadilla, but I had to try the Toreados, "Three grilled whole serrano peppers." These were very good for their size and price point, so I gave them 0.4 moles.

Summary:
  • Grilled Steak Wrap: 0.7 moles
  • Sauteed Veggie Mix: 0.5 moles
  • All Tortas: 0.8 moles
  • Pinto Beans: 0.35 moles
  • Sirloin, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Taco: 0.85 moles
  • Tacodeli Quesadilla: 0.7 moles
  • Toreados: 0.4 moles

The list of remaining items is dwindling (especially if I only list everything once, instead of listing most things twice like I did last time I made this tally). What should I try tomorrow?
  1. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  2. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  3. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  4. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Verde ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and topped with avocado.") (Also available with Spinach)
  5. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Tacodeli ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and your choice of chicken or sirloin.") (Available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  6. Ensaladas y Sopa: Avocado Salad ("For avocado aficionados! Fresh avocados with a dressing made of tomatillos, serranos, cilantro and lime.")
  7. Ensaladas y Sopa: Small Side Salad
  8. Ensaladas y Sopa: Sopa Las Mañanitas ("Cuernavaca inspired tortilla soup made with a homemade chicken broth, chicken, fresh onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado and lime.")
  9. Sides: Chips and Guacamole
  10. Sides: Chips and Queso
  11. Sides: Roberto's Brazo-Fuerte Dip with Chips ("A power combo of queso, guacamole, pico and spicy ground beef.")

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Day 22

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

I headed into the office again today to knock some stuff off my plate, so of course that meant knocking something off the Tacodeli menu onto my plate for lunch.

Today's selection was the Adobo Chicken Torta. The Tortas don't have much in the way of description on the menu, except for an over-arching description: "Panini toasted Mexican sandwiches served on authentic telera buns with black bean and jalapeño spread, lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese." Presumably the adobo description from the Adobados taco applies, "Our adobo is made from scratch using chipotle, ancho and guajillo peppers." I didn't like the Adobo Torta as much as its taco cousin, but it was still pretty good. I give it 0.8 moles.

I also knocked two more sides off my list today (by getting the +$1 Platter form of the Torta). The Refried Black Beans weren't better or worse than the Black Beans as far as I could tell, so I'll give them 0.3 moles like their cousin. The Mexican Red Rice, on the other hand, was tastier than the Steamed Brown Rice, so I give it 0.4 moles.

Summary:
  • Adobo Chicken Torta: 0.8 moles
  • Refried Black Beans: 0.3 moles
  • Mexican Red Rice: 0.4 moles

That knocks three things off the too-long list of what I have left. What should I try next?
  1. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  2. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  3. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  4. Breakfast: The Sirloin, Egg and Cheese ("Grilled sirloin, scrambled egg and Monterrey jack cheese.")
  5. Tortilla Creations: Grilled Steak Wrap ("Grilled steak with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese rolled in a 10" tortilla.")
  6. Tortilla Creations: Tacodeli Quesadilla ("Our special veggie mix of carrots, onion, celery, red bell, poblano, zucchini, mushroom and cabbage sautéed to order with olive oil and sherry stuffed in a cheese quesadilla.") (Also available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  7. Tortas: Pepito (sirloin)
  8. Tortas: Pastor (pork)
  9. Tortas: Ranchera (chicken)
  10. Tortas: La Flaca (veggies)
  11. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Verde ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and topped with avocado.") (Also available with Spinach)
  12. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Tacodeli ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and your choice of chicken or sirloin.") (Available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  13. Ensaladas y Sopa: Avocado Salad ("For avocado aficionados! Fresh avocados with a dressing made of tomatillos, serranos, cilantro and lime.")
  14. Ensaladas y Sopa: Small Side Salad
  15. Ensaladas y Sopa: Sopa Las Mañanitas ("Cuernavaca inspired tortilla soup made with a homemade chicken broth, chicken, fresh onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado and lime.")
  16. Sides: Chips and Guacamole
  17. Sides: Chips and Queso
  18. Sides: Roberto's Brazo-Fuerte Dip with Chips ("A power combo of queso, guacamole, pico & spicy ground beef.")
  19. Sides: Pinto Beans
  20. Sides: Sauteed Veggie Mix
  21. Sides: Toreados ("Three grilled whole serrano peppers.")

