Monday, I came home from work with a splitting headache. A nap didn’t cure it. Then it was my turn with Jasper so Karen could take a bath. I needed to cook dinner, my head still throbbed, and the baby was inconsolable about his teeth coming in. It was a bad scene. On the menu, soy-chorizo tacos with sauteed shredded cabbage, yellow pepper and red onion with handmade tortillas. Why would I come up with this considering the circumstances?
Since my bag of masa harina was a “manager’s special” item at Kroger, I was especially excited to use it. Mixing warm water and corn meal only takes a second, but Jasper wouldn’t let me roll the dough into balls. Mamamamamammamamama!!!!! is all I heard as he pulled back and forth on the newly child-proofed cupboards. The two of us battled back and forth with songs and cries and eventually I got the tortilla balls rolled and covered with a damp cloth. Sauteing needed to happen next, but Jasper went into meltdown mode, which you can imagine is extra unpleasant during a migraine episode. Signs overhead read, “Accident ahead. Two hour delays expected.”
Jasper and I both felt like this.
So, we nearly had a father/son field trip to the loony bin. Rather than tempting you to rubberneck at the gory details of a nervous breakdown, lets fast forward. Karen’s back and she’s got the baby. Suddenly, I’ve got both hands for micro-slicing the onions and peppers (god, I love my mandonlin/v-slicer). The slaw was from a bag, another “manager’s special,” and the Soy-rizo was not the $2.99 Melissa brand from Kroger, but the $1.99 Trader Joe’s knock off. I could feel my mood starting to lift. If you’ve never worked with this fake chorizo, be careful. Although it is spicy, the issue is the copious leaking electric orange grease that goes everywhere once you open the package (it even escapes from ziplock bags in the meat/cheese drawer). I sauteed all of this together with a diced pickled jalapeno (de-seeded).
While that stuff cooked in a non-stick mini-wok stir-fry pan, I pressed the tortillas using una machina and dropped them on a scalding hot griddle. The mechanical device let me take a little frustration out and the griddle gave off a cathartic sizzle and a release of steam. This process of shifting tortillas, and presses, and spatulas all in a circular motion brought some calm to my nerves. There was a transference of temperature as the hot stove (and a cold beer) dialed down my blood pressure.
One by one the hot corn discs went into a make-shift tortilla warmer (two $1 oven mits from Target sewn together). As I occasionally stirred the faux meat and veggies in the fry pan, they became coated with a thin layer of glistening orange fat. Wondering if I needed to add a dash of chipotle chili powder, I took a taste. Bamm! Did you know Emeril makes those annoying sounds to cure his blues? Now I get it. This taco filling was amazing. Sweet and deeply spicy with that full flavor that chorizo imparts (in this case, minus the various notes that only miscellaneous meat parts can provide). The slaw and peppers gave it a little bit of crunch, complimenting the chewy soysage. It was a miracle. In my mind, there wasn’t a trace of guttural baby tantrum trauma remaining. My capillaries cleared the way for improved blood flow to the brain, a unique effect of the capsacium in spicy peppers.
In the distance we’ve got salad greens
with fresh lime juice and Lucini olive oil (and a Yuengling).
Seeing the elements of a meal come together is a healing thing. Working through a routine and achieving truly tasty results makes the soul smile. It got me thinking about why I keep coming back to food on this blog, when I could just write about clearance bins, baby pictures, 30 lb pugs, and ultimate fighting. That would probably be satisfying to me as well, but not like food. Nothing casts a canopy of shelter over the day like a nourishing and memorably flavored meal (okay, maybe there is a rival in this respect). The feeling is addicting. But, it’s even better when shared with others.