Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Better Living Through Breakfast Tacos

I am a Texan, bred, born and raised. Our family dates back for generations in the U.S. to the American Revolution. Our ancestors not only fought in the War for Independence from England, we also had at least one relative who fought in the War for Texas Independence during 1835-1836. My Mom used to regale us with the stories from her mom about how Grandpa Gilbert fought with General Sam Houston against General Santa Anna, commander of the Mexican army in the infamous 18 minute Battle of San Jacinto, the battle that ended the war and resulted in Texas independence from Mexico.

The Battle of San Jacinto took place just 20 miles due east, along what is now Interstate-10 and present-day, downtown Houston, in San Jacinto. This famous battle resulted in the surrender of the Mexican forces, capture of their general and the creation of the Republic of Texas, never recognized by our Mexican friends. It wasn’t until Texas became a state, about 9 years later, that we officially became Texans.

We lived this lore as children and often took road trips to see the giant monument. Erected at the turn of the 20th Century, it memorialized the brave men who fought in the battle. The San Jacinto Monument stands 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument, for which it was modeled. To a child, it inspires dreams and fantasies of life during that time. Seeing Grandpa Gilbert’s name in writing on the monument only served to fuel the fanciful dreams of seeing General Sam Houston under the famous oak tree, just after battle, accepting the surrender of Santa Anna and our grandfather standing right beside the renowned leader…of course that did not happen. Our grandfather was not standing beside Sam Houston.

I also remember the respect and admiration my dad and mom had for the Mexican people. I believe they honored them, in part, because of a shared belief in the ideal that is the sanctity of family (not that our family wasn’t as dysfunctional and torn as the next, cuz we’ve certainly had our issues). But they shared a common, strong commitment to family.

Dad worked with many Mexican workers in the construction business of a young Houston and I still remember the day he came home raving about this delicious breakfast one of the men shared with him. He called them tacos and they were made with egg, potato and salsa. He described them as one of the best breakfasts he’d ever tasted.

It wasn’t until my college years in Austin, however, that I really became indoctrinated into the “way and philosophy” that is the Breakfast Taco. A sandwich that isn’t a sandwich, an icon of TexMex culinary excellence, the breakfast taco could just be the perfect food. There are so many combinations: potato and egg, bean and egg, meat and egg, bacon and egg – the list continues for miles. It is cheap. It is filling. It is fast food cooked from slow ingredients. It is comfort food for the soul of every Texan, worldwide.

Blue Zebra Breakfast Tacos
Yield 4 Tacos (6-7” tortillas)

For breakfast tacos:

4 Eggs
1 Tbsp Water
½ - 1 Tbsp Olive oil, butter, or bacon grease
2 oz Leftover Meat (I use bacon, sausage, leftover brisket or pulled pork)
¼ Cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack Cheese (optional)
¼ Cup Salsa* (optional)
4 Flour Tortillas* (6-7” Diameter)
Salt and Pepper to taste

For cottage fries:
4 Baby New Potatoes (1-1/2” diameter)
1/8 tsp Garlic Powder
1/8 tsp Cumin Powder
1 Pinch Coriander Powder
1/8 tsp Paprika (smoked paprika is awesome in this)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil

For sautéed veggies:
½ Zucchini, cut in ½” pieces
½ Yellow Squash, cut in ½” pieces
¼ Onion, coarsely chopped
4 Mushrooms, sliced
½ Tomato, small, seeded, ¾” dice
1 Clove Garlic, sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive oil

For tacos:
Crack eggs into bowl and add water. Using a fork or wire whisk, vigorously beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are well-mixed and the eggs are frothy. Using water, keeps the eggs tender. Milk or cream can actually make them tough. It’s also cheaper to use water, right?

Prep and assemble all of the elements for the tacos: shred the meat, grate the cheese, make the salsa (or open a jar), separate a few cilantro leaves if you have them. These fillings can be as sumptuous as you want or as bare-bones and empty cupboard as necessary. This is a poor man’s breakfast but kings of all nations love them, too! Have the potatoes cook and the veggies sautéed and waiting.

Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of oil. Do not use margarine here (as much because of transfats as because the water in the margarine will separate and cause problems with sticking).

When the oil is heated, give the eggs a final stir and pour into pan. Slowly move the eggs around, scraping the bottom of the pan, forming curds. For those who are unfamiliar, this is called scrambling eggs.

Just before done, remove eggs from heat and finish stirring. Salt and pepper the scrambled eggs. Eggs should be moist and fluffy, they will continue to cook for the next few minutes. Remove to a plate.

Add flour tortillas to the pan and cook one at a time, heating briefly on both sides. (Option: place 4 tortillas on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and nuke in a microwave for about 30 seconds to heat them through).