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 19, 20, and 21

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Yesterday, I passed a turning point. I could have "finished" this Eat the Menu challenge by ordering the last taco on my list, but instead I ordered a "Tortilla Creation" and a side. In other words, I officially decided to fully Eat the Menu. I'll describe what that entails below, but first I should probably update you on

Thursday, June 3
Thursday I finally tried the two Mexico Cities: Mexico City Chicken and Mexico City Sirloin. They're described on the menu as "Grilled [sirloin or chicken] with diced onion and cilantro." Onions and cilantro are tasty and all, but, really, that's all? Yeah, that's all. The chicken was a little better than the sirloin in my opinion, but they were both basically just places to put salsa. I give them 0.65 moles and 0.6 moles, respectively. More interestingly, a friend had an order of Chips and Salsa Roja, which forced me to try it and discover that, despite my previous tests, I think I like Tacodeli's salsa roja better than the doña. It might be a bit much on a lot of the tacos, but it had a bold flavor that was excellent on chips. I give those chips 0.6 moles (vs. now-confirmed 0.5 moles for Chips and Salsa Doña).

Friday, June 4
That's brings us to Friday, the day I planned to finish. I walked in ready to order the Frontera Fundido Chicken (my last taco) and a Mole Taco Chicken to round everything out, but the Vegetarian Burrito ("Rice, beans and our special veggie mix") sounded too good to pass up. It was, indeed, pretty darned good. I would have given it 0.85 moles, but it had some structural integrity issues, so I'm knocking it down to 0.8 moles. Still a respectable score. I paired it with a small side of Sauteed Spinach, which was good for a side, but still just a side. I give it 0.4 moles

Saturday, June 5
I have some things to knock out in the office today, so I stopped in for a (supposed-to-be-rare-for-me-but-totally-not) Saturday Tacodeli lunch before heading into the office. I continued my trek through the Tortilla Creations, this time trying El Dizzy Chick Wrap, "Grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese rolled in a 10" tortilla." It certainly wasn't bad, but I liked the vegetarian wrap better. I give El Dizzy 0.75 moles. I finished it off with some Mexican Mashed Potatoes, though, and those were even better than the Sauteed Spinach. I give them 0.65 moles.

Summary:
  • Mexico City Chicken: 0.65 moles
  • Mexico City Sirloin: 0.6 moles
  • Chips and Salsa Roja: 0.6 moles
  • Vegetarian Burrito: 0.8 moles
  • Sauteed Spinach: 0.4 moles
  • El Dizzy Chicken Wrap: 0.75 moles
  • Mexican Mashed Potatoes: 0.65 moles

I have these left (note: I'm not going to try the Borracho torta). What should I try next?
  1. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  2. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  3. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  4. Breakfast: The Sirloin, Egg and Cheese ("Grilled sirloin, scrambled egg and Monterrey jack cheese.")
  5. Tortilla Creations: Grilled Steak Wrap ("Grilled steak with lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese rolled in a 10" tortilla.")
  6. Tortilla Creations: Tacodeli Quesadilla ("Our special veggie mix of carrots, onion, celery, red bell, poblano, zucchini, mushroom and cabbage sautéed to order with olive oil and sherry stuffed in a cheese quesadilla.") (Also available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  7. Tortas: Pepito (sirloin)
  8. Tortas: Pastor (pork)
  9. Tortas: Ranchera (chicken)
  10. Tortas: Adobo (adobo chicken
  11. Tortas: La Flaca (veggies)
  12. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Verde ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and topped with avocado.") (Also available with Spinach)
  13. Ensaladas y Sopa: Ensalada Tacodeli ("A bed of romaine lettuce topped with guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, onion, tomato and your choice of chicken or sirloin.") (Available with Chicken or Sirloin)
  14. Ensaladas y Sopa: Avocado Salad ("For avocado aficionados! Fresh avocados with a dressing made of tomatillos, serranos, cilantro and lime.")
  15. Ensaladas y Sopa: Small Side Salad
  16. Ensaladas y Sopa: Sopa Las Mañanitas ("Cuernavaca inspired tortilla soup made with a homemade chicken broth, chicken, fresh onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, tortilla strips, avocado and lime.")
  17. Sides: Chips and Guacamole
  18. Sides: Chips and Queso
  19. Sides: Roberto's Brazo-Fuerte Dip with Chips ("A power combo of queso, guacamole, pico & spicy ground beef.")
  20. Sides: Mexican Red Rice
  21. Sides: Pinto Beans
  22. Sides: Refried Black Beans
  23. Sides: Sauteed Veggie Mix
  24. Sides: Toreados ("Three grilled whole serrano peppers.")

