The best-loved individual at Texas Monthly is not the publisher, not the editor, not even the woman who distributes the paychecks. The most popular person is art coordinator Hope Rodriguez, who has been making breakfast tacos for grateful staff members for twenty years. Twice a week, Hope arrives with an insulated case of fresh, plump tacos and a Mason jar of salsa. The tortillas are filled with combinations of scrambled eggs, potatoes, refried beans, cheese, chorizo, and bacon; the tomato salsa is a family recipe.
“I make the tortillas fresh because they’re much more tender than store-bought ones,” Hope says. She roasts the jalapeños to give them extra flavor, cooks the chorizo well done and the bacon crisp, and uses light oils whenever possible. Another key aspect—a lifetime of practice—is harder to quantify but much in evidence. Hope learned how to make all the basic Tex-Mex dishes when she was thirteen. “My parents owned a restaurant in Cuero,” she says, “and they had to be there from early to late.” As soon as she was old enough, she was drafted to cook for her seven brothers and sisters (two other siblings were grown). She learned well. The difference between her tacos and commerical tacos is the difference between home cooking and mass production. There simply is no comparison.
2 or 3 jalapeños, stemmed
3 fresh tomatoes or an 8-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 small clove garlic, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons canola oil salt to taste
Roast jalapeños on a griddle or in a heavy skillet over medium heat until blistered on all sides. If using fresh tomatoes, roast them in a heavy skillet until cooked and blistered, 15 to 20 minutes. In a blender pulse jalapeños, tomatoes, and garlic; do not overpurée. Set aside. In a skillet sauté onion in the oil until translucent; add the puréed tomato mixture, and reduce over high heat for about 10 minutes. Add salt. Serve warm.
Follow directions on White Wings flour tortilla mix for 8 tortillas. Tips: Use a lightly oiled heavy skillet or griddle. You don’t absolutely have to knead the dough for 5 minutes; 1 minute will do. A tortilla is ready to turn when small bubbles begin to appear on the upper side; turn it twice more, cooking 20 to 30 seconds to a side. Keep the tortillas warm by wrapping them in a clean dish towel in a basket or another container.
Eggs a la Mexicana
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white and green parts
1 tablespoon chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped tomato
salt and pepper to taste
Scramble eggs in oil over medium heat, adding other ingredients when eggs just start to set.
Additional taco fillings include refried beans, bacon, chunky hashbrown potatoes, and fried chorizo (San Miguel is a good brand of chorizo). Fill each tortilla with the ingredients of your choice. Makes 8 tacos.