Taco Night – Done Right

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Please welcome Will Halsey, a new contributor to Do Again. We hope you enjoy his special ode to Taco Night. Not only does this post include a mighty delicious recipe for tacos, but also includes a review of a special spice blend , AND a great beer pairing as well. For more information about Will and his blog, please go the About Us page to read his bio. We look forward to more posts from him in the future! So Will, please take it away. . .

First, I need to let you know that I am in grad school. That makes me poor (relatively). But being poor doesn’t mean you can’t make a ‘do again.’

Taco nights are a cornerstone of cheap, time-friendly, family-centric meals. They are easy to make and a variety of toppings lets everyone have fun, while also getting exactly what they want.

However, good tacos, at least those worthy of a Do Again, require two important things:

1) Flavorful meat

2)  A really good sauce or salsa

But first things first. What is the best friend of someone cooking on tight budget, besides beans and rice? A slow cooker.  Slow cookers allow for any cheap meat (pork ribs, shoulder, any cut of chicken, beef trimmings for stew, etc, to magically, over time become tender, fall-apart goodness. As well, slow cookers are easy to clean and recipes require very little maintenance, once the food is inside. If you don’t own one, get one.

I wanted to make a big batch of food that would last a long time and could be multipurpose in its uses. Enter in, the Chicken Tinga. This slow cooked, mexican-style pulled chicken can be used in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, in salads, with rice and beans, as an appetizer or  just eaten by itself.

For this dish, you make a sautéed spice mixture that is added to the slow cooker with the raw chicken. Once hours have passed, you pick the chicken apart.

Slap Ya MamaMy secret flavor weapons are – Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning and apple cider vinegar. This awesome spice mixture from the bayou kicks everything up a notch, and the apple cider vin also brightens up the flavor. Finally, by sauteing everything, the flavors intensify and form crispy edges on your pulled chicken that add a wonderful crunch.

Finally, if you want to personalize the dish, you can add extras, such as sautéed veggies, pineapple or cheese (like pepper jack). Half of the fun of cooking is making it your own. So feel free to be creative.

Every good taco/burrito/whatever needs one more thing and that is a sauceIt’s all about the sauce. My sauce is a riff on chipotle mayo, but it tastes way better and is even healthier. It’s plain, non-fat greek yogurt, lime juice and hot sauce (I use Chalula). The tartness of this sauce cuts the heat of the spice like sour cream, but then elevates all the flavors on your palate. The goal here is umami.  Also it has no fat, so you don’t end up with the greasy, gloppy mess that chipotle mayo often brings.

Taco’s are delicious, and food comas can be comforting, but nobody enjoys a post meal feeling of self-hatred (see – eating two chipotle burritos back to back).

For the taco itself I prefer frying up some corn tortillas but you can use flour ones if you like. Also important are an arrangement of toppings. I prefer  simple and fresh (as opposed to over loaded). I slice a few red onions, chop some tomatoes and sprinkle on some cilantro. All these flavors go well together, but you could also include some fresh purple cabbage for an added textural crunch.

Finally to pair with your tacos, you need one more thing.

Beer. 

Noble Pils I never thought I would see the day I would give my support for Sam Adams, but the brewery has come a long way since the Boston Lager. Enter in the Noble Pils – Sam Adams’ take on the pilsner. But this isn’t your average pilsner, which normally doesn’t taste like too much beyond straw, biscuits, and perhaps a whisper of hops. Noble Pils surprised me with a subtle, yet  beautifully  hoppy presence that makes this a pleasure to drink. It is clean, refreshing, but manages to balance its superb hop flavors well.

Skip the Corona, Sol, Dos Equis, Pacifico, Modello or even Tacate. For a dish like this, you want to enjoy every aspect and not just drink something to wash it all down. Having a slightly hoppy beer allows you to keep the spiciness of this dish at bay and the pilsner-style means two things: the hops won’t dominate your mouth and it will be low in alcohol, so you can have several!

Easy drinking and easy on the wallet. At $8.70 a six-pack this is easily one of the cheapest, flavor-filled “sixers” to pick up; I love when price meets quality.

Recipe

Chicken Tinga

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 Limes, juiced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbs chicken stock

 Spices

I just add the spices a dash at a time. Be careful when adding the cayenne pepper since it is potent, but the others you can sprinkle to your heart’s content. Personally, I like my chicken quite spicy.