Wow, that's a lot left! What have I done?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 17 and 18

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

It has been a busy, busy two days. Fortunately, both of those days featured tasty tacos, so overall they were good days.

Tuesday, June 1
Yesterday I decided to knock two pork tacos off my list: Cochinita Pibil and a "safe" Mole Pork. Surely mole is mole is mole, right?

The Cochinita Pibil is described as "Yucatecan style roasted pork marinated and cooked in citrus and achiote. A unique tropical flavor garnished with pickled purple onions and serranos." First of all, holy crap, "Yucatecan" is actually a word. I thought sure that was a typo. Second, this taco was really simple, but also pretty darn good. I give it 0.75 moles.

After that pleasant pork experience, I was really looking forward to the Mole Pork. I love mole, so of course the Mole Taco Pork ("Shredded pork smothered with a traditional, made-from-scratch mole. Garnished with cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco.) was going to be even better, right? As it turns out, not so much. This didn't taste nearly as awesome as the Mole Taco Chicken or Mole Taco Sirloin. I mean, clearly, I just don't like pork very much. I give this one 0.7 moles.

Wednesday, June 2
Today I had to get my Tacodeli to go, which means my tacos didn't look nearly as yummy as they would have otherwise. That's Puerco Verde on the left and Frontera Fundido Portabella on the left.

Puerco Verde is "Tender pork shoulder simmered in a delicious tomatillo salsa and topped with queso fresco, cilantro and onion." As pork tacos go, this was pretty good. It wasn't exciting, but it was solid. I give it 0.8 moles.

The Frontera Fundido Portabella, "Oven roasted portabellas with sauteed pepper and onion strips and glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese," just looked delicious, and it lived up to its appearance. To be fair, I'm hobbit-like in my love of mushrooms, so it's no surprise that I loved this thing, but wow was that good. I'll definitely be getting this one again. I give it 0.9 moles.

Summary:
  • Cochinita Pibil: 0.75 moles
  • Mole Taco Pork: 0.7 moles
  • Puerco Verde: 0.8 moles
  • Frontera Fundido Portabella: 0.9 moles

My list of remaining tacos is dwindling. I should finish everything but the breakfast tacos over the next two days, but the odd number of remaining non-breakfast tacos mean I'll either repeat a taco or try something else from the menu. Any suggestions?
  1. Beef: Mexico City Sirloin ("Grilled sirloin with diced onion and cilantro.")
  2. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  3. Chicken: Mexico City Chicken ("Grilled chicken with diced onion and cilantro.")
  4. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  5. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  6. Breakfast: The Sirloin, Egg and Cheese ("Grilled sirloin, scrambled egg and Monterrey jack cheese.")

Monday, May 31, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Days 15 and 16

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

This weekend I not only made my first weekend trip to Tacodeli since starting this, I did so on all three days of the weekend. After Saturday's rendezvous with Tacodeli North, I returned to my usual Central on Sunday for breakfast. I may need to give other breakfast taco joints a chance at a head-to-head with Tacodeli. I'm honestly not sure I like their breakfast tacos all that much. The doña sauce makes up for it, but doña on someone else's breakfast tacos might possibly be even better. This time I tried the Jess Special ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese and fresh sliced avocado") and El Popeye ("Spinach and scrambled egg breakfast taco with crumbled queso fresco Mexican white cheese"). They were both OK, but neither was particularly special. Still good compared to "normal" tacos, but they don't stand up to the lunch standards. I give them 0.55 and 0.5 moles, respectively.

