Season Three of Netflix’s ‘Taco Chronicles’ Highlights Barbecue Tacos
Joe and Christian Zavala spent their Thanksgiving weekend in a contented glow. Her barbecue joint, Zavala’s Barbecue in Grand Prairie, had simply been featured within the newly launched US-focused season of Taco Chronicles on Netflix. The present, whose third season debuted on November 23, had two episodes centered on tacos in Texas, one in San Antonio and the opposite in Dallas. Barbecue tacos took middle stage at each, with appearances from Vaqueros Texas Bar-BQ in Grapevine, 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio and Burnt Bean Co. in Seguin, along with Zavala’s. When Zavalas opened its doorways on Saturday, the turkey-weary crowd clamored for his or her tacos. Joe stated he had to purchase an extra fifteen dozen flour tortillas from an area provider. While that does not sound like a lot for a taqueria, this restaurant’s fundamental attraction is the meat — not what’s wrapped round it.
But two of the taco choices at Zavala’s are so widespread that they’ve developed their very own devotees: the straightforward sliced breast taco and the Sloppy Juan taco. A mixture of smoked breast and pork shoulder that is been chopped together with barbecue sauce, the Sloppy Juan is every part a Sloppy Joe has to supply however in a heat flour tortilla. Texas Monthly Taco Editor José R. Ralat supplied commentary for the Taco Chronicles episode and named the brisket taco in Zavala’s “Peak Texan”.
While smoked and grilled fajitas have been a Thursday evening particular at Zavala’s, the grill joint now serves them day by day. Typically, fajitas are made with a cheaper inside skirt steak that wants a marinade to tame its chewy texture. Joe Zavala jumps for the 44 Farms outer skirt steak at practically $15 a pound uncooked as a result of he needs to make the perfect fajitas potential and he loves making folks completely satisfied. The smoky and properly charred steak is cooked medium (something much less could be a problem with a lower this skinny), and the ensuing tacos are nothing quick of spectacular. You can select so as to add grilled onions and peppers, however you should definitely ask for some pico de gallo and a drizzle of inexperienced Zavala sauce.
The nod Taco Chronicles what barbecue tacos are out there may be admirable, however they are a subject worthy of a complete episode — or perhaps a season — of their very own. It must embrace Valentina’s Tex Mex in Austin, purveyor of what Zavala calls “the OG brisket taco,” or go even additional again to Arnold’s Texas Bar-B-Que in East Dallas, which closed in 1999. This place’s barbecue tacos “didn’t go down that well back then,” stated Arnulfo “Trey” Sanchez III, who ran Arnold’s together with his father and household pal Don Glasco. Sanchez is discovering success with Vaqueros Texas Bar-BQ in Grapevine, recognized for Birria smoked breast tacos. On a current go to I used to be enthusiastic about a more recent creation.
Smoked pastrami was the particular and I needed a bit of that. Sanchez stated he’d make me a pastrami taco off the menu as an alternative. Ask for it at any time when pastrami is on provide. A touch of sweetness from the brine got here by the black pepper coating on the smoky brisket, which was chopped and layered on a wealthy corn tortilla with thick slices of pickled onions and pickled mustard greens that popped with each chew. It was drizzled with what seemed to be yellow mustard however was really a habanero salsa camouflaged with yellow peppers and yellow mustard. Sanchez collaborated with Executive Chef Brandon Lee to create the salsa and taco. “I like my colors,” Sanchez stated. “I like things that catch the eye.” Sanchez known as the slice of pickled pink jalapeño the icing on the cake.
