Mavericks, All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down
In 1980s when I worked the line at Trumps in LA (no connection to the orange guy), my shift started at 5:00 pm and ended at 1:00 am. After six hours of cooking, smelling, and wearing truffle-infused duck breast, grilled lobster, and bourbon-laced mushroom pasta, the last thing I wanted to do was to eat any of it. Family meal was prepared by the cooks and served out of large metal bowls to ravenous servers but the kitchen staff seldom had time to pause and reflect, so aside from professional tastes along the way, cooks left work hungry.
Not far from restaurant row in West Hollywood, a few taco trucks parked in the alley behind Melrose—that’s where the cooks ate after work. All the trucks served $.99 tacos, some expanded their menus to include chili rellanos, bowls of chilaquiles, and deep-fried churros—and our favorite one served birria tacos. Birria tacos were made with griddle-fried corn tortillas stuffed with shredded beef and cheese, and served with a small paper cup of birria soup. So you dunked the taco into the paper cup, tilted your head into taco position, and smiled as the juice dripped down your arm. Before I lived in Los Angeles, the only Mexican food I knew came out of a box or was eaten off scorching hot plates filled with reddish rice, gluey beans, and cheesy enchiladas, so tongue tacos, poblano quesadillas, and birria were a revelation.
When I quit working the night shift, a good night’s sleep replaced my late-night LA Mexican food adventures. Then we moved back home to the Northwest where tacos trucks were a dream and birria tacos, a tasty memory. So imagine my delight, when driving along Martin Way (I’m certain now that the soul of Lacey lies across the street from the Bud Barn, between Oki’s Barbershop and Miss Moffett’s Magical Bakery), I saw a banner announcing the existence of BIRRIA. Last week when Ginny came for a lunch adventure, we headed straight for the soul of Lacey to have birria at El Itacate.
Ginny ordered a bowl of birria soup and I had birria tacos—both were beyond delicious. Ginny let me dunk my taco in her bowl of juice and still took soup home, added noodles, and Bob’s your uncle—there was dinner. So if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by 9018 Martin Way East and try a birria taco, some Camarones Al Mojo de Ajo, Quesadilla Tinga, or Pozole—just give me a jingle and I’ll meet you there.
Today’s recipe isn’t about birria, but is a fairly easy way to enjoy an American-Mexican wet burrito.
Creamy chicken wet burritos
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut up and softened
- 3 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
- 8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
- 2 (8-ounce) packages Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 2 cups whipping cream
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add onion, and sauté 5 minutes. Add green chiles; sauté 1 minute. Stir in cream cheese and chicken; cook, stirring constantly, until cream cheese melts.
Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons chicken mixture down center of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas, and place, seam side down, in a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese, and drizzle with whipping cream.
Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes.
Thanks, Nancy, for introducing me to the Mavericks.