Today I met some friends for another tryst with Tacodeli North, this time for lunch. I used this lunch to compare the picadillos: Picadillo (from the beef menu) and Thunder Heart Bison Picadillo. The Picadillo is "100% grass fed Burgundy Pasture ground beef in a spicy tomato and jalapeño sauce, garnished with lettuce and tomato." This taco was very... interesting. There's a hint of cinnamon or something in there, I couldn't place it. Something about it reminded me of pumpkin pie. I'm giving it 0.85 moles, but I definitely have to try this one again. It seemed like the sort of thing that might grow on me.

The Thunder Heart Bison Picadillo wasn't as interesting, but it was definitely good. I grew up around the corner from a bison ranch, but I never tried bison until much later. It has always been very good, the few times I've tried it. This is no exception. I give it 0.9 moles.

Summary:

  • Jess Special: 0.55 moles
  • El Popeye: 0.5 moles
  • Picadillo: 0.85 moles
  • Thunder Heart Bison Picadillo: 0.9 moles
This is what I have left:
  1. Beef: Mexico City Sirloin ("Grilled sirloin with diced onion and cilantro.")
  2. Pork: Mole Taco Pork ("Shredded pork smothered with a traditional, made-from-scratch mole. Garnished with cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco.")
  3. Pork: Puerco Verde ("Tender pork shoulder simmered in a delicious tomatillo salsa and topped with queso fresco, cilantro and onion.")
  4. Pork: Cochinita Pibil ("Yucatecan style roasted pork marinated and cooked in citrus and achiote. A unique tropical flavor garnished with pickled purple onions and serranos.")
  5. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  6. Chicken: Mexico City Chicken ("Grilled chicken with diced onion & cilantro.")
  7. Veggie: Frontera Fundido Portabella ("Oven roasted portabellas with sauteed pepper & onion strips and glazed with melted Monterrey jack cheese.")
  8. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with Monterrey jack cheese.")
  9. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, Monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  10. Breakfast: The Sirloin, Egg and Cheese ("Grilled sirloin, scrambled egg and Monterrey jack cheese.")
I'm going to try the Puerco Verde or Cochinita Pibil tomorrow, I think, but I need something really solidly good as backup in case whichever I get tastes too much like the Puerco Borracho. Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Day 14

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

I feel like I was cheating on my usual location with this stop. I was on the north side of town, so I went to the north location for lunch. A friend was randomly at the central location at very close to the same time, though, so I think that makes it ok.

The first taco I tried was the weekend special, Lomo Especial, "Diced roasted pork loin served Fundido style with a Monterry Jack cheese glaze and garnished with cilantro and onion." I think this was the best-smelling taco I've had yet. The flavor didn't quite hold up to that wonderful aroma, but I still gave it 0.85 moles.

I also had the Veggie Taco, "Our special veggie mix of carrots, onion, celery, red bell, poblano, zucchini, mushroom and cabbage sauteéd in olive oil and sherry." This was good but a little dull. Adding doña definitely helped. I gave it 0.75 moles.

Summary:

  • Lomo Especial: 0.85 moles
  • Veggie Taco: 0.75 moles
Here's what I have left (now including breakfast, since I forgot to include them the other day).

