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How to Prepare Easy Tex-Mex Cuisine: Barbacoa & Pico de Gallo
Growing up in Texas, more specifically, San Antonio meant Sunday morning breakfast would feature Tex-Mex cuisine, while the rest of the week consisted of oatmeal, cereal, or scrambled eggs. Our family’s Tex-Mex breakfast dishes often included menudo, chorizo with eggs, tamales (especially in winter), or migas, with side dishes like guacamole, refried pinto beans, and always corn or flour tortillas (or both). However, my all-time favorite Tex-Mex breakfast is barbacoa with Pico de Gallo and corn tortillas.
As a child I remember getting up early Sunday morning to go with my dad to the local Molino (like a Mexican deli) to buy a pound of barbacoa and 25 cents worth of corn tortillas (a penny a tortilla). At the Molino I enjoyed watching the cornmeal being converted into masa (dough) and then into tortillas. The lady behind the counter would count out the tortillas, wrap them in butcher paper, I’d give her the quarter, she’d say, “Adios,” and I’d smile and wave good-bye. After the short drive home in our 52 Chevy, our family was ready to enjoy a traditional Tex-Mex breakfast.
What is Barbacoa?
Barbacoa is a Mexican dish typically made from a cow’s head, wrapped in foil, and cooked slowly at about 300-degrees overnight in a pit. The next morning the tender meat would be scrapped of the cow’s head and placed on a platter. Traditionally, the barbacoa is served on a corn tortilla with guacamole and Pico de Gallo.
When I was 20, my wife and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. I wasn’t long before I became homesick for the Tex-Mex cuisine I grew up with. I went in search of barbacoa but I couldn’t find any. So, I decided to make my own. Over time I learned to perfect my recipe, based on my memory of what barbacoa should taste like, and have served it to my family on Sunday mornings (usually once a month) for over 30 years.
My Recipe for Barbacoa
I use a well-marbled chuck roast instead of a cow’s head, just fits better into a crock pot. Also, my version using a chuck roast will exclude all the other interesting pieces of “meat” found in a cow’s head and the traditional barbacoa. This is an easy recipe that you set up before you go to bed and will enjoy when you get up the next morning with the added bonus of a night filled with the aromatic barbacoa.
- 3 to 4 pound boneless chuck roast
- Garlic powder
Place the roast into your crock pot and set at low for overnight cooking. Season the roast with garlic powder and salt, to taste. Place the lid on the crock pot and go to bed. It is that easy!
My Recipe for Pico de Gallo
There are many versions of Pico de Gallo and all are good. My version is quick, easy and goes well with barbacoa breakfast tacos.
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes
2 green Onions
1 small yellow Onion
1 quarter of a red Onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 large jalapeno (or two depending if you prefer a hotter version)
- Chop the tomatoes into medium chunks and put into a medium size mixing bowl. Finely chop the green, yellow, and red onions and mix into the bowl with the tomatoes.
- Take about half of the cilantro bunch and wash thoroughly then proceed to finely chop the cilantro (try and remove as many of the stems as possible).
- Finally, seed the Jalapeno (though I tend to leave a few seeds for extra spiciness), finely chop, and put into the mixing bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
- Mix the ingredients well, lightly salt to taste and it’s ready to serve.
Ready to Eat
The final task to complete before eating your Tex-Mex breakfast is to warm up some corn tortillas. Keeping with the quick and easy theme, wrap 6 corn tortillas in a clean dishcloth or paper towels. If using a dish cloth, be sure the dish cloth has no scent as from a dry sheet or fabric softener. Place wrapped tortillas and heat in a microwave for one minute.
All that’s left to do is set the table and enjoy! Take a tortilla, place some barbacoa on it, add some Pico de Gallo, fold into a taco, insert into mouth and savor the taste of a Tex-Mex breakfast.