May 2009


So, I got out of work today with the intention of hitting up the taco cart for some Taco Tuesday delights. But rain, mixed with the A train not running up to my stop for some godforsaken reason, altered my plans. Luckily, we got a new taco joint in the neighborhood a few weeks ago that Elizabeth and I have been meaning to try.

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Four tacos from Villa Patron in Inwood, NY

Villa Patron, just west of the 1 train on Dyckman Street has only been open for three weeks, but it seems like a nice joint. Moody lighting, plenty of space and a nice staff. Alas, it seemed a litle slow to get my taco quartet, but the wait was, thankfully, mostly worth it. I’m gonna do this a little different and break ’em down individually.

  • The chicken taco was dry. Seasoned well, flavorful, but drrrrry. I’d probably try them one more time to see if they were always that dry. If they’re not, they’d be pretty damn good.
  • The al pastor taco (basically spicy pork with pineapple–hot and sweet) was the best of the bunch. Really damn good. An excellent mix of hot and sweet, with delicious pork. That hit the spot!
  • Fish taco! I, uh, forgot to ask what kinda fish it was. Pffft, whatevs. Fishies! I was happy to see they didn’t fry the hell outta the fish and instead cooked it nicely with a bit of spice, leaving the fish very moist and tasty. And they put enough fish in that taco to fill two tacos. Yeah!
  • Oh shrimp taco, why have you forsaken me? While not as overcooked as the chicken, the lil’ shrimp were dry and lacking flavor, acting more like taco filler than taco fiesta.

Each taco was $2.50, not a bad price for restaurant tacos, especially when they’re really hefty tacos. The plate came with radish and limes, necessary bits. I didn’t try the guacamole, salsa or anything else, but I sure plan to.

Will we eat tacos from Villa Patron again? Most definitely!

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Sometimes I make salsa that is a little… er… spicy.  As in, not many human beings aside from myself can consume it, and I’m not even sure that I want to eat it.  Mostly, this happens when I OD on cascabel or habanero peppers.  In the words of a douchebag I once knew, it ends up being a little too “front of mouth.”  Or, just really effing hot, to the extent that the heat masks the flavor.

In that case, you can either add more ingredients to balance the flavors, or you can throw it away.  Since I’m never one to give up in the face of adversity, I tend to go with the former.  Today’s recipe arose after I realized that last night’s tomatillo salsa was too spicy for Ryan, and not as light and citrusy as I wanted.  After an evening of chilling, it still hadn’t mellowed in a satisfactory way, so I decided to take the plunge and buy some pineapple at the grocery store.

Original recipe:

1.5 pounds of tomatillos (those green things with the husk)

1/2 head of garlic

2-3 jalapeno peppers

2-3 dried Cascabel peppers

1/4 large Vidalia onion

Juice of 2 limes

Cilantro

Salt to taste

Preheat oven to “Broil”

Follow instructions in the previous recipe for rehydrating dried chile peppers.

Remove husks from tomatillos; wash thoroughly.

Place tomatillos, garlic, and jalapenos in a roasting pan.*  Roast until skin blisters and tomatillos soften, turning once so that both sides are cooked.

Remove from oven.  Remove seeds from all peppers.

Slowly combine all ingredients in food processor.  Salt to taste.

Uh-oh!  This Is Too Hot!

Now, if you taste this and say, “Holy crap!  How am I going to eat all of this?!?!  It’s a thermonuclear salsa war in my mouth!”–well, you might want to add some pineapple.

Pineapple serves the purpose of adding sugar and sweetness in order to control the heat.  Although fresh pineapple is always the best, there’s no shame in using canned (just get the kind in pineapple juice, rather than heavy syrup).  Today, I used a 20-ounce can, since I wasn’t sure of the quality of our local market’s pineapple.

Drain pineapple.  Set aside juice for mixed drink.  Run the pineapple through the food processor.

Slowly fold the pineapple into the salsa.  As you add the pineapple, be sure to taste the salsa.  When it gets to your desired sweet/hot nexus, stop!

*Tomatillos really should always be cooked, which brings out the sweet, citrus aspects of the fruit and blunts the acidity.  So, if you don’t want to roast or grill them, you can also boil them if necessary.

Salsa!

Salsa!

I love salsa; I love cooking. So, when the prices of tomatoes drop in the early summer, I crank out the grill and roast up… wait. I live in an apartment. Sigh. OK, I don’t grill my salsa veggies, but here’s what I do:

Medium Heat Roasted Tomato Salsa
–6-10 Roma tomatoes
–1/2 head of garlic
–1/4 large Vidalia onion
–2-3 Jalapenos
–Juice of 1-2 limes
–Handful of cilantro
–Salt & pepper, to taste
–1 large, dried Ancho pepper; 1 dried Cascabel pepper

Preheat oven to “Broil”

Rehydrate ancho and cascabel peppers in boiling water on the stove for 10 minutes; let sit another 10.

While the chiles are rehydrating, place tomatoes, garlic, and jalapenos in a roasting pan.  Broil until tomatoes are soft and the skin blisters (or, if you prefer, until it blackens).

Remove cascabel and ancho peppers from heat.  Unless you want your salsa rather hot, remove seeds from peppers.

Slowly combine all ingredients in food processor or blender (whichever you’ve got) until you reach the desired texture.

That’s all!  It’s pretty simple to make your own salsa, and there are endless variations on it.

Tomorrow:  Tomatillos!  My favorite non-tomato object!