Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Breakfast Tacos, 'nuff said

I don’t have enough good things to say about brisket. I love it, that’s all there is to it. Now I don’t know if there are any ways to improve brisket (although you’ve gotta have tender, juicy, sliced brisket, of course) but my favorite brisket accompaniment? Not barbeque sauce, or ribs, or sausage, no potato salad or cole slaw, not even more brisket. Instead I prefer mine with eggs, cheese, potato and a big flour tortilla. Brisket Breakfast tacos. Few things in life can match that.

The first time I was introduced to this holy union was sometime in high school at Jim Bob’s Trading Post at Bee Caves and Hwy 71 in Austin. Breakfast tacos in Austin are quite common, you can get them at many different restaurants, whether they’re Tex-Mex or not. The usual meat (if you are a carnivore) is sausage, bacon, or chorizo. I had never before seen breakfast tacos with brisket as an option, and to this day still haven’t. I don’t know if I’d try them though, I think it would just be a let down in comparison to Jim Bob’s. I’ve also, strangely enough, never tried the barbeque at Jim Bob’s. I’m there for one thing and for one thing only.
They pile the tortilla full of whatever ingredients you want, to name a few egg, cheese, potato, bacon, jalapeño, chorizo, mushrooms, bell pepper, beans, onions, and the list goes on. I never veer from my brisket. Brisket, eggs, and cheese is my usual, if I’m extra hungry I’ll throw potatoes in there, but trust me when I say these are a commitment, these breakfast tacos. They’re not messing around here.
I’m not one of those people who likes to muck it up with salsa, although I’d say more often than not salsa is a must when eating breakfast tacos, but to each his own. On a particularly promising looking morning when I was in Austin, I awoke with angels singing ‘Jim Bob’s’ in my head, and an emptiness in my stomach. Off to the Trading Post I took Dan, with requests from my mom and dad also. We placed our orders, hit the salsa bar (for the others, of course), and in true Austin fashion, took our aluminum foil wrapped tacos to go.
The following pictures do not come with scratch and smell, unfortunately, or better yet, scratch and taste. It took everything I had not to scarf down mine in the car, but as you can see, I got half way through it before I remembered I should be taking pictures to make readers jealous…

my taco of brisket, egg, and cheese

Dan's brisket, cheese, and jalapeño, along with a dollop of salsa

my mom's bacon, egg, potato, and cheese (I guess not everyone is obsessed with brisket)

Some food to make from home, such as gorditas, might not be the first thing to come to mind, mainly because of their complexity (I’ve made them once, so maybe I’m not a master yet, but I think they might take some practice), but breakfast tacos, now that’s something that can be done, almost on a whim. And it was a whim that took me one afternoon when shopping at my local fruit and veg place here in Barcelona. One problem: brisket not so common. Actually, I don’t know if it can be done here or not, I don’t know what cut of meat or how to do it (should I be ashamed? With so many great places like Jim Bob’s, or my mom’s brisket, I haven’t needed to cook it myself…). I just have a feeling even if I were to get the beef, it wouldn’t turn out the same. They do pork here, not beef. So, next best thing, of course was sausage. Some really good sausage actually, called xistorra (I’ve talked about it before, greasy, red, Catalan).
The other ingredients I can find: tortillas (although I don’t love buying the flour tortillas from the package when I know there’s something like Central Market or Ninfa’s tortillas out there) but at least they’re available in Barcelona. Eggs, cheddar cheese (which is also pretty scarce, except some unknown brand that comes a few square slices to a package, but hey, it works), potatoes, even jalapeños (or some similar, mildly spicy pepper). Cook everything, assemble, wrap in foil and have yourself a good breakfast. Or in our case, a nice picnic dinner in the Maritime Museum courtyard.

My Breakfast Tacos, a little on the Spanish side

5 flour tortillas
1 smallish white onion
2 big potatoes
5-6 eggs
1 jalapeño
Cheddar cheese (or some yellow cheese)
Xistorra (easy substitution: any kind of meat you want, sausage, bacon, or heavenly brisket)
Butter/oil, or if you’re lucky like us, leftover grease from cooking xistorra before (which looks like completely smooth carrot puret. it's very orange)
Salsa (if you must)

First, boil the potatoes until they’re tender, but not falling apart because you’re essentially making hashbrowns to stick into the breakfast tacos. While these are cooking, you can prep the other stuff, like the jalapeño. I cut in half, and then according to where the veins are, de-vein them, or cut the halves into two strips and then de-vein. Along with the veins, scoop all the seeds out too. This way, I get my mild-spicy taste, but I save the veins and seeds and chop them for Dan because he likes really spicy. But I make sure and set those way aside. Chop up your strips of jalapeño for later. I like to add mine in the egg, but maybe you want a little more control of how much you get, so you can sprinkle on after assembly of the taco.
When the potatoes are ‘fork tender’ as cookbooks like to say, drain them. While they cool, chop the onion into little dices. Over medium-high heat on a burner (side note: using non-stick is a lot better because you can brown things without having to scrape all the burned potato off the pan), heat up the xistorra grease (as you can see below), or butter or oil, whatever you're using, and add the onions. You’ll cook these for about 10-15 minutes, until they become soft in the grease, but you don’t want them to brown before putting the potatoes in, so if they do, turn the heat down. Stir occasionally.

When those are about done, cut the potatoes into chunks and add them to the pan. I think in total, I cooked these for about 20 or 30 minutes, stirring a lot at first but then letting them sit and brown, then stirring so they could brown on all sides. Don’t forget to salt and pepper. When they’re nice and browned, turn off the heat. While these were cooking, I chopped the xistorra. Then, get your tortillas ready. If you’re making one breakfast taco, you can probably get away with scattering cheese on top of the hot ingredients as you add them and it will melt, but when making multiple ones to be taken somewhere else, I suggest zapping them for a bit. So I tore the cheese and put it on half a tortilla.

Now cook the xistorra. These don’t need any extra grease, and they only take about 5 minutes. Shake them around a few times until the look a little browned on the edges and they firm up. Put the xistorra on a plate, drain most of the grease and save it for next time…makes really good hashbrowns. Save just a bit in the pan to cook the eggs in. Crack all the eggs into a pan on medium heat and stir, add salt and pepper (I think everyone knows how to make scrambled eggs). The only difference? At the very end, when there’s about one minute left, throw in the chopped jalapeño and give in another good stir, then turn off the heat.

Now it’s go time: heat one tortilla at a time until cheese melts and fill high with eggs, potatoes, and xistorra. Then roll in foil. This really does help them stay warm, and you’re ready to go “in true Austin fashion” with your foiled-up breakfast tacos to a park and marvel at their goodness and wonder how they’re not part of every cuisine, not to mention brisket.


Anonymous said...

I could get quite used to brisket for breakfast. And lunch.

But I bet Jim Bob doesn't do his eggs and hashbrowns in orange pig fat. That is genius...

Mike said...

Sadly, Jim Bob's is no more. Like the Backyard, they closed their doors last month for good. No one in Austin can touch a Jim Bob's taco, and probably never will. I'm sorry to see Bee Caves turn into another cookie cutter suburb.