Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taco? Well...

It's official, tacos are the new burgers, at least in the New York Times. Last week, the Grey Lady took a trip along California's magnificent HWY 1, not in search of breathtaking vistas but on a quest for roasted meat nestled between corn tortillas. After it appeared online, in a span of minutes I received several requests from friends to make this trip. Now, I've done HWY 1 several times, and I think it's one of the best road trips ever, but if I'm going on a quest for tacos, it would be more thrilling to travel southward: from San Diego to Tijuana and into Baja California. Don't get me wrong, the tacos in the article look and sound amazing, but what's more authentic--downtown Santa Barbara or a shack outside of Ensenada? But no matter, the trip does sound fun, and as of today, it's been on the Times "Most E-Mailed" list since its debut, knocking the well-read Shamu off the list.

In case you can't travel to California for your taco fix, Mark Bittman graciously provides a how-to guide on how to make tacos at home. In practice, his basic directions are fine: tortilla, meat, other stuff. But first, he says place a tortilla on a dry skillet. Have you ever put a corn tortilla on a dry skillet? He must be using some nonstick contraption because without any oil the tortilla sticks. So always dab a bit of oil (peanut prefarably) on a paper towel and rub it on the skillet giving it a lightly coated sheen. Then, when the skillet is hot, heat up your tortillas a few seconds on each side until it starts to curl. Second, his comments on meat are on target, but he fails to champion the most important ingredient to an authentic taco: salsa. He speaks of it like it's a cherry on a sundae--a delightful but unnecessary flourish. Wrong! Salsa is the spirit in the holy trinity that is a taco: tortillas, meat and salsa. If you go to any real Mexcian place, you'll find that veggies and dairy are optional, but no taco is complete without the salsa. Tsk, tsk. And his salsa recipe is insane. Either use one jalapeno or one habanero? That's like saying you can either have a bottle of soda or a bottle of tequila, there won't be much difference. Salsa is a joy to prepare, and especially in the summer months there's nothing more refreshing than fresh, hot salsa but I wouldn't recommend making Bittman's recipe. Instead I'll post my usual recipe on a later post. Watch this space.