Over in San Antonio Taco Chronicles selected his theme properly with 2M Smokehouse. Owners Joe Melig and Esaul Ramos have their very own model of grilling, popularizing a more recent kind of barbacoa, a dish with a wealthy historical past and deep custom in Texas and Mexico. Instead of cooking complete cow heads, 2M makes use of solely HeartBrand beef cheeks. Traditional barbacoa is cooked in an underground pit utilizing charcoals and a thick layer of maguey leaves to cowl the meat. Vera’s Backyard Bar-BQ in Brownsville is the one restaurant in Texas that also cooks barbacoa this manner, whereas all different locations steam or braise their beef. 2M brings again the wooden cooking custom of Barbacoa, however with the Post Oak in an offset smoker. The retailer trades maguey leaves for banana leaves as a result of Melig’s household used these for his or her yard barbacoa, and he enjoys the style. The leaves additionally shield the perimeters of the meat cheeks from drying out. The barbacoa is simply served on the restaurant on the primary Sunday of each month (that is subsequent Sunday, people!), so I’ve by no means tried it there, however I’ve loved these smoky tacos at barbecue festivals.
if Taco Chronicles ever returns to the world, there needs to be some love for one more smoked barbacoa Sunday providing simply east of San Antonio. Burnt Bean Co. in Seguin smokes 240 kilos of beef cheeks each week for its Sunday breakfast. But the primary iteration of the menu did not say “Barbacoa”. Ernest Servantes Jr., who owns the restaurant with David Kirkland, first listed the dish as “Tatema,” the identify he used for smoked beef cheeks in his hometown of Uvalde. In truth, throughout his first yr visiting the state of Southwest Texas (now the state of Texas) in San Marcos, a pal requested if Servantes needed to get some barbacoa. To his pal’s amazement, Servantes did not know what the phrase meant, regardless of having eaten all of it his life.
I first encountered the phrase tatema in Mario Montaño’s 1992 dissertation, The History of Mexican Folk Foodways of South Texas: Street Vendors, Offal Foods, and Barbacoa de Cabeza. He stated “Tatema” was derived from the Nahuatl Aztec phrase “Tlatemati”, which implies “to burn” and in Spanish “Tatemar” means roast or grill. In Texas, I’ve solely seen “Tatema” within the Uvalde space to explain barbacoa, however I feel it is a helpful technique to differentiate between the standard course of for barbacoa, which is cooked within the floor, and this newer model .
Servantes’ father, Ernest Servantes Sr., “masters the craft” of tatema, in response to the youthful Servantes. “It’s the pleasure of going home,” he says of the mesquite smoke within the air and the aroma that fills the home within the mornings from the sluggish cooker the place the smoked beef cheeks are finished in a single day. “Waking up to that smell is better than Folger’s coffee,” stated Servantes Jr. You’ll discover tatema on taco menus round Uvalde, and Servantes Jr. needed to deliver that hometown custom to his restaurant when it opened in 2020.
Servantes Jr. stated the Burnt Bean Co. course of for getting ready beef cheeks is “basically the same as we do in the backyard in Uvalde.” He smokes unseasoned beef cheeks with submit oak for seven to eight hours till the surfaces are dry. “They literally look like charcoal,” he stated. Then they arrive in a pan with spices, onions, garlic, breast tallow and water. Everything is roofed and eventually put within the oven.
Once the meat cheeks have reached a sure tenderness, Servantes Jr. is aware of they’re finished. He searches them for chunks of fats he missed when trimming and bits of gristle. He names the completed model of his Tatema Limpi, means “clean”. He ultimately modified the identify on the menu from Tatema to Barbacoa to keep away from buyer confusion. Even then, some of them weren’t satisfied that the dish was barbacoa. That Limpi The presentation and heavy smoky taste made it mistaken for chopped brisket, however there is no doubting the richness supplied by all that gelatin within the beef cheek.
In the San Antonio episode, Fermín Núñez, govt chef at Suerte and Este, each in Austin, made an announcement that sticks in my thoughts. He defined Texas taco tradition as a three-sided pyramid. One aspect is Mexican-style tacos made by taqueros showcasing the tacos of their homeland, the second aspect is breakfast tacos, and the third aspect is barbecue tacos. It’s wonderful that grilled tacos have come this far in eating places since Valentina popularized them in 2013. Zavala stated he was excited to share his restaurant’s story Taco Chronicles and perhaps enhance extra enterprise. As he watched the present, he realized how proud he was to symbolize Texas barbecue taco tradition. “It was Texas. It was Chicano,” he stated of what he noticed on display, including, “[The barbecue taco] is our slice of who we’re.”