Taco Roundup #4 - A Frame, Joselito's and More!

Oh the tacos. LOVE the tacos. And I am not alone. Check out this LINK for a new book on the history of the taco in America. March and April were good taco months. 

I was very caught up in the LA Taco March Madness Contest which resulted in my #1 and #2 picks TYING for first place. CRAZY but at 6:59 and 59 seconds they had exactly the same amount of votes. It was a feverish frenzied battle with a confounding result. But what's not to love? In the end, everybody eats, everybody wins.

I also went to Marfa, Texas where I begged the food geniuses at the Food Shark to turn their pork sandwich into a taco!

Below is the recap of my taco travels for March and April...

A FRAME - Swordfish tacos with crispy garlic infused bread crumbs on top. Seriously? Delicious. 3 to an order, great place to eat in Culver City.

JOSELITO'S - Off the 2 freeway, near the top, in Montrose. I ate one of these crazy cheese "mountains" after spending the day cleaning out my friend's garage. I was dusty and hungry. It's a classic place. My friend Jeff, who actually has very elevated tastes, said it was his FAVORITE of all the tacos I've hipped him to. WTF? Really? It was good, but I had a tummyache the next day which means the "lard factor" was high.

LA FUENTE - Hidden in a strip mall in Ojai, on the main drag behind the frozen yogurt place, this place is worth stopping at, especially for their tamales. They are open late, a rarity in sleepy Ojai. They are willing to humor you as well. They made me this crispy potato taco folded instead of rolled. Thank you! Also loved their carne asada taco. Tender, perfectly grilled meat.

AVILA'S EL RANCHITO - Huntington Beach location is the one we visited, but they are ALL OVER the place. Made a trip to the awesome dog beach down there and wanted a bite afterwards. They have a cute outdoor mall and this place looked fun so we went in. Very nice service and this taco was decent. But you could feel the "chain" vibe, which is always a turn-off for me personally.

EL BURRITO JR. - Way down in Redondo, S. of the Pier, locals call it LBJ's. No presidential references intended. It's a fun little place. People are willing to wait in line, and yes they have a ground beef taco, but the texture of the meat is a little funky. You are probably better off with an enchilada here or the "special" all the kids were snapping up - 2 bean/cheese burritos and a drink for $5.99. Salsa not too great either. They only have one kind and it's a bit like ketchup.

So that's the "roundup." Keep on eatin' and let me know if you have a favorite place you would like me to try!


Recipe Pork Shoulder (Not Butts) Tacos Simmered in Beer

I just got back from Marfa, TX.

While there, I had some great pork tenderloin tacos. It was really a sandwich but they had a few tortillas laying around so I made them whip some tacos up for me. That's right, the Taco Maven can crack that taco whip with the best of them!

When I got home I remembered that I had 1/2 a lb. of pork shoulder in the freezer. I defrosted it and decided  to make my own slow-baked pork filling. I could tell that I would basically make this dish differently every time, so I tried to remember what I did so I could post it here.

Sometimes this cut of meat is called pork 'butt.' It's not the butt. It's the shoulder and it's the preferred cut for Carnitas and Pastor. Carnitas is slow baked and then pan fried. Pastor is soaked in various spices, including red achiote usually, and then cooked on a spit like a Schawarma. This style of cooking meat came to Mexico via Spain via the Middle East. So yes, we have the Arabs to thank for the Pastor Taco!

I cut up one RED ONION into thin slices. I also cut up two APPLES. I peeled the skin off first.  4 cloves of GARLIC peeled and cut in half.

I used a Le Creuset. You need some kind of pan that is both stove top and oven worthy and has a top.

I rubbed some sea salt on the pork. I also added a healthy tsp. of cumin, a tsp. of chili powder, a bay leaf, some oregano (a pisca or healthy pinch of dried) and fresh black pepper. I crumbled some dry red chiles with the seeds (2 whole ones.)

I browned the pork on both sides over a med high flame until brown on all sides. I added the onions and the apples, turned the heat down and let the whole thing simmer in 1/4 cup of olive oil for about 30 min. Stir to make sure nothing sticks.

The magical ingredient was the LIPS OF FAITH Cocoa Mole beer. LOVE this stuff. You can get it at Whole Foods. Any dark, thick beer should work. If you can't find a chocolate flavored beer, add a tsp of UNSWEETENED cocoa powder to your beer in a cup and stir until powder dissolves.

After the 30 minute saute,  I added about 1/2 a cup of beer. It fizzed and bubbled. I let it simmer another 20 min. Then another 1/2 cup of beer and into the oven, covered with the lid at 350.

After one hour, another splash of beer. You don't want too much liquid but it adds such great moisture and flavor to the meat. At this point I added the peeled garlic cloves.

Another hour at 300. Another 30-50 minutes after that at 200.

By the end you have a delicious, spicy, sticky mess that falls apart in your mouth. Very Carnitas-like. Make into a taco any way you like. Corn, or flour tortillas, salsa, avocado. I like to melt the cheese a little first on the tortilla.


Marfa Texas and Juan Carrasco Market

I am on a trip to Marfa, Texas. Where? Exactly! This place is not easy to get to... AT ALL! Plane from LA to Houston, plane from  Houston to Odessa/Midland (where?) and then a 3 hour drive through TEXAS, that's right Texas... the "red" state full of Bush oil. You know the one. No Jews or Democrats for miles around.

I digress.

I had the fantasy I would find some amazing Mexican food along the way. After all, we were only about 2 hours from the border for most of our drive. But no.... It's all Tex-Mex and burritos. But the burritos at the mini-mart were AWESOME.

I wish I had a place like that in LA where I could go, open a door and pick and choose from a dozen burritos with every combo you can imagine. They are all skinny and small and they provide 3 different microwaves for you to heat up your burrito. 38 seconds later and BAM, Green Chile heaven. They also have Brisket Burritos, Chorizo and Potato, and mild stuff for the wimps.

If you find yourself passing through this area ever (I know, seriously, why would you) but IF you do, hit this place up. It's on Hwy 17 and it's called JUAN CARRASCO. Family owned for like 100 years or something. It's in the tiny town of BALMORHEA which also hosts the world's largest fresh water swimming pool (or something like that.)

This is a GREAT BLOG POST about the store and the area in general, including movies of the State Park and the pool.

Oh and they have Micheladas in a can! Beer and Tomato Juice already mixed together!!!!! It's called a "Chelada" and I have never seen one of those in LA.

The Taco Maven