japan excels at mimicking the cuisine of other nations. in fact, it is often cited (by japanese people) that many foreigners come to japan to eat foods native to their own countries of origin. chinese people often comment that chinese food in japan is better than the chinese food readily available in china. similarly, restaurants which serve authentic italian and french cuisine are often top-notch (and super expensive).
but latin american cuisine, especially mexican food, is generally misunderstood. because i have often considered mexican food to be one of the cheapest and most delicious foods to make, this fact confuses and enrages me.
despite this, to seem more international, school lunches often include menu items such as “mexican pork saute” or “taco rice,” which are terrifyingly dissimilar to any latin american flavor profile i have ever experienced. which isn’t to say they taste bad. they just taste exactly like a japanese cook used the ingredients he had on hand to make something that vaguely resembled mexican food he saw in a picture.
tragically, on such days, i get to hankering for real mexican food, which is an itch not easily scratched in japan. hot peppers are practically nonexistent, fresh cilantro costs your first-born child, and tortillas are sighted about as often as big foot. and so, in such moments of desperation, i turn to my old friend tex-mex. no, it isn’t authentic mexican cuisine. but it is delicious, contains ingredients i can actually find, and is a heck of a lot closer to the flavor profile of mexican cuisine than the japanese knock-offs are.
and thus, the carnitas seasoned tex-mex slider was born.
carnitas seasoned tex-mex sliders
- one red bell pepper
- one green bell pepper (or three piiman)
- some small buns of your choice
- ground pork
- one onion
- olive oil
- black beans
- lemon juice
- chili pepper
- black pepper
- red pepper flake
- mince half the onion and three or four cloves of garlic. put them into a large mixing bowl and add the ground pork. add a little bit of olive oil, a bit of chili pepper, and a healthy amount of coriander and chili powder. next, add cumin and cinnamon in equal parts. please, be careful. both have extremely strong flavors that can easily eclipse every other ingredient in the burgers if not careful. when in doubt, take a tiny pinch of meat, flatten it out, and cook it in a frying pan to get a taste test of how the burgers will turn out. last, add in salt and pepper in the amount you consider necessary.
- mix well (man up and use your hands, raw meat is good for you skin), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and then pop it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to let the flavors set.
- while you are waiting, split your buns and unseed your green peppers. the easiest way i have found to unseed a pepper is to remove the top and bottom, run the point of the knife down the inside of the pepper to cut the veins, and then pull out the core (seed intact) in a single motion. it helps to do this over a trashcan, because it can tend to get seeds all over the freaking place.
- fire up that barbecue (or gas burner). the red pepper is going to go on the hot coals or in direct contact with intense flame. you actually want to burn the skin, so cook it until it is completely black. don’t worry about the flesh of the pepper, it’ll be juicy and delicious. word to the wise, don’t open the pepper up. the tightly sealed package is what keep the actual flesh from burning. once the flames die down, throw on your green peppers and let them cook until they have a visible char.
- put your blackened red pepper into the sink in a big bowl. use the spray head on your sink to blast the burned skin off the pepper. if you don’t have a spray head, just put the pepper in a bowl of cold water and use your hands, but make sure not to burn yourself. it could still be super hot. once skinned, cut off the top and remove the seeds, and then slice into strips. cherish the juices that escape, we’ll use those in just a few seconds.
- mince the rest of your garlic. put in a small mixing bowl and mash in the black beans. add a little bit of olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, and salt to season the mixture and stir well. it should be a little bit chunky. the texture adds a lot.
- add some mayo to a bowl, add black pepper, red pepper flakes, chili powder, cumin, and the juices that escaped from the red pepper still waiting patiently on your cutting board. mix well, and give it a taste. i should have quite the zing and enough spice to instigate some slight sweating.
- split the buns and toss them into the toaster oven just long enough to brown them.
- put a little bit of oil on the grill grate (or in a frying pan) and ready your burgers. form the meat into patties that will fit onto your buns. the meat will shrink ever so slightly as you cook it, so try to account for this. puny patties on tiny buns is the least impressive thing imaginable to a burger lover. remember, you should only flip burgers once, so make sure you pay attention to how quickly they are cooking.
- while the burgers are sizzling, slice your avocado into strips. you can also mash it if you like, but it tends to make the burger far more slippery than it would otherwise be.
- compose the ensemble. on the bottom bun, stack some lettuce (if you like), a piece of seared green pepper, a few strips of roasted red pepper, a burger (piping-hot and straight from the grill), and two or three slices of avocado in that order. smear some seasoned mayo on the top bun and close the package up tight with a toothpick. once you have put together two or three, pop them on a plate alongside a big spoonful of your black bean mash.
- salute texas and mexico, spend a few seconds wafting all those beautifully orchestrated flavors, and then dig in. and remember, be sure to make enough for friends. after all, sliders are for sharing.