  •  Chili Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Ground (dry) Mustard seed

Spicy Yogurt Sauce (low-fat)

  • 1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs hot sauce (I use Cholula)
  • 1 Tbs lime juice (half a lime)

You Will Also Need:

  • Corn Tortillas
  • Apple Cider Vinegar ( 1 Tbs vinegar per cup of pulled chicken)
  • Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning ( or other seasoning of your choice)
  • Red onion ( optional topping)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (optional topping)
  • Red Cabbage (optional topping)
  • Cheese (optional topping)
  • Guacamole (optional topping)

Instructions (chronologically)

1) Place chicken in slow cooker, add juice of 3 limes and place on high for  (3-4 hours) or low (5-6 hours).

2) Next, saute the onions  for 5 minutes, then add the jalapeno, garlic, and spices.  Continue to cook until onions begin to sweat and become translucent.

3) Add chicken stock, set burner to low and cook for 5-8 minutes more.

4) Add the mixture to slow cooker.

5) A half hour prior to chicken being done  is a good time to whip up your yogurt sauce and make your toppings. Just blend the ingredients together in a bowl and you are done! – Keep yogurt sauce refrigerated until serving time.

6) Once the chicken is cooked, pull apart tender, remove from slow cooker and, um,  pull apart. In a large bowl, add chicken and reserve slow cooker liquid for later.

7) Add in any extras to mixture that you might desire. (See my suggestions above)

8) Get two frying pans – one to cook the tortillas and one to cook the chicken.

9)  Add the chicken mixture to one pan, with apple cider vinegar and any seasoning (such as Slap Ya Mama) and set to medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken starts to get crispy edges,  remove it to a serving bowl and  set aside. Garnish with cilantro or green onions if you like.

– (Be careful not to burn or dry out your chicken – use the reserved slow cooker liquid to moisten your Chicken Tinga if needed)

10) In the other pan, start frying up  your tortillas. Place one inch of oil in the pan and heat on high. Once the oil is hot, dip the corn tortilla in the oil. Fry briefly on one side and then gently turn it over to crisp on the other side. You can crisp it up completely to make a tostada (flat taco) or cook it less time to keep it flexible (traditional taco). Or heat up your flour tortillas in a 250 degree oven, wrapped in aluminum foil for about 10 minutes to make them more flexible.

Set table with tortillas, Chicken Tinga and toppings and enjoy!

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Cabin Fever “Strikes” Big Time

Game Faces

Baby its cold outside and I am BORED. Two days of snow and no football this weekend while we all gear up for the Super Bowl – time to find a fun, warm, indoor activity to while away the hours. Why not go bowling?

About two months ago, the husband and I decided to go to Hard Rock Café at Foxwoods for lunch and afterwards took a stroll through their maze of corridors hoping to find something interesting to do. Having heard that there was a bowling/club establishment there, we went on the hunt.

 High Rollers is tucked away on a lower level of the casino near the Grand Pequot Hotel across from David Burke’s steakhouse. Look for the escalator to get to both.

Glitzy BowlingEven though we suck at bowling, we think it is fun. But, when there is a glitzy club-like atmosphere with chandeliers, dim lighting, and huge HDTVs scattered throughout, bowling is transformed into high entertainment.  After a good look around, we decided to come back with the kids to try the place out full-on.

The day of our test drive, the front area was filled with football fans. A huge TV was showing a Patriots game and all of the leather lounge chairs were filled with waitresses bustling around refilling glasses and serving food.

As we ventured deeper into the lounge, we found the U-shaped bar only half full, so decided to eat there. The service was friendly and the menu was creative, yet the food selections were still familiar enough that you knew you were in a bar.

I had the grilled salmon sandwich and homemade tater tots with truffle dipping sauce. Everyone else chose pizzas for their meals.  My sandwich was a little bit dry, but the tater tots were delicious. The pizza was a hit and Katie especially liked the spinach and artichoke pizza with boursin.

Waiting for a TurnAfter lunch, we moved over to our bowling lane, taking our refreshing adult beverages with us. Each lane is equipped with a computerized scoring system, leather couches and armchairs, and coffee table. The luxurious drapes and sparkling chandeliers add extra glitz while also providing an intimate environment, which is a nice thing to have when you aren’t exactly an amazing bowler.

What was especially surprising though was how reasonability priced both the food and bowling was. I expected to pay much more because of the surroundings and personal servers, but we didn’t. Thus, this joint is definitely worthy of Doing Again.

PS: There are also fabulous club-like bowling alleys like this in BostonCenter City Philly and just a little north of Center Philly as well. Having been to both of these places, I can attest to their worthiness as well.

Enjoy!

