Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, San Francisco chef Jessica Boncutter had a moment with a Gorgonzola, pear, and escarole salad that chef April Bloomfield makes at New York spot the Breslin. What whets your appetite, April?
Who: April Bloomfield, chef at the Breslin
What: Shredded-beef mini-tacos
Where: Sueños, New York
When: January 2010
“I had these incredible tacos at Sueños that come as an appetizer. You get, like, six of them on a long plate with some shredded lettuce, and it’s a really nice braised beef that’s got a really nice sweet-and-sour sauce all over it. They come with queso fresco, some tomato, and they’re in a little handmade red-pepper crispy taco. They’re bite-size, and they’re the perfect balance of everything: meat, crunch, freshness, cheesiness — everything’s perfect about them. They really hit the spot when you want to be satisfied. When you have them, they’re perfect.”
Sueños chef Sue Torres explains the dish:
“There’s a story behind [the tacos], and that’s about my favorite nights eating as a child. If it wasn’t Italian, which was every Sunday, and if it wasn’t Puerto Rican, my third favorite dinner was tacos. We could only have taco night when my dad wasn’t home for dinner because he hated tacos, and for me it was a very fun time because I would be cutting up the tomato and lettuce, grating the cheese. It was a lot of fun.
Here, I wanted to re-create what my chef’s dream of those tacos would be, and that’s the barbecue-beef tacos. The lettuce and tomatoes were replaced with the pico de gallo, and instead of the Cheddar it used to be, it’s now a really great Mexican queso fresco very delicately sprinkled on top. The meat is a beef chuck roll, which is boiled with onions and celery, garlic, herbs. Once it’s boiled we shred it, and then every night we mix it in with the barbecue sauce. We make the barbecue sauce here; it’s super simple: ketchup, apple-cider vinegar, chipotle chilies, a little bit of brown sugar, a little bit of aromatics like cinnamon. The tacos are like three inches long, as big as your little pointer finger, and it’s a one- or two-bite thing. You always have in every bite the perfect amount of crunch, a great textural difference with the sweet, savory, slightly smoky meat.”