What’s in a name and spicy barbacoa beef tacos with cabbage and jalapeno-cilantro aioli

I think I can safely say that most people know their drugs by the most common brand or generic names (i.e., Tylenol, Motrin, Sudafed, Vicodin, levothyroxine, etc).  But did you know that medications actually have not two, but three names?  Yes.  That’s right.  THREE.

If it isn’t already hard enough to remember the names of the brand and generic names, let alone pronouncing the generic names (i.e., acridinyl anisidide… try saying that 5 times).  But there is actually a third name just to confuse you even more. Each drug has a brand name (or proprietary name), generic name (or non-proprietary name), and lastly, the chemical name.

The chemical names are derived from rules established by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).  The rules allow chemists and scientists to name it so that any other chemists/scientists can identify the structure based on the chemical name.  To simplify the chemical name is where the generic name comes into the picture.  So when a drug manufacturer develops a new drug, they start with the chemical name, give it a generic name, and then a brand name.

Check this:

Chemical name: 1-[4-ethoxy-3-(6,7-dihydro-1-methyl-
7-oxo-3-propyl-1H-pyrazolo[4,3-d]pyrimidin-5-yl)
phenylsulfonyl]-4-methylpiperazine
Generic name: Sildenafil citrate
Brand name: Viagra

Such a long and hard chemical name, right?  No pun intended.  Okay, maybe just a little bit.  Heehee :)

This is an interesting lesson, right?  Or maybe not?  I can geek out on this stuff all day, which is probably a good thing being a pharmacist and all.

Alright, enough of the boring stuff.  Let’s get to the good stuff!…

Barbacoa Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Jalapeno-Cilantro Aioli (adapted from Food.People.Want)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lime juice
4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil oil
4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves
Jalapeno-Cilantro Aioli
Cabbage
Warm tortillas

Preheat the oven to 275°.

Combine the apple cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles WITH adobo sauce, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, clove, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth. Set aside.

Dry the roast all over with paper towels, cut away any excess fat and slice the meat into 4 evenly sized pieces. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a very large, oven-proof pot set over high heat. Working in batches, sear the beef on all sides until deeply browned, about 10 minutes. [You don't want to sear all the meat at one time or else it will steam rather than sear.  You want the sear.]

Add the chicken stock first to “deglaze” the caramelized bits at the bottom of the pot, and stir for one minute.  Then add the chile puree and bay leaves to the pot and stir until the beef is well-coated, and bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, about 5 minutes, and then cover the lid with tin foil and add the lid to create a very tight seal. [This is to ensure that the moisture doesn't escape too quickly during the long braising process.]  Place the pot in the oven and braise the meat for 5-6 hours, removing the lid during the last hour or so to allow the simmering liquid to reduce slightly.

Allow the beef to cool slightly, spoon off any easily removable fat from the braising liquid and then use two forks to pull/shred the beef into bite size pieces.

Serve spooned onto warm corn tortillas with cabbage and drizzled with some jalapeno-cilantro aioli, or your favorite taco toppings.

Makes about 20 tacos.

Roasted Sweet Potato Cube Skewers with a Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli Dip

roasted sweet potato, sweet potato, cubed sweet potato, roasted sweet potato skewers, sweet potato skewers

My first introduction to fine dining (which I wouldn’t call fine dining anymore nowadays) was when my parents took us to Max’s Bistro when I was in high school.  It was for no special occasion, but to try this restaurant that had just opened up, which was trying to introduce this town to “California cuisine.”  It was one of the only “upscale” restaurants that I could recall at that time when I was younger.  So we were all very excited.  We even got all dressed up for this non-special, special occasion.  We salivated as we looked over the menu.  I saw sweet potato fries with a cilantro-jalapeno aioli and begged my parents to order it.  They were a little reluctant partially because they aren’t too keen on appetizers, but also because the price tag on the dishes were a little high at that point in time for the city we live in.  But hellooooo?!  Fried sweet potatoes?!… Yes, please!  Anything with the word fries was magic to my ears (and it still is!).

Mmmmm.  Sweet potato french fries.  I can still recall how amazing it was the first time I tried a sweet potato fry… crispy panko coating on the outside, and just the right about of tenderness on the inside.  It was perfect.  But then dip it into that aioli, and oooooooh weeeeeee!  It was 100 times even more amazing.  The aioli was tangy, cilantro-y, and had just the right amount of heat from the cilantro.  Yum.  Unfortunately, the only thing that impressed us that night was the sweet potato fries, and dessert.

Coming from a family history of the restaurant business, I grew up with the mantra of “the customer is always right.”  Service.  It’s a really important part of any business dealing with customer relations.  In my humble opinion, if the service sucks, then the food sucks.  I know the logic may seem oversimplified to some, but it can really ruin the mood of a great meal.  If the entree costs more than $25, I expect to be wined and dined by the wait staff.  And of course, the service that night was snooty and unattenative, which completely turned my parents off.  My dad actually vowed never to go back to the restaurant because of the poor service, and he still hasn’t to this day.