  1. Beef: Mexico City Sirloin ("Grilled sirloin with diced onion and cilantro.")
  2. Beef: Picadillo ("100% grass fed Burgundy Pasture ground beef in a spicy tomato and jalapeño sauce, garnished with lettuce and tomato.")
  3. Bison: Thunder Heart Bison Picadillo ("Ground bison seasoned with roasted garlic, tomato, caramelized onion, melted jack cheese and jalapeño. Topped with fresh cilantro and onions.")
  4. Pork: Mole Taco Pork ("Shredded pork smothered with a traditional, made-from-scratch mole. Garnished with cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco.")
  5. Pork: Puerco Verde ("Tender pork shoulder simmered in a delicious tomatillo salsa and topped with queso fresco, cilantro and onion.")
  6. Pork: Cochinita Pibil ("Yucatecan style roasted pork marinated and cooked in citrus and achiote. A unique tropical flavor garnished with pickled purple onions and serranos.")
  7. Chicken: Frontera Fundido Chicken ("Grilled chicken with sauteéd poblano pepper and onion strips glazed with melted monterrey jack cheese.")
  8. Chicken: Mexico City Chicken ("Grilled chicken with diced onion & cilantro.")
  9. Veggie: Frontera Fundido Portabella ("Oven roasted portabellas with sauteed pepper & onion strips and glazed with melted monterrey jack cheese.")
  10. Breakfast: Migas Taco ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with monterrey jack cheese.")
  11. Breakfast: The Jess Special ("Eggs scrambled with our migas mix and topped with monterrey jack cheese and fresh sliced avocado."
  12. Breakfast: Migas Royale Plate ("A heaping plate of our migas topped with queso, monterrey jack cheese, avocado and pico de gallo. Served with Mexican mashed potatoes, refried black beans and tortillas.")
  13. Breakfast: The Sirloin, Egg and Cheese ("Grilled sirloin, scrambled egg and monterrey jack cheese.")
  14. Breakfast: El Popeye ("Spinach and scrambled egg breakfast taco with crumbled queso fresco Mexican white cheese.")
What should I try next?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eat the Menu: Tacodeli, Day 13

This is part of an ongoing series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Last night, inspired by my friend Jeffrey, I decided I'd start watching what I eat and try to get my weight down under 200 pounds. So, of course, I decided to add a side to my usual two tacos today. I'm not very good at this watching what I eat thing, apparently. Oh well, I think it was worth it, and it technically allowed me to knock two more things off the menu than I would have otherwise. Today was also the day the cashiers recognized me, so it was a big day.

My side today was a 50/50, half rice and half beans. As part of Tacodeli's effort to drive everyone deliciously mad through choice paralysis, they offer two types of rice (Mexican red and steamed brown) and three types of beans (pinto, black, and refried black), so technically I still have quite a ways to go in those sides. Honestly, the black beans and brown rice were unsurprising, so I probably won't worry too much about knocking all of those possibilities off my list unless someone comments that "The Mexican red rice is omg amazing!" or something. There was nothing wrong with them, but they're definitely just a side. I'll give them 0.3 moles each.

The first of my tacos was the Happy Taco, "Seasoned shredded chicken with sauteéd mushrooms and melted jack cheese, garnished with cilantro and onion." I keep almost getting the Happy and bumping it down the list for some other choice, so this one had a bit of anticipation behind it. It wasn't as amazing as I hoped, but it was definitely a solid performance. I give it 0.7 moles.

I paired that with the Florentino, "Healthy fresh spinach taco sauteéd in olive oil and sherry with onion, mushroom and red bell peppers." I love spinach, so that one has also been on my to-do list for quite a while. I thought it was a little stronger. I give it 0.8 moles.

Summary:
  • Black Beans: 0.3 moles
  • Steamed Brown Rice: 0.3 moles
  • Happy Taco: 0.7 moles
  • Florentino: 0.8 moles
I also discovered today that Tacodeli has a "buy 12 get 1 free" loyalty card. If my count just now was correct, that's 28 tacos at this location before I noticed that card sitting by the register (well, the cashier pointed it out to me when she noticed I'd been there a zillion times, so technically I never noticed). I have three stamps on there now, at least. If you don't have one, be sure to pick one up the next time you're there.

Only ten tacos left! If I don't repeat, I'll be done next week! Except I totally forgot to include breakfast tacos, and I may not make it in on Monday! Oops! Can someone help me break out of this exclamation point trap by recommending what I should get if I make it in this weekend, or when I return on Tuesday?