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Taco Tuesday

Tex-Mex has come a long way

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You know I’ve been in the restaurant industry a long, long time yet, until recently, it seems I’ve missed the whole Taco Tuesday phenomenon. Tuesdays were always “Two for Tuesdays” on the radio and that was the only special Tuesday "thing" I ever noticed. But leave it to my children to clue me in to the now … or maybe it was just a children’s movie that was responsible.

The first Taco Tuesday reference I picked up on was in the first Lego Movie which, by the way, had nothing to do with tacos or Tuesday but, hey, who can concentrate once the word taco is spoken? After watching this cinematic masterpiece, I began to notice Taco Tuesday mentions all the time. The restaurant industry, in its never-ending struggle to get a one-up on the competition, has embraced this concept wholeheartedly by featuring a food item once reserved for Tex-Mex eateries and making it mainstream cuisine. The humble taco is as common and American as—dare I say it—the Hamburger! Yet the taco is way more fun because of the endless flavor profile possibilities.

Fun fact: Taco Tuesday is an actual copyrighted title owned by a Midwestern Mexican restaurant chain. This copyright has been in effect since the late ’80s but the concept and use of the phrase Taco Tuesday has a much older history than even that. In fact, ads for Taco Tuesday can be found in newspapers dating as far back as the 1930s. The term continued to be widely used up through the 1960s, when tacos truly began to merge into mainstream suburban American fare.

The taco kit became a big deal in the ’70s, as companies such as Old El Paso began to market these kits to busy housewives. If you recall, the kits included crispy corn tortilla shells, a taco seasoning packet (mostly sodium) for ground beef and some packaged “salsa.” Is there truly anything better in the world than a salsa with a shelf life of … forever? I don’t think so. The only skills the poor, overworked cook needed to have was the ability to brown some ground beef, mix in the seasoning packet and spoon the mixture into the taco shells–what fun! I like making them. I like eating them.

I am grateful that we in NEFla have come a long way on the taco trail since those days of kits and cardboard. We now enjoy tacos in myriad ways, and almost anything goes for a filling, from fish to pork to chicken to beef or whatever. And as for fixins, they can vary from authentic Mexican salsas to the standard pico de gallo, cheese, avocado, flavored cremas … anything goes. Here at Island Kitchen, I like to stuff tortillas with fillings such as mojo pork, blackened mahi mahi, green mole chicken, jerked shrimp or even this amazing recipe for housemade Mexican-style chorizo. Visit Amelia Island and give mine a try.

 

Chef Bill’s Mexican Chorizo

Ingredients

• 2-1/2 pounds pork butt, cubed

• 12 oz. fat back, cubed

• Kosher salt

• 8 grams ancho chili powder

• 4 grams hot paprika

• 4 grams chipotle powder

• 9 grams garlic, minced

• 1 gram black pepper

• 3 grams oregano

• 3/4 gram cumin

• 2 Tbsp. tequila, ice cold

• 1-1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, ice cold

 

Directions

1. Mix the meats and seasonings, except the tequila and vinegar. Chill.

2. Grind through a large die. Chill.

3. Put in a mixing bowl with a paddle, on medium speed.

4. Slowly add tequila and vinegar. Mix until tacky.

5. Taste, adjust seasoning, then stuff.

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