A few months back, a Tin Lizzy’s Cantina opened up next door to my job. Don’t worry about my job, just let me tell the story. I think the whole thing was a setup from the jump; maybe a corporate man, who doesn’t really care for tacos OR tequila but still shows up to collect paychecks, got drunk ON tequila and thought, “You know who likes to drink? Jarred likes to drink. I bet if we put a store next to his job, which makes him miserable—the job, not our store–he’ll walk out every night zombie-ing for the nearest beer. AND WE’LL HAVE THAT NEAREST BEER.”
And they promoted that guy, I’m sure.
Anyway, every year they have a contest where the public is duped into doing the company’s market research. “Come up with a new taco, because we can’t.” Cool. The world loves tacos. Once they beer’d me up, I had this fantasy of winning the contest, and they put me in a big box where a high-powered fan blasts money and tacos and glory all around me, and I grab as much of it as I can, and the crowd cheers, and I forget about all the times I yelled at someone and was wrong, the chilly night when that girl yanked my pants down in front of a dozen people, quitting college twice and all my student loan debt, dropping my drumstick at the flashy finish of my totally badass solo at the end of “Old Man River,” and running history’s most determined backyard touchdown only to be hugged by my dad and told I ran the wrong way. When I step out of the box, my boss is standing there and I go “YEAH BITCH. TACOS. I AM SMART AND I AM STILL PASSIONATE AND YOU STILL OWE ME AN APOLOGY FOR—“ Okay, sorry, on with the real story.
My gripe with this taco contest is that there were no stipulations, rules, or guidance given on the webpage where you would submit your dream taco. Okay, my gripe is that I didn’t win, but I didn’t win because of that excuse I just gave. Hear me out. When my beautiful bartender friend told me to enter the contest, my immediate thought was “Something something pineapple, basil…slaw? Something something.” It was an experiment that jumped out at me, and I ran with it like it was a football clutched by my childhood self who just wanted, NEEDED to beat my older brother; no second-guessing, no direction, no real grasp of the rules of the game. Shout out to my big bro.
Let me tell you here, before we get to my taco, about the four finalists’ tacos. Because, yes, with arms crossed and a face that no longer shows defeat, I ordered all four. To try. To judge. Oh, to judge. And this is why they all suck:
THE ALOHA. Pulled pork, island slaw (pff it’s one of the same two slaws they prepare every day), barbecue sauce, diced pineapple. This taco came the closest in similarity to mine. But it isn’t good. It really isn’t good.
THE CRUNCHY AVOCADO. This taco is a hodgepodge of vegetarian bullshit. Lettuce, black beans…I don’t remember, because the absence of meat made my brain only somewhat operational. Like Jurassic Park. Samuel L. Jackson went to fix the problem and…well, you saw it. Seriously, while eating it, I didn’t know what the hell it was. Build a taco buffet, stick a veg-head in it, lock the door; at some point, in between your REAL lunch break and your junk food breaks and your afternoon nap, you’ll check the monitor and see this taco being made. In fact, you’ll see it being made probably every couple of hours because your imprisoned test subject’s body is desperate for sustenance. And crunchy?? The avocado is fried. Have you ever had a crunchy avocado? Yeah, me either. Even unripe and rolled in panko crumbs, which this one is not, an avocado is not coming up crunchy. Not to mention that by breading and frying, you just ruined the fruit’s chances of being the healthy alternative to caveman meat tacos. By the way, the name “avocado” comes from the Nahuatl word that was colloquially used to mean “testicle.” So I suggest eating two of these if you bother.
THE ASIAN INVASION. This one…y’all, this one…makes me MAD. It was “created” by a duo of attractive, white, Buckhead Betty-looking chicks…who, excuse me for saying, must have been giving that promoted corporate man some of that buckhead. THIS TACO WAS ALREADY ON THE MENU. It is the Chop Chop Shrimp, and it’s good, and it’s one of the featured items with a photo. They just added fried avocado to it. Here we go again with the fried avocado. I guess all of us who didn’t win this contest missed the part on the submission form about putting fried avocado and/or Asian slaw on our creations.
