Cinco de Mayo Recipe

My ex reminded me last week that the holiday that "my people" celebrate was coming up.

My people. He was, of course, being facetious, but I smacked him anyway. Well, he's a thousand miles away, so I virtually smacked him. Same effect.

My people. Like I even speak Spanish. My father wouldn't teach us when we were growing up because he didn't want us to be stigmatized. Only the last name gave us away as it was.

Still, I do like to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The Fifth of Mayonnaise. I love mayonnaise.

For this Cinco de Condiment, my love wanted to make turkey taquitos for his office party. So I am, even now, roasting turkey parts for said taquitos. Have you ever had turkey taquitos? Around here we have them after major holidays. Christmas, Thanksgiving . . . because that's usually when there's leftover turkey. Turkey is a primary ingredient in turkey taquitos, as you may, or may not, have gathered from the name. I dunno. Some of you are probably quicker than others about these things.

There is no mayonnaise in turkey taquitos. A recipe featuring mayonnaise will be arriving shortly, but this isn't it.

This is a recipe for turkey taquitos. Keep in mind that I can barely read directions, much less give them, so this may be a bit haphazard.

First step: Go to the store. Any store. Well, not just any store. A store that sells what you need. We went to Central Market because I wanted to show Bruno (my boyfriend's alias) what a fun place it is. He stuck his finger in one of the crab tanks and irritated a crab, who tried to grab his finger and run off with it. The crab, fortunately, was unsuccessful in this endeavor. Whew. Close call. Anyway, Central Market has lots of cool stuff. Live food. Dead food. The mess of octopus on ice was something I could have done without. Organic food. Free range chicken. Bulk herbs. Skullsplitter ale, which I wanted just because of the name. A deli section where one could just do all their shopping, thereby making the rest of the store redundant.

Anyway. Go to the store. We looked at turkeys. Then we looked at the turkey breasts next to the turkey. And we went for the turkey breasts. Three of 'em. Saves me the trouble of wrestling with a turkey. I am nothing if not lazy. Also buy tortillas, and bend them to make sure they're fresh and pliable. And either fresh salsa, or make your own. And vegetable oil. And toothpicks. Some dark sweet beverage, if you're feeling like it.

Method of cooking turkey: See, this all depends on what one plans on doing with the turkey. For enchiladas, stewed chicken works best. For taquitos, roasted turkey works best. Something about the dryness or lack thereof of the meat. I roast my turkey in a turkey roaster, but I suppose you could also use an oven. The recipe for how to roast a turkey will be out later this year, when it's time to take those things seriously. For now, I'm sure you can stumble through it.

Roast the turkey.

Chop the turkey into chunks and shreds. Add the fresh salsa or the salsa you made yourself using the fresh ingredients. We don't want the mixture to be too wet.

Too wet. I just made that term up.

Get out two frying pans. Get them out of where? That's rather up to you. Depends on where you keep yours. Put a nice half inch layer or so of oil in one, and just heat the other. (Almost had a typo there. Almost said eat the other, which would be wrong. That is no way to get more iron in your diet.) Heat the oil now or later, depending on if you're going to cook them now or later. I usually fry them as I go.

Heat the tortillas one at a time in the hot skillet. When hot and pliable, and therefore easily bendable, take out of the pan, put a good heaping tablespoon of turkey mixture on the tortilla, and roll it tightly. Secure with a toothpick. (Did you think we bought the toothpicks just for fun?) Sometimes tortillas aren't as bendable as we might wish. This is too bad. Heat them longer.

Put the secured taquito in the hot oil. Let it sit there and brown. Of course, while it's doing this, roll up another one and stick that in there too. Watch taquitos carefully. We want them crispy but not lethal. Turn them over while they cook. We're not deep frying them after all, it just seems that way. The oil should not cover the taquitos fully, only about halfway. That's why you turn them over.

When the first taquito is crispy but not overdone (and this is rather subjective - mine are at times a bit chewy just because I like 'em that way), remove it gently and put it on a plate with a paper towel to soak up the oil. Do not use your fingers for this procedure, except to handle the tongs. This is hot oil, after all. Repeat this procedure for the several dozen taquitos to follow. You can make a whole buncha taquitos before you know it.

Growing up, I was often the victim of burnt fingers because my stepmother would make me stand over the stove for hours heating tortillas to her specifications. For years I suffered from post-taquito stress syndrome. Just the thought of making taquitos was enough to make my fingertips itch. Do not overdo it. You can cook them in batches. You can cook some now and some later. This is not a marathon to see how much damage one can do to oneself. Once, when my hand was sprained, she made me take off the wrap that was holding it together so I could bake cookies for her, the kind you had to roll in your hand. She was mean. Besides, she always overcooked hers. Both taquitos and cookies.

Serve the taquitos with guacamole and sour cream. Okay, some of you don't like sour cream. That's why I only bought a small sour cream - I can eat the stuff straight, but other people have a problem with it. I don't know why.

These can be eaten either hot or cold. Technically, everyone thinks they're supposed to be hot, but it ain't so. If made properly, and drained properly, they're quite good any time at all.

Enjoy the holiday. I hear it won't come around again until next year.

Monique Young is adept at certain things, but cooking is not one of them. She can be reached at [email protected] most days of the week.

In The News:

Recipes for Valentine's Day!  The Jerusalem Post
100 of Our Best Chocolate Recipes  The New York Times

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