Saturday, January 2, 2010

- Let's do brunch ... Hill Country style

The breakfast taco is a wonderfully civilized way to put a lot of great flavors and textures together. The palate is as varied as you choose to make it, and with a little advance planning, can make for a simple brunch where you actually get to sit down and enjoy your company.

Of course, in Texas we have the distinct advantage of having access to amazingly fresh food, even in the middle of winter. It’s one of the things I hoped would be true when we headed west, and we’re endlessly delighted by what makes it onto the table every day.

Freshly made flour tortillas are readily available at some of our grocery stores and are the basis for any good taco. However, refrigerated flour tortillas come close, with shelf-stable tortillas a distant third. Or you can make your own (just check the blog index for the recipe).

Fresh chorizo sausage is another Texas joy, found at the HEB (they don’t lie when they say “Here Everything’s Better”). Dried chorizo is a reasonable substitute, just remove the casings and dice it fine. Then there’s the Cotija cheese, (pronounced co-tee-ah). We found a "vaca rica" version that translates as “rich cow.” Ha! Wonder how much fat that has in it? It’s a lick better than the Cotija I used to buy at the Food Lion in Williamsburg, but that will do in a pinch.

Of course my favorite ingredients are the green, tan, and brown eggs from the Dripping Springs Farmers Market. Lucky us, even though the market has closed for the winter, the farmer gives us a call every couple of weeks asking if we want some eggs. It has a slightly illicit feel to it, but we happily go to pick up our stash whenever the opportunity presents itself.

By the way, the eggs were so beautiful that I couldn’t bear to crack them open and throw out the shells. So I carefully blew the insides out and several dozen ended up as Christmas ornaments on our tree this year.

Last, but not least, the produce doesn’t have to travel far to reach us, so Campari tomatoes, jalapenos, organic cilantro, and blissfully ripe avocados are standard occupants in the fridge. Life is good indeed.

Sadly, no pictures were taken the day we had everyone over for breakfast tacos, but since Meliss requested the frittata recipe I figured it was worth a blog. We regret that the Walkers are currently shivering through 6 degree weather in St. Louis. Maybe a Sunday brunch will banish the chilblains and bring back warm memories of the day we played Bagg-o and got sunburned … in December!

Pico de Gallo

Diced Campari tomatoes (or grape tomatoes if you can’t find Camparis)
Finely diced jalapeno (remove seeds and inner membrane with a spoon if you want to lessen the fire)
Finely diced red onion
Chopped cilantro
Lime juice
Kosher salt

I know … no amounts here, but you really can’t do this wrong,

Chorizo Frittata

8 oz. cream cheese (low fat works, ‘though it's sorta pointless here)
8-12 oz. Cotija
Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (canned)
9 large eggs
¾ cup flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup shredded cheese (Mexican mix, Colby, Monterey Jack, whatever)
12 oz. small curd cottage cheese (I used low fat, also sorta pointless)
¼ lb. chorizo sausage (bulk, or taken out of casings and diced)

The night before, melt cream cheese and shredded Cotija together with a couple of diced chipotle chilies and some adobo sauce. This will not make good queso (which is what I was originally trying to make), although it won’t hurt to dunk a few chips in to be sure it tastes okay. Put in a bowl and refrigerate overnight. Cut into cubes once it's firmed up.

Pan fry chorizo until cooked through and set aside.

Beat eggs, then whisk in flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in cottage cheese, shredded cheese, cubed Cotija/cream cheese, and chorizo. Pour into a 9” x 13” casserole sprayed with Baker’s Joy. Bake at 350 … start watching after 30 minutes and take out when set in the middle.

Breakfast Tacos

Flour tortillas (figure on two 6-8” tortillas per person, more if you’re really hungry)
Frittata sliced into tortilla-long fingers (or scrambled eggs if you want to keep it simple)
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Pico de gallo
Avocado wedges
Optional: scallions, potatoes, bacon, sausage, leftover grilled meat or veggies, shrimp … the list is limited only by your imagination

Alternate tortillas with damp paper towels. Nuke in the microwave for 20 seconds on high to warm the tortillas. Flip the stack and repeat if necessary.

Put out the ingredients and let everyone build their own tacos to taste.