What’s life like in the Taco John’s Test Kitchen? Bold, busy and never boring. Here in Cheyenne, WY, we’re always whipping up what’s new in Mexican. My name is Bob Karisny, and I’m Taco John’s Corporate Chef. I spend my day researching the latest flavor trends, traveling to find new menu ideas and, of course, eating. 
 
On this website, I’ll be sharing notes from our Taco John’s Test Kitchen, along with my passion for Mexican cuisine. You’ll also hear from Sissy and Carl, my partners in creating – and eating – great food. 
 
Whether in the U.S. or Mexico, we’re always searching for new flavor ideas and opportunities to learn from the best in Mexican cuisine. Along with these experiences, we’ll also share menu ideas in development and great recipes you can make at home. So tie your apron and get ready to digest some secrets from the Test Kitchen. We hope you came hungry!
 

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Results 1-10 of 67
Jul 2, 2014
July 02, 2014 by CARL BLACKBIRD

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to boost flavors; they could be spicy or smoky, etc. The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When you add oil or another wet substance, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.   Using rubs is an easy way to infuse your grilled meats with exciting ethnic flavors, -from Cajun to Korean.   Setting aside rubbed meats for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight allows the spices to permeate the meat.

Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids best suited for tougher cuts of meat.  In addition to herbs, condiments, spices, and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, or even dairy.  Adding sweet ingredients to the marinade can help form appealing caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.  Always marinate in the refrigerator and remember, if you're basting with a liquid in which raw meat marinated, do not apply it near the end of the grilling process (not within the last 3 minutes or so).

 

 

Verde Marinade                                                                    

Ingredients:                                                                                       Amount:

Tomatillos, cut in quarters                                                                1 pound

Jalapeños, chopped large                                                                2 each

Lime Juice                                                                                        from 2 limes

Garlic                                                                                                3 cloves

Thyme Leaves                                                                                  1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dry

Salt                                                                                                   1 Tablespoon

Scallions (green onions)                                                                   1 bunch

Cilantro                                                                                             1 bunch

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Place tomatillos, jalapeños, lime juice, garlic, thyme leaves and salt in a blender. Start on a low speed and blend till liquefied.
  2. Add scallions a couple at a time and blend until liquefied.
  3. Add cilantro half a bunch at a time and blend until liquefied.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • This marinade is very good on chicken, pork chops or loins and fish. This amount of marinade will work for 2 chickens or 6 – 8 chicken breasts; - 6 thick-cut or 8 regular-cut pork chops; 2 – 3 pork loins; or 2 pounds of fish.
  • I like to let the chicken on the bone marinate for 2 – 3 days, breasts 1 -2 days. Thick-cut pork chops should marinate 2 – 3 days, regular-cut 1 day. Pork loins can marinate 1 – 2 days. Fish is good about a day. Extra marinade can be held in the refrigerator for a week or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Marinating is best done in a zipper closure bag. Place the meat in the bag and add the marinade. Massage the marinade into the meat at least a couple times a day to get the best flavor impact.
  • To avoid burning, shake off excess marinade before grilling.

 

 

 

Spice, Coffee, & Cocoa Rub

Ingredients:                                                                                       Amount:

Coffee                                                                                               ½ cup

Boiling Water                                                                                    ½ cup

Cumin, ground                                                                                  1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon

Coriander, ground                                                                             2 teaspoons

Brown Sugar                                                                                      ½ cup packed tight

Cinnamon, ground                                                                             1 teaspoon

Cloves, ground                                                                                  1/8 teaspoon

Chili Powder                                                                                      3 Tablespoons

Cocoa Powder, unsweetened                                                           ¼ cup

 

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Pour boiling water over coffee grounds, let steep for 5 minutes. Strain off the coffee grounds, let coffee cool.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl, blend together. Add coffee and mix into a dry paste.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • To add a smoky flavor note, dry toast whole cumin and coriander (there are good online videos that can show you how to dry toast spices if needed). Grind spices, once cooled, in a spice grinder. If using your coffee grinder, grind some rice in it afterwards so your morning coffee doesn’t have a spice flavor.
  • This rub is very good on chicken, pork chops or loins and steaks. This amount of marinade will work for 1 chicken or 4 - 5 chicken breasts, 4 thick cut or 6 regular cut pork chops or 2 pork loins, or 4 -5 steaks.
  • I like to let the chicken on the bone to marinate 2 – 3 days, breasts 1 -2 days. Thick-cut pork chops should marinate 1 - 2 days, regular-cut 1 day. Pork loins marinade 2 – 3 days. Steak is good in about 1 – 2 days. Extra rub can be held in the spice cabinet for up to 3 months.
  • Marinating is best done in a zipper closure bag. Place the meat in the bag and add in the rub. Massage the rub into the meat. As the moisture of the meat combines with the rub it will become liquid like. Massage the rub into the meat at least a couple times a day to get the best flavor impact.
  • It is best to rinse off excess rub prior to grilling. The sugars and spices will burn on the grill and become bitter.

