Antojitos, by Way of France

I was up in the street the other day chatting with Max Waterman, son of our neighbors Chris and Glennis. Max is a food-loving chap — he spent time working on a graduate degree in London, where he hosted dinners and sussed out the best street foods, watering holes and gastronomic destinations.

Watermen and their margaritas

Watermen and their margaritas

He was now on summer break from Berkeley and his further educational pursuits, Chris and Glennis would be temporarily relocating to New Orleans soon, and it would be one of our last opportunities to get together. I suggested margaritas at our house. For food, I would serve a handful of antojitos — the Mexican equivalent of tapas: small bites and street foods.

As it so happened, while I was thinking about what sort of antojitos to prepare, I was also busily securing a reservation at Montreal’s celebrated temple to pig and foie gras, Au Pied de Cochon, for our upcoming East Coast vacation.

Dry-aged ribeye tacos on duck-fat tortillas

Dry-aged ribeye tacos on duck-fat tortillas

I was in the midst of cooking down some pork for Mexico City street tacos, trying to decide how to flavor the meat, when Distrito Federal and Au Pied de Cochon converged in a bit of inspiration:

“I bet some foie gras wouldn’t taste bad in there!” I said to myself as the lightbulb went off above my head.

It’s “Oops-you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter!” moments like this that keep the culinary arts moving forward — Nobu Matsuhisa introducing butter to his Japanese preparations, Ferran Adria turning white beans into a foam.

Not that adding foie gras to my Mexico City-style tacos was going to be anything revolutionary. But it probably would be pretty tasty. So into the pan along with the chopped pork, achiote paste and some coffee I was using to deglaze the pan (another spontaneous inspiration) went a cube of foie gras.

Mexico City-style pork and foie gras tacos

Mexico City-style pork and foie gras tacos

My mind now thoroughly lodged somewhere in the gastronomic stratosphere between Mexico and France, I wasn’t content to stop with this particular mash-up. Into my masa dough for tortillas went a rather significant hunk of duck fat. Into the roasted jalapeño salsa for the tacos went a creamy plop of creme fraiche. A tower of rice and beans topped with goat birria looked more like Alain Ducasse than Mercado de la Merced.

So much for street food.

The Waterpeople arrived at 5 p.m. and were handed pre-mixed margaritas.

Our time together was brief — they were tired, I had to pick up my son. It was a Wednesday night. We shared margaritas and stories, Chris telling us of the impending stress of handing out 800 diplomas and shaking 800 hands (he is a dean at UCLA), and his dream of curling up in a hammock.

Birria with beans and rice and tomato salsa

Birria with beans and rice, chicharrones  and tomato salsa

I guess the lull of my famous margaritas and the flavors of Mexico do inspire that kind of thing. Where the foie gras fits in we will leave to speculation.


*    *    *

Street tacos with pork and foie gras
serves 4 as an appetizer

1 cup masa harina
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. duck fat or lard
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. shaved shallots
4 oz. cooked pork, chopped
1 tbsp. achiote paste
1 oz. foie gras
1/4 cup coffee
1/4 cup roasted jalapeño salsa
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1/2 small avocado
1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil
salt & pepper to taste

Mix together masa harina, water and duck fat or lard. If the dough is too stiff, add a little more water until it is thick but smooth, like wet sand. Form into eight equal balls, and cover with plastic.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and fry the shallots over medium heat until soft. Add chopped pork and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown. Add a little water, the achiote paste and the foie gras. Continue cooking, stirring, until water cooks away. Add coffee and cook, stirring, until coffee has cooked away. Remove from heat and mash foie gras into pork with a fork. Season to taste with salt. Place in a small bowl.

Mix together salsa, creme fraiche and cilantro until smooth. Mash in avocado, and add a little water if salsa is too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Using a tortilla press or a heavy-bottomed saucepan, flatten masa balls between two pieces of plastic wrap until you have 3-inch round circles. Place about a teaspoon of pork mixture in the center, and fold over and gently seal with your fingers (creating a sort of Mexican mezzaluna half-moon). Place on a piece of wax paper, and continue until all eight tacos are made.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it begins to smoke slightly, add tacos. Cook in two batches, about two minutes per side or until crust begins to brown at the edges.

Remove from pan and drain on paper plates or paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Plate two on a plate, drizzle with salsa and garnish with sliced avocado, if you’d like.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Jun 12, 2015 @ 00:32:30

    Hi Sean I just had to smile at the Dean’s hammock wishes! Ha-we just returned from the Georgia Mountains at my in-laws summer home (they recently completed before Mother’s Day this year). I spent the majority of time in the Hammock! Have a great weekend. Cheryl


  2. Mom
    Jun 12, 2015 @ 02:59:37

    I so hope they got how especially they were being treated.


  3. Michelle
    Jun 12, 2015 @ 03:34:20

    “Bonjourhello!”—which is how I remember everybody greeting me in Montreal ages ago when I was there. Will be interested to read your thoughts on the city after your trip.

    And “lightbulb” indeed! Can you send some of those tacos this way?


  4. Glennis
    Jun 13, 2015 @ 18:58:56

    It was SOOO good!!


  5. Trackback: Tropical Thai in the Dusty Desert | skinny girls & mayonnaise
  6. Chris
    Mar 09, 2016 @ 02:33:49

    Sean, this note of appreciation comes many months after the event, but the sensory memories of your antojitos will never fade! Hope you and the crew are doing fine…


    • scolgin
      Mar 11, 2016 @ 13:45:04

      Sometimes it takes a while for the full effect of the dinner to settle in. 😉
      All’s well out here, friend — keeping the west warm for ya.


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