There is a lot of talk from Ugly Delicious to other food writers on when you cross the line on culture appropriation in food. I’m not new to the conversation about culture appropriation when it comes to dressing or hair, thus it was new for me on the food perspective. I came to the US as an adult at 21 years old, so I have had a learning curve on some cultural elements in this country. I looked up definitions from cultural appropriation, “Cultural appropriation is a concept in sociology dealing with the adoption of the elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It is distinguished from equal cultural exchange due to the presence of a colonial element and imbalance of power.” For me it translates when the oppressor imitates or steals part of someone’s identity within its culture. Based on that definition, cheeseburger tacos would not be culture appropriation. We do all sorts of things to food in Mexico, such as Japanese-Mexican making it really spicy, we put jalapeños in our Italian food, etc.
Growing up in the state of Sonora, so close to US we constantly pushed the limits of our food, music and clothing. We purchased a lot of American products and while Mexican grocers have been powerful, in my state we had a Walmart early on…in return we had lots of American food influences. I loved it and I especially liked American milk—haha. See in Mexico back then, milk was terrible and typically you bought it in a tetra pack (see side image if you don’t know what that is)—yuck! You buy your milk like that off a shelf and its warm. You have to wait forever to get it cold, so to have cold American milk was the best! Even better if it was chocolate!
Now onto the taco, this taco is done all over the country. I see that Alex Stupak from the awesome Empellon restaurant in NYC got his inspiration from Mexico City. The recipe I’ll use is loosely based on his cooking book – BTW if you don’t have that book, go and get it. It’s awesome! We did these as kids, sometimes we would have picadillo which is ground beef with peppers and made it into cheeseburger like tacos. Definitely something you can make quickly, it’s not expensive and if you have kids—they’ll love it. Main things that make this more “Mexican” besides the tortilla is that we traditionally only use white cheese (yeah yellow nachos is an American thing—nothing wrong with it, but American). We also use mayonnaise…we love mayonnaise with our burgers and fries vs. I guess you have more people using ketchup and ranch dressing in US. Hope you enjoy it...
The Cheeseburger Taco Recipe
Serves 6 Tacos
1 lb of ground beef 80/20
1 cup of shredded Chihuahua or Monterey Jack Cheese
1 tbsp of lard (no skimping here – you need to use lard, don’t have some? Fry up some bacon and use your bacon fat)
• 10 guajillos
• 2 moritas
• ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
• 2 garlic cloves
• 8 Roma tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
• Salt to taste
• Heirloom Tomato
• Finely Chopped White Onion
• Thinly Sliced Serrano
• Potato Fries – use a mandolin to get thinly sliced potato and then deep fry. When you take them out lightly salt
White Corn Tortillas
how to prepare
Make your red salsa ahead of time:
Take the top of the chiles off and shake off all the seeds out. Then set in a microwave safe container and add water. Place over high heat for 2 minutes, take out and move the chiles around. Then put back in the microwave for another 2 minutes. Take out and let it sit in the hot water for about 30 min – 1 hour.
In the meantime put the tomatoes under the broiler to make sure they char. Flip once 1 side is charred to the other side. Remove once all sides are done. Once cooled down, take off the skins.
Drain the chiles completely and add into a blender. Add the tomatoes and all the other ingredients. You can have a more coarse salsa or completely blended – its up to you. Salt to taste.
Now you are ready to make your taco.
Melt your lard in cast iron pan and add beef – cook through to a nice brown and salt to taste. Spoon out all of your excessive fat, add cheese and let it melt for about 3-5 minutes.
Heat up your corn tortillas in a very hot cast iron comal and spread a little of butter as you are heating them up.
Lay your tortilla and spread about 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Add 2 tablespoons of your ground beef with cheese. Top with tomatoes, onion, serrano, fries and salsa roja.