Friday, May 11, 2012

Beef Picadillo Soft Tacos with Avocado-Cilantro Slaw

Do you ever get something in your head that you want to make and you know exactly how it should go, but even still you want to follow a recipe just to be sure, but you search and search and can't find the recipe you want? If your answer is "yes," that is probably why you end up slogging through a no-budget low-readership blog like mine. But, just as the princess did finally find the pea under her layers and layers and layers of matresses, sometimes persistent searching will ultimately lead you to just what your tastebuds crave.

And if you're still reading this post, perhaps what you've been hungry for is some crunchy, tangy, sweet-and-sour cilantro salsa topping a steaming heap of spicy shredded beef and a tender, fresh tortilla? Tyler Florence has an excellent and popular recipe for shredded beef. I followed it pretty closely, except I only made a half-recipe, and I used stew beef instead of shoulder. I'm certain mine was more tough, but given how flavorful the seasonings are, it hardly matters, and it still had a delectable shredded texture. I considered preparing it in my crock pot, but given as so much of the flavor comes from browning the meat, I decided to spare myself washing an extra pot and just cooked it all on the stove.

Also, one reviewer points out that a step from Tyler's show is not included in the online recipe; once the meat is cooked (I gave 1 pound of stew beef about 1 1/2) remove the meat to a separate plate/bowl and turn the sauce to high to boil down while you shred the meat. Let the sauce simmer for 15-20 minutes before stirring the shredded beef back in to the mixture. I made mine 24 hours before we ate it.

This coleslaw is amazing and would be delicious completely on it's own, with other types of Mexican or spicy foods, or at a picnic with corn on the cob and grilled fish. Plus, it's so light and flavorful and healthy, and adds lots of color.

The avocado pieces - if it was ripe enough - will break apart to make a rich dressing that requires no additional oil, and the lime juice should keep the colors bright and fresh. If you're serving it over the spicy meat, it doesn't need any additional seasoning, but to make it on it's own, you might want to add a minced jalepeno or chile, and maybe some ground cumin. Fresh corn kernals would be another tasty addition.

Avocado-Cilantro Slaw
serves 4-6
About 1/3 of a small head of green cabbage
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper, or 1 large carrot
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (tough stems removed, but tender stems are fine)
1-2 ripe avocados
juice from 1/2 lime
salt to taste

Shred the cabbage. If you want to use a food processor, I recommend using the chopping blade, because I find the shred wheel or the grating wheel make pieces that are too large for how I like my slaw. Depending on how much you're making, it can be just as easy to cut with a knife. Cut the bell pepper into thin strips, then finely dice crosswise. Mince the cilantro. I usually prepare my avocado like it's a mango (steps #2 and #3 at this link illustrate well). Add the cabbage, peppers, cilantro, and avocado to a medium-sized mixing bowl (use one that allows you ample room to toss the ingredients.) Squeeze the lime juice over the top and sprinkle with salt to taste, then toss well.

Central Market in Shoreline is a local, family-owned grocery well-known for it's extensive fresh produce and seafood sections, as well as Asian ingredients for any recipe. But it is also the only grocery store I've ever been to where they have a tortilla-processing plant in the middle of the store! An employee perpetually feeds dough into this really cool machine which pats out evenly shaped rounds, sends them along a conveyor-belt toaster, then shoots them down a cooling rack. It is SO fun to watch. Part of the fun is also that whatever "mishaps" occur (ie: any square-shaped, triangle, or torn tortilla specimans) become samples for shoppers to taste. Your tacos will taste best if you can get some of these awesomely fresh tortillas that are soft. Then pile on your meat filling and your slaw toppings and do not try to eat with your hands. Warning: forks required.

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