Bonus Food Pics From Yummy Taco, Handsome Devil & Fiddlestix

yummy taco chicken and beef burrito

One of the more frustrating things about where we live is that there’s not a great taco place that we can run into when we have that hankering. There’s a nice Mexican place, but it’s sit-down and sometimes I want to just call in a bag of tacos and have my wife pick them up on her way home from work. So, we got pretty excited when we were leaving Target one day and saw a new place called Yummy Taco opening up soon. Well, the other weekend it was actually in business, we gave it a shot and all had pretty delightful food. Above you can see the chicken and beef burrito I had which was more of a giant taco, but who’s counting? I will say that this is a rather interesting establishment because everything about it screams “Chinese food place” from the decorations and staff to the picture menu above the ordering station. But, none of that matters when you realize they’re making their own tortillas on the spot and making killer food. It’s still not super close, but it’s nice to know there’s a solid taco joint nearby we can hit up while running errands.

handsome devil bbq

About a month ago, my inlaws came into town and watched our daughter while my wife and I went out for a nice Italian dinner around Valentine’s Day. Meanwhile, they discovered a new barbecue joint we didn’t even know about called Handsome Devil that’s actually above an ice skating rink (that we also didn’t know about). We’ve actually got a lot of solid BBQ joints nearby, but I think this one will be tops on our list. Brothers has been so-so and Johnny D’s is a bit far away for more of a casual dinner, so Handsome Devil takes the top spot. I had the ribs and pulled pork along with some mac and cheese and onion rings, all of which were delightful. Plus, they’ve got a variety of local beers on tap which I always appreciate.

fiddlestix bangers and mash

And finally, I have to sing the praises of Fiddlestix once again. The above photo comes from their St. Patrick’s Day menu which, as always, was some of the best Irish food I’ve ever had. This is the bangers and mash which was so good I wish I could have it every day. The mashed potatoes had a healthy, but not overpowering dose of horseradish which made for a delightful side. Looking at this picture is actually making me hungry.

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Recipe Roundup: Smitten Kitchen

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage2As I said in a recent post compiling various recently attempted recipes from the site Closet Cooking, I’ve tried a lot of recipes in the past several months and done very little posting, so it’s time to go through the images, write down my spotty memories and get these things out there into the internet where they will hopefully jog my memory later on and encourage other people to give them a try. This batch of three all come from the cooking site I’ve been following the longest: Smitten Kitchen!

Chicken Tacos

I’m always interested in checking out a new recipe for tacos and this certainly fit the bill. I don’t think I’d ever made chicken ones before and the flavor on these were pretty solid if memory serves. I especially like the way you cook the chicken which is fairly hands-off and super easy. Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil for a half hour. This gives you plenty of time to chop up the rest of your taco fixins. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t make the salsa fresca that’s also mentioned in the post. Instead I whipped up a crema (sour cream combined with avocado, salt, oil, onion and some green Tabasco). One of these days I’d like to give this one a shot with bone-in chicken because I understand there’s more flavor there.

Baked Pasta With Broccoli Rabe & Sausage

baked-pasta-with-broccoli-rabe-and-sausage1

 

Apparently I only snapped a few pictures when I tried out this recipe. I remember this being a pretty easy thing to put together and the results being a kind of sausage-y, rabe-y mac and cheese and there’s nothing wrong with that. Actually, seeing this recipe again makes me want to give it another try in the next few weeks.

Pasta With White Beans

While I only snapped two pictures of the previous meal, I can’t seem to find a single image from either of the two times I made Pasta with White Beans (I skipped the rosemary oil because my wife is not a fan of that particular herb). Another easy meal to put together thanks to all the food processing, I really enjoyed the flavors combined for this recipe, but will note that all those beans can lead to some evenings punctuated by the most musical of fruits.

Cooking Closet Cooking’s Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Picadillo Tacos

A few months back I was getting a little bored with my usual food blogs. They’re still great and all, but I needed an injection of newness. So, I did a bunch of looking around and came across one called Closet Cooking that I absolutely love. One of the best recipes I’ve made from this blog are the Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Picadillo Tacos which not only helped make tacos more interesting, but also added a lot more flavors into the kind of Mexican food I’m used to making. I’d never made picadillo before, so I followed this recipe to the letter. The veggies went into the pan while the quinoa cooked. Then, all that and the other ingredients went into a big bowl for mixing.

Since the avocados I picked up were a little funky looking, I decided to make a sauce with some leftover dill and buttermilk that were hanging out in the fridge as well as some tomato and onion. It was a little unusual, but certainly offered some more tang to the dish. In addition to that, I served the usual accoutrements: chopped tomatoes, torn lettuce, sour cream and shredded cheddar.

The two elements of this dish that really jumped out at me were the green olives and golden raisins which offered a nice sourness and sweetness to various bites during dinner. I’m a huge green olive fan, so I enjoy bringing them into play whenever it makes sense. I will definitely be making this recipe again and checking out some of the other picadillo recipes on Closet Cooking!

