The Magic of a Perfect Pairing
Food, Wine and Other Things I love
By Russ (The Drunken Chef)
I want to keep my posts here relatively short and light so they can be read by the time you finish drinking your normal size morning coffee. For me that would be a large or extra-large regular caffeinated coffee. Do they even make an eight ounce size cups of coffee anymore? Let’s see, back to relatively short, that also means I want be able to write each of these articles on my lunch hour. Most importantly while eating something at my desk of course while I type. I can’t go all day without having to eat something good. I can skip breakfast most days now but NEVER lunch. Today’s lunch time snack is a pint chicken low-mien from my new favorite Chinese restaurant. I have them make it just a little spicy with a hint of Szechwan peppers, and it’s yummy.
Sometimes good Chinese food is hard to find. I am rather picky when it comes to food and the older I get the “more discerning” I have become about what I put in my mouth. I live in the suburbs just outside of Manhattan so the selection of wonderful and different types of food is as vast and as varied as the different cultures of people that surround me here Long Island. Being so close to a city and yet so far gives me the feeling I can do anything “artsy” I want too from seeing a Broadway play or going to a fine art museum or even a great restaurant without have to actually live in the hectic fast paced world that is New York City itself.
The cooking of something tasty and the eating of it is one of the things I love to do. When I find something I like at a restaurant I often try to recreate it in my kitchen at home. I cook something for myself and my wife almost every day. You see my wife, who can cook and cooks very well, does not enjoy it so she allows me to do all the cooking for her. I started my culinary endeavors in the kitchen at an early age when my mother first showed me how to make pancakes for myself as a child in elementary school. I cooked on weekends and in the summer and watched a lot of cartoons. Bugs Bunny being one my favorite shows back then. Later on I took a few cooking classes in high school but that was mostly to meet girls. I wound up not getting to date any of the beautiful girls that were in my cooking classes in high school but I did developed my love for cooking as the conversations I could have with them over food grew longer and longer. I now still cook to not only to impress my wife but because I love to entertain friends and family on weekend or for holidays with a delicious meal and desserts.
Fast forward an undisclosed number of years and that brings me to Taco Tuesday this week. That’s not to say I have Tacos every Tuesday, NO. I hardly ever eat them anymore. Although my mouth loves the taste of a good taco and I have even liked some pretty bad ones in my day I can’t eat them all the time. I even have some good memories of eating tacos that were made on camping trips to the terribly greasy but delicious ones I had at Jack in the Box when it was still on Long Island. I even think that the first taco I ever ate came from Jack in the Box! Today, I don’t think the rest of my body likes them as much as my tastes buds do anymore so tacos are not a goto meal item for me.
So maybe it was the fact spring was in the air or maybe I was just delirious on a Monday having had to work all day when it was beautiful outside. That night after trying to eat something I was not even hungry for I asked my lovely bride if she would like to have Tacos for dinner the next day. To my surprise she agreed and even thought it was a good idea! So, Tuesday on my way home from my real life job (writing is yet just another hobby I enjoy) I picked up the following: fresh ground beef (80% lean) that was on sale, Romaine lettuce and some gorgeous ripe plum tomatoes. I already had on hand an open container of sour cream from earlier in the week, a package of premade guacamole, a single eight once combination block of Monterey and cheddar cheese, a bottle Cholula Original Hot sauce and a box of blue corn taco shells that I had purchased on sale one day that was shoved in the back of the closet that I saw on Monday. This may have even been my inspiration to make tacos in the first place.
When I arrived home with my arm full of groceries I began to brown the pound and a half of ground beef. I was using my favorite large fourteen inch All-Clad Stainless-steel pan (my favorite frying pan) for this. Then just because my wife always wants me multitasking I also opened a beer at the same time while I cooked. Although, I could certainly find a nice wine to go with said tacos I usually never drink wine alone. Beer on the other hand is treated by me very similar to Coca-Cola. I never drink either of them before lunch but I can drink them alone and I do drink more beer then soda. I also never usually drink either beer or Coca-Cola every day but more often than not. So you might even say I love beer too. However, my wife does not drink often at all so I was enjoying my sudsy beverage alone. This particular beer was not a perfect match for tacos nor could I truly recommend to go with these tacos unless it all you have on hand but my bottle of Stella Artois did manage to taste pretty good after being at work all day on a sunny and warm Tuesday in March.
Once the meat had browned nicely on medium high heat I added the taco seasoning packet that I had purchased from some discount store and was now sitting in my spice cabinet. I like to cook but I’m not ALWAYS so anal retentive I can’t use a premade spice packet to season chop meat for tacos. I mean, I did save a whole 30 to 60 seconds instead of using all separate spices instead. There are those who think that maybe it’s a crime to use a premade spice packet for anything (like my “friends” Alton or Martha), but we are talking about easy quick tacos and beer here not Beef Wellington and Pino Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. You can however use separate spices if you don’t have the ninety-nine cent spice packet: 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, ¼ tsp. oregano, ¼ tsp. cumin, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Then I add ¾ cup of water.
While that simmers, I shredded half the block of cheese with a fine cheese grater. I “shredded” lettuce by cutting the head of romaine into thinish strips (thinish being somewhere around ¼ inch wide). You can also use iceberg lettuce for this and it’s just as good. I prefer using Romaine lettuce for this because Iceberg lettuce tends turn brown faster once cut, especially when cut into smaller pieces. Next, I diced a plum tomato and some pitted black olives for a garnish.
I warmed up the blue corn taco shells (these too didn’t make myself!) according to the package directions. Once the taco shells were warm I added the meat to the each one first. Next right against the hot meat goes the shredded cheese. The hot meat helps to melt the cheese a little. Then I plopped on just a bit of sour cream using the back the spoon to help spread it across (I like sour cream now on my tacos, dam you Taco Bell for that). I sprinkled on lettuce and tomatoes next. Then added some chopped black olives on top. Lastly, if you like your tacos with a kick I recommend the Chula Original Hot Sauce but any taco sauce from mild to cant feel you tongue hot will do. I garnished the plate with the huge dollop of guacamole and had some tortilla chips that I also warmed up and were ready to go on the side! The chips are perfect to scoop up all the stuff that I find falls out the back of my tacos and the guacamole, well that just a bonus and needed for any good Tex-Mex meal!
Of course before I sat down I needed a fresh beer to wash my three tacos down while I ate it all off a snack tray next to my wife in the living room while watching Jeopardy. I would not say this is a gourmet meal or the best meal I ever eaten in my life but I would definitely make these again. I may make nachos with all the same ingredients. Just probably not next week or this month but maybe next season. Like a summer day when it’s raining and I can’t barbeque.
So the next time you want a quick and easy meal on a weekday and don’t mind eating like a teenager think about making tacos! You can make these ground beef tacos or step it up a bit and make fish tacos and drink a nice white wine!
Sláinte! Until next week enjoy the food, enjoy your beverages and be well.
The Drunken Chef
© Russ Ahrens and The Magic of a Perfect Pairing,