Monday, August 3, 2009

Chico's Tacos

{A little sidenote first.

Hello everyone. I’m back. Slowly but surely I’m getting my mojo back after the last grueling month. I returned to El Paso Saturday night feeling drained and emotional. My Bobby made dinner and gave me a glass of White Zinfandel and sat with me allowing my silence to speak volumes. (And people ask me why I married this man. There’s no one that knows me better than him.)
My daughter is now settled in Dallas and looking for a job while she waits for the Fall semester to begin. My nineteen year old has two years left before getting her degree in Social Work. Bless her heart. She works hard – at school and to support herself. My son Mikey did the same thing. Even though I miss them both terribly, my heart swells with pride when I think of what they have accomplished and listen to their dreams for the future.

Why didn’t I post for the last 2 – 3 weeks? Well, helping my daughter pack and rummage through her stuff took a bit out of me. Plus, my computer crashed. Oh the joys of having two of our “kids” (Michael and Jenn) who are computer knowledgeable. After they got me up and running again, stupid Road Runner went down for 4 days. Signal was up for 10 minutes at a time and without a crystal ball, you had to be either glued to the keyboard or chance trying to log on every half hour or so. Then, of course, I left for Dallas for a week to be with my daughter and make sure she would move in to the apartment with a minimum amount of stress and to visit my son. }
Believe it or not, I had written this post about Chico’s right before the big “crash” but lost it in the process. So I’ve gone back to re-create it. Some of the informational links are a bit dated, but because it happened in my city and because I have strong opinions about it, I will post it none-the-less.

When you grow up with an iconic establishment, like Chico’s, and a situation arises like the one described below, you’re torn with wanting to ban them and wanting to eat their delicious food. Well, fret no more. You can still enjoy tasty Chico’s Tacos, just make them at home. Actually, they come out even better because you can adjust the filling to whatever amount you’re craving. Bernie Mora, owner of Chico’s, will NEVER reveal their secret recipe. But there are two recipes (quite similar) that I can give you and allow you to make them at home.

The first one comes from a delightful blog we found, Meemo’s Kitchen. Please go to her site, it’s absolutely wonderful. Karen “Pattie Kaykes”has “copycat” recipes from almost anywhere you can think of. Lily and I tried the Tony Roma’s Onion Loaf and it turn out superbly.

Here’s her recipe for the tacos.

Chico's-Style Tacos
Texas Highways Magazine By: Jim Peyton

Chico’s Tacos didn’t provide this recipe, but it’s close enough to the original that a transplanted El Pasoan has declared it a cure for the withdrawal symptoms she experienced after moving to Colorado
Yield: 4 servings
3/4 Pound ground beef (80-85% lean)
3/4 Teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 Large (or 4 small) jalapeños, stems removed
1/4 Cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 Teaspoon salt
12 Small corn tortillas
cooking oil
about 8 oz. finely grated, mild cheddar cheese

Combine raw ground beef and 1 c. water in a medium-size pot. Heat nearly to simmering, stirring to break up the meat, and add 3 1/2 c. water. Bring mixture to a simmer, skimming off any film that rises to the surface. Lower heat, add 3/4 tsp. salt and jalapeños, and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until jalapeños are soft. Strain mixture, reserving broth in a large pot. Set aside meat-chili mixture to cool.

Bring strained broth to a simmer, add tomatoes, and continue simmering for 2-3 minutes. Lower heat, keeping broth warm.

When meat-chili mixture has cooled, prepare jalapeño sauce: Remove meat, and set aside. Remove seeds and veins from jalapeños, if desired. Combine chilies, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 3/4 c. water in a blender, and purée; set aside.

Unless the tortillas are very fresh (they can be rolled up tightly without cracking or unrolling), you’ll need to soften them. (Fry one at a time in hot oil for 5-10 seconds, or just until softened; drain on paper towels.) Place a heaping tablespoon of cooked meat just off center of each tortilla, roll into tight cylinders, and secure in the middle with a toothpick. Using kitchen tongs, place tacos in 1/2-inch-deep hot oil; fry a few minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown, turning once. Drain well.

Place 3 tacos in each of 4 large, shallow soup bowls; ladle some reserved broth over them. Top each bowl with about 1/2 c. of cheese, and serve with jalapeño sauce.

The next one comes from my old coach at Bowie High School. You might recognize the name. Nolan Richardson.

“In 1985 Richardson became the head coach at the University of Arkansas, where he gained national recognition”

To read more about this incredibly talented man go to his home page. He truly was an inspiration to a lot of us “chicanitos” back in the barrio.

His recipe is featured in the Apovecho A Mexican American Border Cookbook.

Coach Nolan Richardson's Homemade Rolled Tacos
Makes 1 dozen rolled tacos

1 pound ground beef
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt, to taste
6 tomatoes
6 jalapeños
1 pound cheddar cheese
1 dozen corn tortillas
Vegetable oil

Cook the ground beef in a small amount of water. After the meat releases all the grease, drain it. Add garlic powder and salt to taste. When the meat is ready, set it aside. Boil tomatoes and jalapeños until soft. Put 5 of the boiled tomatoes in a blender and blend. Pour this mixture into a saucepan with water. Make the mixture as thin or as thick as you want it. Mix all 6 jalapeños with 1 tomato in the blender. Add 1 tablespoon of the jalapeño mixture to the sauce and add salt to taste. Grate the cheese. Place meat mixture in tortillas and roll them up. Fry in hot oil until rolled tacos are crispy. Pour the tomato-jalapeño sauce over the tacos. Cover with shredded cheddar cheese.

