And Then There Was Spring: Grilled Beef Tacos
We shall then henceforth, and without any acute delay, boldly sally and declare that spring, with all of its heady promises, has now descended upon our fair land that which is Minnesota. The snow is at last, and mercifully gone, and replaced now with fields of green. Say what you will, but this is no small thing, people. Lest you forget the winter of 2013/2014 that is. For the icy pangs of it still sharply laden our frontal lobes, and we still remember vividly how eternal it spread. You southern folks may have whacked your lawns eleven and one times already, and daily fire up your air conditioning units for to thwart the beads of nasty sweat which dribble down your collective foreheads. But it is not like that here. Not yet. The air is still cool, and sweet to the taste. We have yet to slap the first mosquito or pull the first weed. And the leaves and the grass and the other green things of the world, tho still in stark miniature, are no less hard at work, so much so, that you can almost hear them fiercely growing, in the silence of a sunbeam.
Spring, we do adore this time of year. Naturally one of the better things you can do in spring, is to BBQ. May is National Grilling Month after all. And to a Minnesotan, it would stand to reason that May is the very best month of the year. It’s just plain beautiful here. So on the pit today, we’re doing your basic taco really. Nothing too fancy. And I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, well why the heck doesn’t he just make his tacos on the kitchen stove then, like everybody else? The answer: I don’t want to! Let me explain.
As I repair here on the pit-side patio, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, enjoying the aromas of sizzling beef in a black iron pan, I try to reminisce how long it has been, by and far, that I could actually do such a thing like this: to tarry on the patio, watching supper cook, and not, when it is said and done, require medical attention for frostbite or mild hypothermia. To loiter aside the curling wood smoke in but a light flannel jacket, and muse over the green blades of grass yonder. It has been a while indeed. Too long, in point of fact. Counting backwards – April, March, February, January, December, November… Go ahead and count it. It’s six months people. Give or take the rare and freakish anomaly of a randomly placed warm day, it has been a half a year since it has been truly comfortable at the grill front. That kind of ain’t right. And this is why we patrons of the pit shall not any time soon, tend to our tacos over a thermostatically spoiled kitchen range. No no no!
After the ground beef is almost but not quite browned, we tossed onto the coals a handful of oak chips for an additional layer in the flavor profile. Oak wood is fantastic for red meat, lending a firm but friendly, mildly nutty, sort of smokey goodness to your end game. It’s very good. Anyways, we mixed in the taco seasoning with the beef, and pulled the black iron pan over indirect heat, put the lid on the pit, and let the meat smoke there for a while. Now is the time to assume your customary BBQ posture, as per the graces this kind of high leisure affords. Lovely beverage in hand, man chair under butt, and a quiet world of gently curling smoke in front of thee. This, a pit keeper comes to know, is all we need. We’re in no hurry folks. And good grilling should never be flanked by wretched tentacles of haste. Anyways, pull the lid and stir the taco meat very occasionally, this in order to circulate more beef into the path of wafting oak smoke. The smoke, after all, is what will set these tacos apart from any you’ve ever had.
Whence the meat has browned sufficient to your standards, and the smokey goodness has infused your carefully prepared meat booty, go forth and assemble thy taco as you will, with what you will. Rice, beans, peppers, cheese, tomatoes, onions, sour cream – what ever moves thee another step closer to your culinary ideal. We’re not done yet tho, nay, so hold on to your inner Mexican just a bit longer. Swaddled in a flour tortilla shell, place your spoils back on the pit, indirect, for the final step towards taco immortality. We’re looking to crisp up the shell a trifle here, and put on a few char marks, patron to the pit. This move will at once signature your taco, branding it if you will, a product of the smokey realm. And you will know it from the sound of your incisors piercing its soft, yet crispy shell, and by the flavorful, smoke-tinted spoils within.
Happy Grilling Month of May. Fire them up proudly, people, and tarry long where the wood smoke also rises. Amen.
Oak Smoked Grilled Beef Tacos. Man! Edible proof that what is good for the stove top is even better on the grill. Not to mention a whole lot more fun.
And yes, a bite was taken out of this photo op, for quality control reasons. You know how it goes.