 

 

 

Korean Short Rib Marinade (this marinade works well with almost any cut of beef!)

Ingredients:                                                                                       Amount:

Soy Sauce                                                                                        ¼ cup

Sesame oil                                                                                        1 T

Garlic cloves, roughly chopped                                                         4 each

Light brown sugar                                                                              2 Tablespoons

Rice wine vinegar                                                                              2 Tablespoons

Black pepper                                                                                     1 Tablespoon

Salt                                                                                                    2 Teaspoons

Asian pear, peeled & roughly chopped                                             1 each

(can substitute w/ 2 kiwis if Asian pear isn’t available)

Beef short ribs                                                                                  2 lbs. (boneless 3 ½ to 4 w/ bone)

 

Method of preparation:

 

  1. Place everything but the beef in a food processor and puree. Pour marinade over meat and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Heat a grill over high heat. Grill beef for about 3 minutes per side, or until cooked medium. Remove from grill, and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Taste and salt, if necessary.

 

 

 

Pork Baby Back Ribs -Dry Rub

Ingredients:                                                                                      Amounts:

Whole slabs pork baby back ribs                                                     2 each

Light brown sugar, tightly packed                                                    8 Tablespoons

Kosher salt                                                                                      3 tablespoons

Chili powder                                                                                    3 Tablespoons

Ground black pepper                                                                      ½ teaspoon

Chipotle pepper                                                                              ½ teaspoon

Jalapeño seasoning                                                                        ½ teaspoon

Old Bay Seasoning                                                                         ½ teaspoon

Rubbed thyme                                                                                ½ teaspoon

Onion powder                                                                                 ½ teaspoon

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well.
  3. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Sprinkle each side generously with the dry rub. Pat the dry rub into the meat.
  4. Refrigerate the ribs for a minimum of 2 hours (I prefer overnight).

 

Braising Liquid (you can make this while the ribs are refrigerating):

Ingredients:                                                                                  Amounts:

White wine (or your favorite beer!-I used Guinness)                   1 cup

White wine vinegar                                                                      2 Tablespoons

Worcestershire sauce                                                                  2 Tablespoons

Honey                                                                                          1 Tablespoon

Garlic cloves, chopped                                                                2 each

 

Method of preparation:

  1. In a small pot or a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Heat until it’s warm.
  2. Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Open one end of the foil on each slab and pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid.
  3. Braise the ribs in the oven for 3 1/2 hours.
  4. Transfer the braising liquid into a small saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until the consitency of a thick syrup.
  5. Place the ribs onto a medium to high heat grill and brush half of the glaze all over them.
  6. Grill the ribs until they have a nice caramelized color and are hot throughout.
  7. Once the ribs are finished on the grill, brush on the remaining hot glaze and serve.
Filed under: Recipes
Jun 27, 2014
June 27, 2014 by CARL BLACKBIRD

Summer is sweet corn season, and for a twist on your normal corn on the cob we have Elote. Corn is a native plant of Mexico, and there it’s a staple eaten in some form almost every day. There are many types of corn grown, and based upon the final corn they produce, it is assigned to different applications. Unlike in the United States, Mexico’s fresh corn (both on and off the cob) can be sweet or earthier in flavor depending upon the final dish it is used in. Elote by definition is a sweet corn on the cob, dressed out with various ingredients and often found as a street food purchased from a cart or stand. We have a few variations for you to try both on and off the cob to add some zest to your next backyard cook out.

Even though Elote uses sweet corn, if you purchase it in Mexico you will find the kernels on the corn are much larger and the sweetness is much lower than what we expect from sweet corn in the U.S. We are using U.S. sweet corn because that is our standard here. A key step to getting great corn off the grill is to soak it the night before so the corn will cook thoroughly on the grill, caramelize well and have plump, juicy kernels. Here is how to do this:

Corn Soaking                                                                                    Yield: 6 ears

Ingredients:                                                                                       Amount:

Water                                                                                                3 gallons

Sugar (optional)                                                                                1 ½ cups

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Wash out your kitchen sink thoroughly.
  2. Plug your sink and add water and sugar (optional: sugar will make corn a bit sweeter; this can help with early season corn).
  3. Peel all but the final couple of layers of corn husk off the corn (remove about six layers of husk). Do not break off any excess stem. This will be the handle for your Elote.
  4. Place the corn in the water, and weigh it down with a heavy plate or pan to be sure all cobs are evenly soaked. Allow to soak overnight.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • If time or space do not allow for soaking, you can remove fewer layers of husk (about the first two to four layers) and cook at a lower temperature (start high for the first 10 minutes turning often, then reduce to medium until done, about 25 - 30 minutes. Corn will be tender and juicy).