Cooking Tacos Al Pastor With Grilled Pineapple Salsa

I don’t quite remember how I came across the recipe for Tacos A Pastor With Grilled Pineapple Salsa on My Recipes, but I did. I think I was looking for something to make out of pork tenderloin because it was on sale at the grocery store. Anyway, the only change I made to the directions involved cooking the pork on a cast iron skillet instead of a grill because, well, I don’t have a grill. I also cut out the cilantro and the chipotle chili because they run a bit too hot for my liking.

The prep for this is pretty simple. Create a rub, cover the pork chops and throw them on the grill pan. Meanwhile, there’s the salsa. I grilled the pineapple before the meat so I’d be able to work on that while the meat cooked. Again, this was a super simple process. I also cut up some limes and shredded some cheddar cheese. With all that done, it was time to eat!

I enjoyed the tanginess of the pineapple salsa which bounced well off of the spicy-ish pork. Everything played well together, making this a pretty solid choice if you’re looking to mix things up with the taco portion of your menu.

Cooking Ingrid Hoffmann’s Crackling Fish Tacos With Chipotle Tartar Sauce

I know a lot of people like to stick with a particular recipe when they realize how much they like it. I’m not of that school. Yes, I’ll take note of that particular recipe, but I’m always looking for new and different ways to prepare food. That can be a little disappointing when you’ve found a really solid way of making a dish and then only seem to come across lesser ones. I went into Ingrid Hoffman’s Food Network recipe for Crackling Fish Tacos with Chipotle Tartar Sauce which was fairly similar to the delightful Baja Fish Tacos I’ve made and enjoyed several times. And while I didn’t like this new recipe better than the old one, it was still a good dish that would have been all the better had I remembered to pick up a few tomatoes and cheese to serve along with the other sides.

Aside from those gaffs, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I forget what kind of white fish I used, but I want to say tilapia. As you can see I got the chipotle tartar sauce together first and then worked on cutting, dredging and frying the fish chunks. While the actual prep for cooking the fish wasn’t all that different between the two recipes, I’d say the garnishes were. I really like that this one uses cucumbers which have a really nice crunch, but also bring in some moisture. However, my wife and I both found the chipotle tartar sauce to be way too hot. It’s those canned chipotles in adobo sauce that always get me. I’ve got to come up with a good alterative for those guys because they’re way too hot.

Overall, this was a good recipe, but it didn’t knock the Baja Fish Tacos out of the top spot, but it did bring a few new add-ons into play that I think will work well in the future. One of the great things about trying all these different recipes and them turning out pretty well is that it’s creating a kind of knowledge repository in my brain (greatly aided by this blog which is essentially me external hard drive for food) that allows me to mix and match elements from different dishes. Heck, maybe I’ll be coming up with my own before too long!

Forgotten Food: Chicken Tacos With Tomatillos

Unfortunatley, I not only don’t remember how this recipe turned out — though I don’t remember it being bad — I also can’t seem to figure out where I got the recipe from! It looks like I cooked the chicken in some olive oil in one pan while grilling the tomatillos and chili in a cast iron grill skillet. From looking at the pictures, I think that red bell pepper was in there on accident.

Anyway, once the tomatillos and pepper were done being grilled it looks like they were boiled in a little bit of water. They then went into a food processor with some onion, garlic, honey and lime. That mixture was then cooked with the shredded chicken and that was the main thrust of the dish from the looks of it. I also shredded some cheddar cheese, cut some lime wedges, opened the sour cream and toasted a few tortillas on the oven. I want to say the results were good, but I really can’t remember. Luckily, I’ve made things like this enough that I think I could probably recreate it from the pictures!

*UPDATE* I think I found the recipe! Pretty sure it’s FoodNetwork.com’s Grilled Chicken Tostadas al Carbon With Grilled Tomatillos.

Bonus Food Pic: The Cool Ranch Dorito Taco From Taco Bell

cool ranch dorito taco For all the writing I do about grinding my own meat, trying to find more local sources for produce and protein and keeping an eye on my caloric intake with the Lose It! app, I’m still the kind of guy who dreams about heading to Taco Bell, throwing down a few bucks and scarfing down a small mountain of faux Mexican food. I like to think I come by it honestly. You see, Toledo, the town that I’m from actually has three T-Bells on one of the city’s major thoroughfares with the two furthest ones only about 20 minutes from each other. As a kid and young adult, we’d head there and get food and I kept that tradition alive into my adulthood our here in New York. Heck, I even stopped there the day I heard about a rash of Bell-based food poisoning outbreaks about five years back. After hearing the news on the radio I thought, “Mmm, Taco Bell. I’m sure I won’t get food poisoning (and I didn’t, at least that time).

There was even a part of me that was ashamed that it took me so long to actually taste a Dorito-flavored taco shell at the restaurant. It’s the same part of my brain that misses seeing big-time superhero movies in the theater on opening night. It’s just something the old me would have done in a heartbeat that older me can’t without lots of scheduling and worries of health and whatnot.

