Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eat the Menu: The Shirt!

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Thursday night, this crazy journey reached its end. We had a "Jon the Geek Week Wrap Party" at Tacodeli (open after its usual hours to give us some more of those delicious Jon the Geek Week Specials). The tacos were great, but the best part was the official introduction of the award for the first 24 people to complete an Eat the Menu Card: the "I Ate the Menu at Tacodeli" t-shirt! I got the first copy of this limited run. My favorite part is on the middle of line 6.

I know one person was already at 12 on Thursday, but I think there's still time for the less-obsessed to make it into the "I Ate the Menu" club. Eat the Menu cards are available at all three Tacodeli locations.

On a related note, a my sister's friend Maria made some tasty-sounding Vegetable Mole Tacos inspired by this experience (and the yumminess she experienced at Tacodeli). I can't wait to try out her recipe!

How close is everyone to eating the menu? I'm not making much progress on my second time through (the Portabella Mole slowed my progress), so SURELY people will make it through their first time before I make it through my second time, right?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Food Revolution: Chicken Korma to Chicken KorMex

This is part of a series of posts in which I cook something from Jamie's Food Revolution and then make it again with a twist. Find the other posts here.

I have definitely learned something from Jamie's Food Revolution: I really love Indian food, especially when it's homemade. This time I made Chicken Korma, and the rule definitely still holds true. This stuff is amazingly delicious. I technically tweaked Jamie's recipe a little, but that was just because some of his amounts were stupid:
  • 2 chicken breasts (translated to human measures from "1 3/4 pounds chicken breasts")
  • 2 medium onions
  • optional: 1 fresh jalapeño (translated from optional: 1 fresh green chile)
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
  • a small bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 x 15-oz can garbanzo beans
  • peanut oil
  • a pat of butter
  • 1/2 cup Patak's mild curry paste
  • 1 x 14-oz can lite coconut milk
  • a small handful of sliced almonds
  • 2 heaped tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups lite natural yogurt
  • 1 lemon
Cut the chicken into chunks. Halve and finely slice the onions (tip: be sure to slice, not crush, to avoid tears). Slice the jalapeño from the tip up to just before the seeds, cut the remainder in half lengthwise, cut off the end, and push out the seeds (this is the technique that I've finally figured out will work to get the seeds out cleanly, let me know if you have a better technique). Put a few of the prettier slices aside for plating Peel and finely chop the ginger. Pick some cilantro leaves to use in plating and finely chop the rest. Drain the beans.

Put a large pan on high or medium-high heat (Jamie says high, but everything gets golden before 10 minutes either way, and I had to turn it down to avoid burning) and add some oil (about enough to just cover the bottom of the pan). Add the onions, pepper, ginger, cilantro, and butter. Cook for about 10 minutes (until the onions are golden), stirring pretty close to constantly. Add the curry paste, beans, coconut milk, coconut, almonds (except a little for plating), garbanzo beans, and slicked chicken. Stir. Half-fill the empty coconut milk can with water, and add it. Stir again. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes with the lid on. Jamie says to check it regularly to make sure it's not drying out and add extra water if necessary, which makes me think Jamie usually cooks in a desert with a dehumidifier running; this stuff was soupy when it finished, there was no risk of it drying out. The chicken should be tender and cooked when you finish. He says to season with (sea) salt and pepper, but I didn't need to add anything to make it delicious. I cooked some rice during the last 15 minutes or so of the simmering, and served the korma over that with some yogurt, the pretty bits, and a lemon wedge.

Trying to come up with a way to remix this one was daunting. First off, it was so super delicious, I didn't want to mess with it. Second, Patak's is a super cheaty way of cooking, but I wanted something at least close to the same: a paste of spicy goodness. What to do?

I decided to pick a type of food, and just substitute each of the ingredients as best I could, and see what happened. I knew I'd have a lot of work to do, so I picked something I'm familiar with: Tex-Mex. Here's what I did to Tex-Mexify each ingredient:
  • 2 chicken breasts to 2 chicken breasts (we have chickens in Texas)
  • optional: 1 fresh jalapeño to not optional: 1 fresh jalapeño
  • a small bunch of fresh cilantro to a large bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 x 15-oz can garbanzo beans to 1 x 15-oz can whole-kernel sweet corn
  • 1 x 14-oz can lite coconut milk to 14 oz 2% milk
  • a small handful of sliced almonds to a small handful of crumbled pecans
  • 2 heaped tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut unchanged, because I need to use this stuff up, but I think I'd use shredded jicama if I didn't already have coconut
  • 2 cups lite natural yogurt to 2 cups lite sour cream
  • 1 lemon to oh crap I forgot the lemon
  • a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger to I can't think of anything ginger-like, and ginger is tasty, so we'll call it fusion; I probably could have switched this to a few cloves of garlic, though
That leaves the paste. Well, this is supposed to be Texan, so I used 1/4 cup Salt Lick Chipotle BBQ Sauce thickened to something more paste-like with 1/4 cup chili powder.

I made everything just like in the original, except I added the milk last at the add-everything-else step, and didn't quite bring it to a boil after adding the milk. I had no idea how this stuff would taste.

It came out pretty tasty, but my crazy concoction just couldn't top the concentrated deliciousness that is Patak's. Curries are just so good. I'll probably make it again, but probably not before I run out of curry pastes.