And now, for the Chico's controversy.

wikipedia says:

"Chico's Tacos is a small restaurant chain located in El Paso, Texas.
Founded on July 4, 1953 by boxing promoter Joe Mora, Chico's has entered into local legend for its rolled tacos, a special tomato soup-like sauce, as well as its low prices. Chico's Tacos has since expanded to five El Paso locations, primarily on the town's east side. Since Mr. Mora's 1992 death, the restaurants continue to be run by his surviving children.
Chico's Tacos is held in high regard by many past and current residents of El Paso; many former residents make it a point to visit when in town. Jim Ward of rock band Sparta has been noted as a fan along with all the members of the 1990s metal band Pissing Razors. Former WWE Superstar Eddie Guerrero used to frequent Chico's during High School (as seen in Cheating Death — Stealing life: The Eddie Guerrero Story). In 2003 the 78th Texas House of Representatives adopted a resolution (HR 84), introduced by El Paso representative Norma Chavez, honoring the Mora family and celebrating the restaurant's 50th anniversary. According to this resolution, other famous Chico's Tacos fans include comedian Paul Rodriguez, members of boy band 'N Sync, and boxer Oscar de la Hoya, who was handed a taco take out order by a fan before she kissed him during a news conference before his fight in the Sun Bowl.
In addition to its tacos, Chico's Tacos is also known for its hotdog which, unlike a traditional American hotdog, is served on a hamburger bun with two franks sliced in half lengthwise, topped with chili beans, mustard, and pickles."

Gay discrimination controversy

In July 2009, the restaurant made headlines for ejecting a group of five gay men, two of them for kissing. Police were called to uphold a city ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by businesses open to the public. Instead of upholding the ordinance, police threatened to cite the two gay men for "homosexual conduct," a crime from the Texas penal code that was limited to sodomy even before it was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.
Members of the city council told the police chief that they were unhappy with the handling of the incident, including a police spokesperson's claim that a restaurant could refuse service to anyone. The council had outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation beginning in 2003.

Two gay men kicked out of Chico's Tacos restaurant for kissing
By Andrew Kreighbaum and Darren Meritz / El Paso Times
Posted: 07/09/2009 12:00:00 AM MDT

EL PASO -- Two gay men kissed at a Chico's Tacos restaurant, prompting guards to eject them and a police officer to endorse their ouster.
Civil-rights lawyers say the security staff was out of line. Police, though, contend that a business such as a restaurant can refuse service to anybody, any time.
In all, five men were ordered to leave the restaurant. They say they were forced out by homophobic guards.
"It was a simple kiss on the lips," said Carlos Diaz de Leon, a gay man who was part of the group.
He called police at 12:30 a.m. June 29 because he said the guards and restaurant had discriminated against the group after two of his friends kissed in public.
The five men, all gay, were placing their order at the Chico's Tacos restaurant on Montwood when the men kissed. All five sat down, but the two guards at the restaurant told them to leave.
De Leon quoted one of the guards as saying he didn't allow "that faggot stuff" in the restaurant.
De Leon said they refused to leave and called police for help. He said an officer arrived about an hour later in response to calls from his group and the guards.
As they waited for police, the guards directed other anti-gay slurs at them, he said.
Already angry at the guards, de Leon and his group became angrier at the two police officers who arrived.
"I went up to the police officer to tell him what was going on, and he didn't want to hear my side," de Leon said. "He wanted to hear the security guard's side.

911 tapes give new details on Chico's Tacos confrontation
By Darren Meritz / El Paso Times
Posted: 07/21/2009 11:36:55 PM MDT
Gay Supporters Protest At Chico's Tacos

I would like to thank FoodBuzz and Jenn our beloved Left-over Queen for highlighting and promoting my cookbook this month. Four books will be given away during the month of August. Good luck!

Have a wonderful day dear friends. And thank you for being so supportive while I ranted on facebook. Being an empty nester leaves a void that must be filled. I’m taking my time in rediscovering myself and formulating new dreams and visions. Big hugs to all.

As for Chico's, it's a sad situation when our personal intolerances keep us from respecting one another because of our differences and uniqueness.

Enough with the politics, on with the food. Enjoy.


Kelly said...

I'm happy to hear foodbuzz is promoting your cookbook. You definitely deserve it. Thanks for the context as always. You always share so much good information about the dishes.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Congratulations on the book and on getting the internet back.

Coach Nolan's recipe looks wonderful.

I'm beyond disgusted at the lack of tolerance in this country and glad you highlighted and commented on the controversy at Chico's. Thank you for that!

girlichef said...

Wow!! That was quite a post. Informative and delicious and food for thought. I saw that your cookbook is being promoted...hope I win ;) Welcome back!

ValleyWriter said...

I just wanted to stop by and say congrats on the release of your cookbook. That's so awesome!! I wish you all the best for great success!

Adam said...

Whew, you finally came back! I'm glad everything worked out with your daughter, and I know you're a bit stressed, but it'll be ok. They are good kids :)

Thanks for the taco recipes, and I like the stories surrounding the restaurant. I haven't thought about Eddie in years, he was a good athlete, too bad about him...

ARLENE said...

I am so happy for you, amiga, and so happy to have you back. These tacos look so incredible.

Lepkugen said...

Welcome back! Great post, and the food is certainly droolworthy! We finally have a break from the 100+ degree days so I am thinking a round of shredded pork enchiladas is in order -- and reading your delicious entry just confirms that!!!

Ben said...

Eeek! I can't believe they did that. A taqueria shouldn't take the lead in politics :-\ Anyway, the tacos look good. And there's a review of your book coming up soon on my blog. There just aren't enough hours in a day :-S

lily said...

I do miss chicos..I think we'll have to make some this week. =) love you momma

Reeni♥ said...

Big *HUGS* Teresa!!

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