I have found myself at the restaurant a few times here and there over the years for business and pleasure, and find the food a bit of a hit or miss.  But it’s those sweet potato fries and the aioli that I crave.  So I did what any other foodie would do, and that was to recreate one of my favorite appetizers.  But in a more healthy matter.  I still haven’t been able to bring myself to fry anything in the house.  I’m afraid of the smell of fried oil lingering around the house for days.  So I’d rather not.  But trust me, I really want to fry foods like fries and chicken.  I’ve tried the oven-“fried” sweet potato fries, but we weren’t a big fan of them.

My solution… roasted sweet potato cubes.

Roasted Sweet Potato Cube Skewers with a Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli Dip

3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Paprika
Salt and pepper
Skewers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Dice the potatoes into 1 inch cubes.   Place the cubes in a medium sized bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with paprika, salt and pepper.   Toss with hands to coat evenly.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.   Roast for about 30 minutes, or until tender, but slightly crispy in the outside.   Stir the sweet potatoes once or twice during roasting.   Remove from oven, and allow to cool just enough to be easily handled.  Skewer the cubes, and enjoy with your favorite dip!

Cilantro-Jalapeno Aioli

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise (we really like the Trader’s Joe brand)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded (if you like it less spicy) and chopped
Juice of one lime, plus more to taste
Salt, to taste

In a food processor, combine the mayonnaise, cilantro, and jalapeno; pulse until smooth. Remove the mayonnaise and pour into a bowl. Add half of lime juice and salt, to taste. If you like it more citrusy, add more lime juice, which is how we like it. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving to allow all the flavors to develop. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

This is the perfect prescription for sweet potato fries, or with fish or shrimp tacos.

Makes about 1 cup of aioli.

Baked Tilapia Fish Tacos

I love a good Baja fried fish taco with cabbage, crema, and a fresh squeeze of lime juice.  I can eat six tacos in one sitting, which may not seem like much to some, but I’m usually pretty full by number three.  Everything just tastes better when you overindulge!  I haven’t had a fried fish taco in a really long time.  Mainly it’s because I am on a weight loss kick and on my way to reaching my goal weight, but also because of wanting to eat more healthy.  So I really try to limit my fried foods intake.  I know, I know.  What kind of foodie am I?!  A healthy one who will indulge in bad foods from time to time :)

I hate to deep fry foods at home.  However, at one point – probably at my most unhealthiest – I entertained the idea of buying an electric Fry Daddy to fry anything and everything.  Luckily, I never purchased the item.  Now the idea of deep frying at home disgusts me.  The smell of deep fried oil lingering in the house for days as it clings on to every surface of the house.  The clean up of splattered oil on the kitchen counters, back splash, and floors.  Reusing the oils to fry a few times later sounds vile.  And finding empty cans or containers to discard the used oils is painful enough.

I’d rather sear, simmer, broil, poach, grill or roast to attain the desired yummy end product.  I’ll pan fry with a little oil from time to time, but I never deep fry foods.  Instead, I’ve gotten very creative at using the oven to “fry” things.  And a fish taco just happens to be one of them!

This recipe embodies all the goodness of a crunchy fish taco minus all the fatty calories!  So for those of you who are calorie conscious, this recipe just might be for you.

4 tilapia or cod fillets sliced into strips
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dash of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
Small white corn tortillas
Napa cabbage, shredded
Limes, cut into wedges
Jalapeno-cilantro aioli

Pre-heat oven to 500.  Place cookie sheet in oven to pre-heat as well.

Combine the fish, olive oil and lime juice in a in ziploc bag to marinate for about 10-20 minutes.  This marinade gives it a nice lime-y flavor.

While the fish is marinating, blend together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper, cayenne and paprika in a shallow dish.

Remove the fish and shake off excess lime juice and then coat with the flour/cornmeal mixture.  Place fish on HOT baking sheet that has been sprayed with PAM or olive oil, and cook for approximately 5 minutes.  Flip the fish on its other side and bake for another 5 minutes.  To note, this method of cooking does not make the fish crunchy as it would if you fried or or pan-fried it.  It just has a small hint of a crunchy texture.

Conversely, if you don’t want to bake the fish, you could also pan fry the fish fillets in a little extra virgin olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Of course the cooking time also depends on the thickness of your fish fillets.  Remove the fish from the pan and place on a towel-lined plate to absorb the excess grease.

Heat the corn tortillas in a microwave, and assemble!  I usually place two fish fillets onto each tortilla, add some shredded cabbage, a little jalapeno-cilantro aioli, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Of course, you can add what ever you desire onto your fish taco.

This meal really is the easiest prescription for a quickly prepared meal if you are in a hurry, or if you just want something yummy.

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