NOTE: This recipe is from Stephen Ceideberg, the narrative in the preparations text is Stephens'. It's a good example of a recipe that has some really long text.
I've decided to share (at long last) the only two recipes I can call my own. Both these were developed before I really knew how to cook, in times of poverty (which seems to come and go with alarming regularity). They're good and cheap, an unbeatable combination. Here's number one... Copious quantities of ice cold beer is the best accompaniment for this. This dish is a truly international one and bears little resemblance to anything from either Sweden (I'm part Swedish hence the name) or Mexico. The inspiration is Mexican, the utensils and some of the techniques used are Chinese, the ingredients are all-American (with the exception of the tortillas). It's "peasant food" in the best tradition cheap, full of flavor, healthy and satisfying. I cooked these so often that I got to where I could knock out a complete, filling dinner even with the frozen hamburger in less than half an hour. Follow the recipe closely at least the first time to see what it's s'pposed to taste like. I've never had anyone dislike this recipe, with the possible exception of a vegetarian or two. Slice and dice first. Put everything into separate serving dishes as you cut 'em. Smash the garlic cloves, remove the skins and mince coarsely. Chop the onions into pieces about a quarter to half an inch square. Dice or slice the hot chilies. Grate the cheddar on the side of the grater with the big round holes. Cut the tomatoes into chunks about the same size as the onions or a little larger. Shred the lettuce finely into strips maybe 1/8 inch wide. The essence of this dish is textured savoriness. The sharp cheddar, hot chilies, and yellow onions all contribute without overpowering one another. The tomatoes, besides adding a nice acidy zing, also give moisture. But the key to the savoriness and to the unique taste of the dish lies in the first two steps involving the garlic, onions and hamburger. Cheap hamburger is used because it has a high fat content and lots of taste. I've made this with chopped sirloin and the like and believe me, the result is definitely inferior to using the cheap stuff. Now that you've got everything sliced, diced and chopped you can start cooking. Actually, I usually do these first couple of steps prior to doing most of the cutting. That speeds things up a bit. Heat a wok over high heat and put in a nice dollop of peanut oil about 2 tablespoons or so. Let it heat for a minute then toss in the minced garlic, followed a second or two later by about 2/3rds of the chopped yellow onion the rest goes on the table, raw. Right about now, it's gonna start smelling good in the ol' kitchen. Stir the onions and garlic and reduce the heat to medium. Take the frozen hamburger out of its wrapping and put it in the wok as is. Smoosh it down and push the onions and garlic out of the way so the surface of the frozen hamburger is in contact with the hot surface of the wok. If you haven't already whacked up everything else, now's the time to get on that. As the hamburger browns, scrape off the done surface with a slotted spoon or spatula of some sort. This goes on during the whole cooking time. Flip the block of meat over and scrape off the browned bits. Let the other side brown a bit then repeat the process. The idea is to brown both the onions and the garlic well. Big no-no's, I know, but I was young and ignorant and what did I know. As it turns out it was a happy mistake. The browned onions and garlic give an nice sharp, distinctive savoriness to the finished dish. I salt the meat periodically while it's cooking. The reason for using frozen hamburger is that when it's all finally cooked, you'll have bits of meat ranging all the way from well done and crunchy to nearly raw. This gives a very interesting texture and deepens the range of tastes. You may need to lower the heat under the wok toward the end to avoid over cooking the meat. And the bits will all be steeped in the wonderful juices from the cooking onions and garlic. Sometimes I drain the meat at the end of cooking, sometimes I don't. It depends on how fatty the meat is. These should have taste, but not be greaseburgers. You should be through chopping the rest of the stuff about the time the meat gets done. Now's the time to tackle the tortillas. I prefer soft tortillas over the deep fried, crunchy shells. I use an old, cast iron griddle that fits over two burners. I heat the griddle over a medium fire, then pour a bit of olive oil onto it. This doesn't add any taste, but the aroma while the tortillas are cooking is heavenly! I warm two tortillas at a time, flip them over and let them cook a bit more. As they're done, I put them on a plate covered with pot lid to keep them warm. Soon as the tortillas are done, put everything on the table in the individual bowls and dig in. Everyone assembles their own tacos according to their tastes. My method is to put on a layer of meat not too thick, then a layer of the chopped hot chilies, a layer of cheddar, a layer of chopped raw onions, then tomatoes and finally a layer of iceberg lettuce. Just before folding I anoint the whole mess liberally with Tabasco sauce. I've also used Jamaican Pickapeppa sauce and it's quite good on these too. Season with salt during assembly if you like. The finished dish is an incredible medley of tastes and textures, each distinct and flavorful, with at least two distinct kinds of hotness. Great food that you eat with your fingers. What could be better? Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; August 25 1992.
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