Assemble your tacos and enjoy! Add salsa, avocado, cilantro, lime or other condiments.

For Potatoes:
Wash and cut potatoes in quarters and then in half (you will have 8 pieces per potato). Don’t bother drying the potatoes because the moisture will help keep them plump while cooking in the microwave. Place on microwave safe plate. Cover with 2 layers of wet microwave safe paper towels. Nuke for about 3 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Heat skillet to high heat and add oil. When oil is hot, remove paper and pour potatoes into pan. Do NOT stir them!

Sprinkle the tops of the potatoes with seasonings. Again, do not stir the potatoes around. Let them sit for about 2-3 minutes before stirring to rearrange them. This will allow them to brown on the first side. You are trying to get them crispy and brown outside and keep them moist and creamy inside. Microwaving until done is the secret to getting potatoes that are browned on the outside and cooked through on the inside!

Potatoes will take about 6-7 minutes to fully brown on all sides. Remove potatoes and reserve for tacos. Serve them either on the side or as part of a potato and egg taco. Amazingly awesome!

For Sautéed Veggies:
Wash and dry veggies and split squash in half lengthwise. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Prepare all other veggies as noted in above recipe. Heat skillet to high heat. Add oil and heat through.

Add veggies, except for tomatoes, and seasonings and saute over high heat until “just tender” or al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Don’t over stir. You want them to be browned in places. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add tomatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from pan and reserve for tacos. Serve veggies either on the side or as part of a veggie version of breakfast tacos. So great!

Blue Zebra NOTE:
*Flour tortillas and salsa are available at most grocery stores. They will “do” in a pinch and works as a quick solution for the time-conscious. But for the very best result, making these elements from scratch is always going to make a better taco. There is a night and day difference.

The recipes for flour tortillas and salsa choices will be available soon. I will post them under the recipe section as soon as we solve the recipe database dilemma, so please have patience with us! :D

Breakfast tacos, as previously stated, can have many fillings. One of the favorite ways to use leftover meat in our house is to use a couple of ounces in our breakfast tacos, about ½ ounce per taco. I do not warm the meat because it imparts a re-warmed taste. Instead, I let the heat from the warm tortillas and hot scrambled eggs warm the meat up to temp.

But meat isn’t essential to making great breakfast tacos. Two of my favorite BTs are potato and egg or bean and egg made with pinto beans, mashed and refried a bit, prior to assembling. I also use the veggie saute, shown above, with great success. Veggie BTs are so satisfying you don’t even recognize the lack of meat.

The humble breakfast taco is nourishing, and will “stick to your bones” as my grandmother, WaWa, used to say about food that carried a person through the day. The breakfast pictured above is a HUGE serving for most and only costs about $1.10 to make per plate, including 2 cups of coffee with cream. It’s simply another illustration how the egg is man’s best friend for people on a budget. So take my advice, make breakfast tacos at any time of the day. Better living through breakfast tacos!


browndog said...

These tacos struck a memory chord of a couple months I spent in Port Aransas back when I WAS young instead of actively subscribing to the 'young is a state of mind 'theory...
There was a tiny little Mexican restaurant outside Corpus Christi called La Azteca, and twas there we learned: 1.) the difference between Taco Bell and true Tex-Mex cookin', and 2.) that egg and potato taquitos, as they called them, were salsa-flavored heaven. Yours look even better than those memory-enhanced versions, Blue zebra. I'll have to serve up a trip down memory pasada one of these dias.

Blue Zebra said...

Bueno browndog! ;) Some of my best memories from college involved sitting at this little restaurant on Congress in Austin call Las Manitas. It was just opened then (and yep young is a state of mind I'm lucky if I don't forget it ;) ) and was just so tiny and we would have fresh squeezed oj and egg and potato tacos with homemade salsa. Oh my! They are hugely successful now and pack people in their front doors! And the BT is really a weekly meal for us and it mostly counts as two meals cuz we stay full all day! I hope you will try them out and see what you think about them!! :D (And btw! I'm so happy to see you here each day. It really means alot to me that you are finding something here to return to!)

KYHeirloomer said...

Two things about you gol-durned Texians: You're as bad as the Russians when it comes to taking credit for just about everything. And you wanna brag about how tough you are.

Next we'll be hearing about how often you drank water from a hoofprint, and was glad to get it (isn't that part of every true Texian's upbringing?).

Fact is, the only thing special about a breakfast taco is the tortilla. Wrap-type breakfast sandwiches have been part of the culinary scene, worldwide, ever since there was bread. Indeed, some evidence suggests there were wraps before there were actual sandwiches.

Most other wrap-type breakfasts, however, are made with wheat crepes or flat breads. Corn is a New World product, and tortillas were the only corn-based crepe until modern times.