Anyway, last weekend my wife and I both checked our points and decided to get some dinner at T-Bell while we were out running some errands. Of course, we both had to try the Cool Ranch version of the taco, something we were both excited about. Heck, much like the above commercial, I was one of the people who immediately said, “They should do Cool Ranch” as soon as I heard about the regular Dorito taco shell. As it happens, Cool Ranch is my favorite Dorito flavor, though much like Taco Bell, they’re not really a regular part of my life anymore because I will eat a ton of them in a single sitting and that’s not good for someone who counts going to the grocery store as exercise.

So, I should get to the main event. I tried the taco and it was pretty good, but definitely salty. My wife read some account that said the flavor of the heavily spiced meat tends to wash out the Cool Ranch flavor, so I went in making the conscious decision to put my tongue directly on the shell every time I bit. That way, I definitely got the flavor every single time. And it definitely worked. I’m still not one hundred perfect sure if this fits in with the “two great tastes that taste great together” category as one definitely seems to outdo the other, but I’d say it’s a fun experiment with pretty good results.

Cooking Homesick Texan Carnitas With Avocado Dressing & Asian Carrot Slaw

It seems like I just can’t recreate the success I had the first time I made Smitten Kitchen’s Homesick Texas Carnitas. It’s a super simple recipe that involves a few ingredients and a bunch of time, but the last time I did it I accidentally bought beef instead of pork and then this time I didn’t chop it up ahead of time. Both times the results were pretty good, I just want to nail the procedure again, you know?

Anyway, I’ve already talked about making that dish, so I want to write about a few of the accouterments I made to go along with it. For whatever reason I had a brain fart when planning the menu that week and didn’t plan on serving the carnitas with anything other than a tortilla. Scrambling, I used what I had at hand to make Paula Deen’s Avocado Dressing and Martha Stewart’s Asian Carrot Slaw. The latter might seem like kind of a strange choice, but the only veggies I had in the house were carrots and I thought the Asian flavorings would bring something interesting to the table.

The Avocado Dressing was alright, but it being a Paula Deen recipe, there’s a good deal of mayo in there which I thought threw the flavor off a little. Since then I’ve made an Avocado Crema that I’ll write about eventually that actually had no dairy or condiments involved and tasted a lot more avocado-y which is what I wanted. Still, it was an okay addition that worked well with everything else on the plate.

The Asian Carrot Slaw actually wound up working really well with the carnitas. I kind of figured this would be the case when I saw that lime was a main ingredient, which is also in the carnitas, of course. I liked the tang that the sesame seeds and vinegar brought to the table and think I might be onto a cool flavor combination here. Anyone want to start a food truck?

Bonus Food Pics: Ruby Tuesday’s Black & Blue, Fish Tacos

As I snapped a picture of my food at Ruby Tuesday’s a week ago, my wife asked why I was bothering. I thought about it for a second and said that I should give chain restaurants the same opportunities on MATK as local ones. I’m actually a big fan of Ruby Tuesday’s and have been since one opened in Toledo as a kid. I’m a sucker for a good salad bar and think they’ve got a pretty good one.

Anyway, I started our meal off with a Black and Blue, which is a combination of Guinness and Blue Moon. I don’t think I’d ever had even a black and tan, but the combination was fun. I’m a big fan of combos, so this was up my alley, especially because they gave me the can of Guinness, so it was like getting two beers.

For dinner I went with the fish tacos which were alright. I’ve definitely had better, but I’ve also had worse. They were a bit spicy, but not too bad. Overall it was a good dinner with good service and the quality salad bar, so I left happy.

Cooking Fantastic Taco Casserole

Last week wound up being super hot so I wanted to try and make dinners that wouldn’t heat up the house too much. I also decided to cook things at different times of the day than normal to try and avoid all that heat all at once. I stumbled across this recipe for Fantastic Taco Casserole on Food.com and while it still involved cooking with a 375 degree oven, it didn’t take too long. I also cooked the ground beef in the taco seasoning around noon while my daughter ate lunch. I just let it cool down and eventually popped it in the fridge and got it out later on when constructing the casserole.

The only big change I made to the recipe was using garbanzo beans instead of refried beans. I thought I had the latter in my pantry, but only had the former and decided to just go with it. How’d that work out? Gimme a paragraph and I’ll let you know.

So, you basically just put tortilla chips on the bottom of an oven safe bowl. You then mix the beans with half the cheese and a cup of salsa. Since I didn’t use refried, there was no cooking involved right there. Anyway, you basically just layer everything in the dish and then pop it in the oven. While that’s in there, I cut up the tomatoes and those went on top when it came out. Boom, you’re done. And you know what? It was great.

I loved how the chips got a little mushy and turned into an actual salty crust that I dug. Everything else is pure taco, but in a bowl and you don’t have to set up a whole huge spread just to make tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I like making tacos, but this is about a billion times earlier. Oh, and the garbanzo beans? I really liked them. My wife noted that using them actually kept the dish a little lighter than it would have been with the refried variety. I think she nailed it. While you get the added protein of a bean, it’s not the thick gooey kind you get with refried beans. And, hey, it only took a little bit of time and not a lot of heat, so I’m very cool with it.