If you have any ideas for things I could have picked that were more properly Tex-Mex, or if you try a remix using a different theme, let us know in the comments.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eat the Menu: New Additions! (now with DeliBelly description)

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Today was the independently organized Taco Tweetup that Tacodeli thought would make a good preview event for my week. Tacodeli was offering a special on three-item breakfast tacos, so I headed to the site to see what might make a good mix (I always get named stuff off the menu, so this mix-and-match thing was new to me). To my surprise and delight, I was greeted on the site by... me! Well, ok, not me, but the cartoon me created for Jon the Geek Week by Victory Dog Design. They also have a nice explanation of what this whole Jon the Geek Week thing is all about on their events page (at least at the time that I'm writing this they do; presumably that'll change eventually).

Once I got to Tacodeli, there was another surprise waiting: a new taco! I mean, not just mine, but another new taco! I still got the breakfast taco special (Chorizo, Egg, and Papas, aka Mexican mashed potatoes), but I just had to try the brand new DeliBelly, and of course the delicious Jon the Geek.

The Jon the Geek Special (aka Mole Portabella) is "Grilled portabella mushrooms smothered with our traditional, made-from-scratch mole and topped with avocado, cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco." That's a fancy way of saying YUM! I'm so glad we were able to find something I like even better than Mole Chicken and Scallops. I give it 1.2 moles. I also found out that this is really similar to a taco Roberto (the owner of Tacodeli) used to make sometimes when he'd open up the original Tacodeli for his friends after they went out for a night on the town. In other words, the Jon the Geek Special has its origin in drunk food. I wholeheartedly approve. This is extra funny, since my roommate has been known to make sure our fridge is stocked with breakfast taco fixings before we go to anything where I might imbibe alcoholic beverages, because more than once I've felt the overwhelming urge to make elaborate breakfast tacos when I get home.

I forgot to write down or photograph the full description of the DeliBelly: (hopefully I'll be able to edit that in soon), but it's locally raised pork belly, avocado, cilantro, onions, and some sort of honey salsa "Richardson farm's pork belly, roasted and served with a serrano-tomatillo-Goodflow-honey salsa and served with cilantro, onion, and avocado." I'm not a huge pork fan, but this was about as good as pork can get. I give it 0.9 moles, which means it edges out the Lomo Especial as my favorite pork taco.

However, the most awesome part may have been the introduction of the official Tacodeli Eat the Menu Card. Inside, all 24 lunch tacos, 6 breakfast tacos, and 9 lunch specials are listed, along with space for four "Super Specials," with the "Jon the Geek Week Special Portabella Mole" pre-filled. When you order, the cashiers punch out the dot next to the taco(s) you order. Punch them all by the end of 2010, and you get a special "I Ate the Menu" t-shirt (assuming nothing goes wrong with that plan; the shirts aren't actually printed yet). I started my second trip through the menu today. Let me know in the comments if you plan to try.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eat the Menu Aftermath: How I Got a Week

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

Life is crazy. When I was Eating the Menu at Tacodeli a couple months ago, I was hoping the people who worked there would get to know me well enough that I wouldn't have to give them my name when they took my order. I never expected more than that.

But then, at the end of June, I got a direct message on Twitter from Tacodeli. "Hey Jon!" it started. "I was wondering if you could give Roberto (owner of Tacodeli) a call? He'd like to talk to you." The message ended with cell phone number of the owner. I called immediately.

The Tacodeli twitter crew had been keeping Roberto up-to-date about my quest, and he thought it was hilarious. He wanted to do something to celebrate. It took us a few tries (and one lunch with almost too many tacos), but we found a worthy recipe for my taco. Putting together the description hit three very different parts of the menu, which seemed appropriate:

  • From Vegetarian/Frontera Fundido Portabella: "Oven roasted portabellas..."
  • From Chicken/Mole Taco Chicken: "...smothered with a traditional, made-from-scratch mole. Garnished with cilantro, onion and crumbled queso fresco. (sauce contains nuts)"
  • From Breakfast/The Jess Special: "...and fresh sliced avocado."
Ok, we had to edit a little to mix those together, but it comes out as the Jon the Geek Special, "Grilled portabella mushrooms smothered with our traditional, made-from-scratch mole and topped with avocado, cilantro, onion & crumbled queso fresco."

I'll give the taco an official taste soon (complete with photo), but wow is that thing good. I hope others like it and help me convince Roberto to make it available more often than just this coming week.

Speaking of that... in addition to the special, Roberto decided to put together a Jon the Geek Week, starting this Sunday, 8/22 (my big sister's birthday)! He also printed up some official Eat the Menu cards. If you get a card completely punched (and all you have to eat is the tacos, he's making it almost easy), he's going to have a prize of some sort (I don't want to say more in case there's a problem with the planned prize). All because I randomly decided to try everything and blog/tweet about it!

Oh, there will also be a "wrap party" for Jon the Geek Week, Thursday night at my "home" Tacodeli (Tacodeli Central). Details here.

The future is awesome.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Why I Ate the Menu

This is part of a series about my quest to try all of the yumminess at local restaurant Tacodeli. See my eat the menu tag for the other parts of the series. Scores are summarized here.

It's said that variety is the spice of life, and Tacodeli knows a thing or two about spicing things up. Tacodeli has twenty-four lunch tacos and six named breakfast tacos on their menu, plus an additional seven tacos available as daily specials. However, thirty-seven tacos is a lot to keep track of.

Taking on the challenge of eating the menu gave me a reason to keep track of which tacos I'd tried and which I hadn't, ensuring that I'd experience all of that delicious life-spicing.

If only there were a way for others to keep track of their own quests to eat that menu...