Doesn't change the fact that breakfast tacos are everything you say they are. But.....

lynn said...

It's breakfast time and this is making me hungry! I added a link for you on my site. I look forward to seeing more of Texas eats through your site.

Blue Zebra said...

Mornin' all and I'm sittin here with my cuppa coffee finally gettin' to read.

KYH bwahahaha! The trouble with you gol' dern Kentuckians is that yore Daniel Boone wrestled "bahrs" and made mighty large hoofprints where ever he went! ;) You set the bar pretty dern high fer us Texians so it's all yore-ins fault! :D I love the history you are providing for us here on the different foods! I hope you will keep it up! The other special thing about the BTs is that eating the ingredients in combination with each other tastes sooo delicious!

Lynn! Thanks for adding me sweetie! Maybe it will help build Google standings for both our sites. Good times. Stand by cuz more Texan and Southern dishes are looming ahead!

Sue (coffeepot) said...

While I am not crazy about breakfast in general I do love breakfast tacos with homemade tortillas.

I also love Texas. Some of the best food I ever tasted was on my visit to san antonio.

You were lucky to grow up in Texas and to have such great family stories.

I look forward to more of the stories and recipes.

Blue Zebra said...

Thank you, Sue! I'm so glad you like the stories. Lord only knows there are tons more where those came from! My mom alone, has so many stories that we used to number them then tell her to tell x or y story! ;) Hahahaha! I think someone had better stop me now, before I turn into her! :D

Seriously though, Texas has so many awesome foods, restaurants and cooks of all kinds; professional to amateur. I do think the South in general has an abundance, too. I do think it has to do with the whole food as love, food for the soul mystique.

I'd love to hear if other parts of the country share this type of phenomenon or is it only the South that seems to "immortalize food"? browndog can you offer some insight please, mam?

Blue Zebra said...

Our scamp, KHY sent me another email cuz after being able to post once on Google, he now can't post again. I hesitated posting it cuz it's such a slam against us Texans lol, but knowing him, he's getting a huge laugh at 'gettin' my goat' so I will go ahead and let him have this one. Just remember...he who laughs last and all... :D !!!

Here is KHY's email:

Once again Google doesn’t want to play fair.

This time I used a totally different email account. Registered using the same screen name (surprised I got away with that), and a new password. It sent me back to the blog, and allowed me to post.

Tried it again, after closing down and reopening. And, again, all I get is an “incorrect password” message, and it won’t let me post.

So, unless you want to keep cut & pasting, I’m done.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something I’ve put together for you about eating your way through Texas. Something you can share with non-Texas visitors, so they understand how to survive.

How To Tell The Natives.

When sitting in a restaurant you can always tell the genuine Texicans from the tourists by what they order.

Genuine Texicans only order one of two things. They’ll either say, “fix me a chicken fried steak, darlin’” (for years I thought that was the actual name of the dish---chicken fried steak darlin’), or they’ll say, “burn me a steak, honey.” That’s because a Texican’s idea of a good steak is to cut it off the cow and burn it---over mesquite, not because it’s haute, but cuz that’s about the only stuff down there that will burn. Only thing else that even looks like wood are the live oaks. And I feel sorry for anybody who cuts down one of those.

Doesn’t matter where they are. Go to the best seafood place in Corpus Christi, and listen to your neighbors. Sure as shootin’ (which, of course, they do a lot of in Texas, too) you’ll hear them ordering those two meals in just that manner.

Rule Number One!

Never put nuthin’ red on your food in Texas. And be real careful about the green stuff.

Rule Number Two!

Never eat at any place called “Mom’s.”

You can’t miss ‘em. They advertise on billboards about every 20 yards, starting about 200 miles from the joint. “Mom’s. Good Eats!” the signs proclaim. Don’t believe a word of it.

The last sign says, “You Just Missed Mom’s Good Eats! Back Up 20 Yards.” If you back up, shame on you.

Yeah, sure. Lot’s of trucks parked there. And everyone knows that truckers know the best places to eat. Maybe in general. But those trucks are parked at Mom’s because it has a gravel parking lot, strong enough to support the big rigs. It’s the parking, not the (shudder) food that brings ‘em in.

Rule Number Three

If you really want a good meal in Texas, keep driving until you reach Arizona. At least over there they know how to make chili.

(BZ Note: This is wrong on so many levels! ;) )

neil said...

Oh my, I just had breakfast, now I want it again, they look wonderful, great post too, I loved the history of it.

Blue Zebra said...

Hiya Neil! So glad to see you visiting and hope you will come back and add a thought or two or three or .... :D

Kristen said...

Breakfast tacos... my kids would be all over these! What a great meal to start the day with.