Heather

Doing New York City the Right Way

Just spent a wonderful overnight trip in New York again and thought I might give you a taste of what an event is like for the Beer Widow. First of all, you need to know that we got to the city via Philly instead of Connecticut. Having spent a fine Christmas in the City of Brotherly Love, we decided as a family unit to take on New York to see just how much we could pack into one 24 hour experience.

So, this is how it went down.

We drove into New York via the Lincoln Tunnel. This could have been a mess, but we had an EZPass so we whipped through all of the traffic quite efficiently. Thank god.

Blind Tiger

Blind Tiger

We got fairly cheap parking ($30/overnight), for Manhattan, on the upper West side and headed down to the West Village as fast as the C train could take us there. Around 3:00PM got off at 14th street and walked to 11th and Greenwich Street to visit The Spotted Pig for a snack. Had the Shoestring Fries, some marinated, warm olives and a refreshing adult beverage. Because the full menu wasn’t available due to the kitchen prepping for the dinner rush, we decided to move on down to our next favorite haunt – The Blind Tiger.

White Horse Tavern

White Horse Tavern

But, my son – a former NYC resident – waylaid us. On the way to The Bind Tiger, you walk past the White Horse Tavern. This pub was, the poet, Dylan Thomas’ haunt. My son stated that he had his last drink at the pub, went to his room at the Chelsea Hotel, and died. Not a real good PR campaign for a pub, but as we are always up for something off-beat, we decided to stop for a drink. AND, as it was an Irish pub, we felt compelled to have Jameson shots all around. Except for the daughter – she was being responsible. She did have a beer though. Fortunately, none of us died, so after this round, we headed onward to our next destination.

Murray's Cheese

Murray’s Cheese

The Blind Tiger was full to overflowing – shows how fabulous of a place it is – so we walked around Bleeker Street for a while, stopping in at Murray’s Cheese shop and the Pastry Shop across the street to get some macarons. You see, this wasn’t just a regular trip to NYC, it was my birthday and a big one at that. So, since I am not a cake fan, we went with macarons – a much better choice.

Mmmmm- macarons!

Mmmmm- macarons!

I got Pistachio, Tim and Doug got Salted Caramel, and Katie got Stawberry Poppy Seed. Now, these puppies weren’t cheap at $2.75 each, but are so decadent and less calories than cake, they were worth every cent. We decided to save them for later, so I tucked them into my pocket (in a cellophane bag, of course) and moved on out.

Blind Tiger was still too crowded, so we ate an early dinner at a Tratorria across the street. The dinner was good, but not great, so I won’t tell you the name since I don’t think it is worthy of “Doing Again.”

Instead of getting desert, remember, I have the macarons in my pocket, we decided to try the Blind Tiger again for one final time. And it worked! We all got a beer, the selection there is amazing, and then tromped back up to the Theater District for a play.

Sardi's martini - pre-show

Sardi’s martini – pre-show

Prior to the show, we stopped for drinks at Sardi’s before the show. Why do I always find myself running to shows? Could be those pre-theatre drinks. Oh well – could be worse!

We had planned this out a long time ago and purchased tickets to “The Glass Menagerie”, at the Booth Theater, hottest tickets in town right now. The show was awesome, the seats were fabulous, and at intermission we remembered the macarons and toasted a successful day!

With the curtain call over,  we are out the door heading back to the West Village. Why you say? Why to sing our hearts out at Marie’s Crisis!

Marie’s Crisis is the bar in the city for all of us Broadway musical junkies. This underground bar has a piano right in the middle with everyone, and I mean everyone, huddled around it singing every show tune you can think of. Place a few bucks in the jar and you get to pick your song. Or songs, depending on how much you give the piano man. And I am telling you, they know ALL of them. Have never seen the piano man stumped yet.

Well, we were in a rush because Shawn, my NYC GBF was waiting for us there. My husband and daughter had never been, so they were in for a surprise. This place is so popular that there was a line out the door – even at 11:30 in the evening. This might be because it was over Christmas break, but I can tell you, this place is always full. In any case, we finally connected with Sean, and sang the night away. My rendition of Tits and Ass was especially entertaining if I don’t say so myself. Finally, at around 2:00AM we decided to leave.

Pony Bar - 3 am

Pony Bar – 3 am

Did we go to our hotel room? Hell no, we went to the Pony Bar on 10th Ave! Yet another great beer bar! Unfortunately, we were quite hungry by then and upon entering the establishment, we discovered that they had just closed the kitchen 7 minutes earlier. Fortunately, the manager said I could bring food in, so the daughter and I hoofed it around the corner and ordered a falafel dinner from the Halal food truck right outside the bar. Best falafel I have ever had – I suggest you order the spicy rice too. Yum!