THE BIG TEXAS. My money is on the Big Texas to win the grand prize, and yours should be too. Not because it’s anything close to original—it isn’t—but because it’s the only tasty one out of the four. Steak, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, fried jalapenos, fried onions. Sounds good, right? That’s because we, as Americans, already know that this is good; we get it at every BBQ and burger joint across this great, lazy nation. I was genuinely shocked that this combination of flavors and ingredients was not already in a taco on the menu.
Here it is:
Until further notice, all pics are from my own phone and so look terrible.
But what I did was, strategically, create something new and uncommon from ingredients I knew Tin Lizzy’s keeps on hand. I made a slaw. They prep two different slaws every day, so what’s the harm in a third? It’s unorthodox, but it’s simple, and it’s damn good when you slop it on some pulled pork.
PINEAPPLE BASIL SLAW
Oh, you don’t think that sounds good? Well, one day there was a French man who wrote a book about molecular gastronomy and wine. In a chapter about the shared volatile compounds of strawberries and pineapple, he listed several “complementary foods.” On that list was basil. It stuck out to me, and I went for it. And with the right balance, it works. So there. Pff and my boss says my passion is gone…
Take 8oz cabbage of your liking. Slice it, chop it, green, red, I don’t care. Honestly for this application, I prefer to just get a bag of angel hair slaw at the grocery store. This does not reflect on my passion. Oh, by the way, I’m a cook.
A slaw needs dressing. I should mention here that making coleslaw is one of my favorite pastimes. It’s easy and, if you make it delicious, it’s delicious. There is something very therapeutic about making coleslaw. Look up the etymology—it’s an interesting read if you’re a food and language nerd like me. Anyway, the dressing:
¼ cup seasoned rice vinny
¼ cup pineapple juice
1 tsp mayo (yes, that little; this is not a mayo based slaw)
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Tabasco, or as much or little as you like. However, herein lies a story. Tin Lizzy’s only carries Cholula hot sauce, therefore, the slaw for my entry taco contained Cholula, not Tabasco. I was giving a weaker product. Cholula is made from a watered-down paste of Arbol and Piquin peppers, while Tabasco is made from…tadaaaa, Tabasco peppers. All are relatively close on the Scoville scale, between 15,000 and 30,000 units. Tabasco, however, is a purer product. Like, Heisenberg blue meth pure.
So now dice up 1 cup of pineapple chunks.
Then chop 1 tsp of fresh basil.
Actually, if you’re using just one cutting board, chop the basil before the pineapple. Trust me.
Now mix all that stuff together and you have the slaw. Put it in the fridge RIGHT NOW. We are being ServSafe. We’re also letting it rest and meld. This is crucial for any kool salade (you didn’t look up the etymology yet, huh?).
As I’m typing this, my house is being overtaken by the comforting aroma of a Boston butt in the slowcooker. Did you know that in this case, “butt” does not mean the loveliest part of a woman’s body? It’s a pig shoulder, but it was carried in barrels called butts. Shout out to my hero, Alton Brown. You can cook pork any way you like, but the slowcooker is what is available to me at this time. Oh, and the oven. A little salt and pepper, maybe some garlic, maybe “a dash of chili P” (can you tell I was a Breaking Bad fan?), it’s really up to you. Well, in my professional opinion, I would say if you don’t have a grill or a smoker or matches to light a stick fire, go to your friend’s house who does. Get some kind of char on that meat. You’ll be happy you did. Really, the real trick would be to prep this stuff today, put it together tomorrow. Really. And at that point you need tortillas, and the rest just seems so natural.
Tortilla, pork, slaw. And that’s how you make
THE RADIANT PIG. A taco that is “T double E double R double I double F double I double C C C.”
Yes that’s a book of Poe. We get drunk and weird in this house.