Finally, around 3:30, we decided to go to our hotel room. I know the city doesn’t sleep, but this woman does. Eventually.

So, all I can say is that the evening was a total success. We spent lunch the next day at The Beer Authority (great bar and restaurant) recanting all of our adventures. When it was all said and done, we hugged each other tightly, decided to meet up again in New Orleans in April to do that town right, and headed off for home – the kids to Philly and us to Connecticut.

Now that is how to do not only a birthday, but also New York City right.

Just realized, we weren’t even in town for 24 hours – we left at 1:30!

In any case, I highly suggest you try some of these places we went during our escapades. They are all, except for the Trattoria, well worth doing again. And again. And again.

Happy New Year!

Cheers!

Malted Barley – A Fine Watering Hole

Malted Barley

Malted Barley

One of our favorite Beer Bars is Malted Barley in downtown Westerly, Rhode Island. The owners, Colin and Steph, are friendly and have created a welcoming spot for thirsty, beer lovin’ people. And the pretzels are pretty awesome too!

The entire bar staff is knowledgable about beer, so there is no need to feel lost in the sea of delicious options they provide. If you want to sample a beer before purchasing, that is not only allowed, but encouraged. They feel, the more you know about good beer, the happier you will be. I know my husband agrees with that philosophy.

Great beer!

Great beer!

Each Wednesday they unveil a new cask beer. This past week it was from La Rulles brewery. In fact, on Wednesday not only did they have a new cask,  they also had a Firestone tap takeover, which was extremely well received by locals -code for the bar was packed. Colin told me that the next tap takeover will be from Six Point brewery located in NYC. Having tasted several of their products, I can attest that they are quite tasty and I fully expect Malted Barley to be hoppin’ that night as well.

Another great option the Barley has is their mini kegs. If you would like to enjoy one

Lauren, pouring a mini keg.

Lauren, pouring a mini keg.style of beer with several friends, you can order this keg, and they will fill it with whatever you desire from the taps. Much more fun than a pitcher.

style of beer with several friends, you can order this keg, and they will fill it with whatever you desire from the taps. Much more fun than a pitcher.

Getting hungry? No worries there – Malted Barley has a small, yet tasty menu of pretzels, both plain and stuffed, and pretzel sandwiches. And yes, they even have gluten free pretzels as well. My favorite is the turkey with sprouts, while my daughter likes the roast beef with slaw.

Finally, I can’t forget to tell you about the music! Each weekend, there are bands playing to entertain you while you imbibe your malty deliciousness. Since they are constantly mixing up the offerings, I suggest you go to their website. You will be glad you did.

And if you decide to follow my advice and go to The Malted Barley, look for me. I will be sitting at the bar.

Beer Bars and Best Bites – The Ginger Man (NYC)

Allagash White with Beer and Food menu at The Ginger Man - NYC

Allagash White with Beer and Food menu at The Ginger Man – NYC

This past Thursday, my husband and I found ourselves on Metro-North Railway traveling to The City to see a game at Madison Square Garden. Now, we love to go to museums, theatre, and whatnot, but this was not that kind of trip. We were on a quest to get in as many pubs as possible. I am pleased to report that we were successful.

First stop on our trek was The Ginger Man. Conveniently located off of Madison Avenue on 36th Street, this bar has over 60 taps and a small, but beer friendly menu. The beer is of good quality, there are several cask beers on at all times, and the décor is tasteful, yet quirky. Dinner was a tasty roast beef sandwich with chips and a bratwurst plate with sauerkraut, black bread, and creamy potato salad. One nice element to the menu is that it includes suggested beer pairings. We like to make our own selections though, so the husband chose Bear Republic Black Racer and Brew Dog’s Libertine Black Ale, while I started with an Allagash White and for desert had one of the best Cosmos ever.

The white shirt in the mirror is the stalker.

The white shirt in the mirror is the stalker.

We got to the bar at 7:00pm and it was packed with suits and skirts. If you want to have a drink to ease your way into the evening after a long day at work or just want to watch everyone in action, this is the place to be. One guy in particular was especially entertaining to watch. He was trolling the room with hopes for hooking up with one of the many lovely ladies – poor soul – the girls next to us shot him down. No worries though, he just moved on to another group. Had to leave for the game, so didn’t get to see how it panned out. We have been to The Ginger Man at least ten times and each time we come away completely satisfied – therefore, we deem it a total “Do Again.”

Cheers!