 

Typical Elote is brushed with mayonnaise as part of the preparation. We added a couple of optional twists to regular mayonnaise for you to consider.

 

Fajita Mayonnaise                                                                            Yield: enough for 6 ears of corn

Ingredients:                                                                                       Amount:

Mayonnaise                                                                                       ½ cup

Fajita Seasoning                                                                               2 Tablespoons

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Combine ingredients and mix well.
  2. Store covered in refrigerator. This mixture will be good in the refrigerator for one week.

 

 

Chipotle Mayonnaise                                                                         Yield: enough for 6 ears of corn

Ingredients:                                                                                        Amount:

Mayonnaise                                                                                        ½ cup

Chipotle Chiles in Adobo                                                                    2 each + ½ teaspoon of the adobo

Salt                                                                                                     ¼ teaspoon

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Chop the chipotle chiles with the adobo until fine.
  2. Combine ingredients and mix well.
  3. Store covered in refrigerator. This mixture will be good in the refrigerator for one week.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • Remaining Chipotle Chiles in Adobo can be saved refrigerated for scrambling with eggs or substituting for the jalapeños in the Table Salsa recipe we gave you last week (start with a one-for-one trade and boost spice as more spice is needed).

 

Now, let’s make the Elote.

 

Elote                                                                                                  Yield 6 ears

Ingredients:                                                                                        Amount:

Soaked Corn on the Cob                                                                   6 each

Mayonnaise – regular, Fajita or Chipotle                                           ½ cup or 1 recipe

Chili Powder                                                                                       as needed

Cotija Cheese, crumbled fine                                                             ½ pound

Limes, cut into quarters                                                                      2 each

 

Method of preparation:

  1. Preheat grill at highest setting (if working with charcoal, use a heavy layer of coals so corn can be spread across entire grill).
  2. Place soaked corn on the grill. Turn every 5 minutes. Cook until kernels are tender, juicy and start to caramelize (approximately 30 – 35 minutes, see pictures below).
  3. Remove corn from grill. Allow to cool 2 – 3 minutes to prevent burning yourself.
  4. Remove the husk.
  5. Liberally brush with mayonnaise of your choice.
  6. Sprinkle with chili powder (medium coating).
  7. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of Cotija Cheese on each cob.
  8. Squeeze lime over and serve immediately.

 

Helpful Tips:

  • Cotija cheese can be crumbled by hand or grated. If Cotija cheese is not available, Feta Cheese can be used, but sprinkle on a little less since it is saltier.
  • For greater caramelization, either remove husks before grilling and turn more often, or pull back husks in the last 5 minutes of grilling and turn often to caramelize evenly.
  • If you’re cooking something else on the grill with the corn, move corn to the hottest part of the grill and cook remaining items next to it (if using charcoal, you can move the majority of your coals to the part of the grill cooking the corn).
  • Corn will hold very well in the husk after cooking. If more grilling is necessary, place the corn on the grill first. When fully cooked, remove from the grill (husks and all) and place in a warm oven. Complete other necessary cooking and finish the corn as described above just prior to serving.

If eating on the cob is too casual for your event, let the corn cool a bit then cut it off the cob and place in a serving dish. Toss with the mayonnaise, then top with the remaining ingredients. Serve the lime on the side for fresh squeezing just before eating.
 

Here is a visual walk through of how to prepare the Elote, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Recipes
Jun 18, 2014
June 18, 2014 by BOB KARISNY

Please accept our apologies for being remiss in our blog posts recently. As a gift to make up for our absence, we will provide four weeks of easy summer recipes with a Mexican flair. To start week one, we have “Three Easy Summer Salsas” you can use for chips, appetizers or to top great grilled items.

For week two, we will do “Elote,” which is grilled corn topped with savory ingredients that add zest to a traditional summer favorite. During week three we have some “Spice Rubs, Brines and Marinades” that will add new opportunities for your back yard grill. And week four we will teach you to make Palettas, those yummy frozen ice pops with fresh fruit found on carts, kiosks and in mercados all over Mexico.

We chose three salsas with different flavors and textures that are all great on chips, smothered over a freshly grilled meat or vegetable, or can be used in other preparations.

Fresh Mango Salsa       Yield: 4 cups

Ingredients:

Amount:
Fresh Mangos, ripe 2 each
Tomatoes, ripe (any variety), diced small 1 pound
White Onion, diced small 6 ounces, about ½ of an onion or 1 cup
Jalapeño -  remove stem, seeds, veins  
and diced fine 1 each (about medium spice level)
Lime juice 2 limes worth
Cilantro, chopped ½ bunch
Salt  ½ teaspoon

Method of preparation:

1.       Peel and medium dice mangos (if you are not sure how to do this, there are many very good videos online), then place in a bowl.

2.       Add all remaining ingredients and mix to combine but do not mash up.

3.       The salsa gets better with time, so let it sit about an hour.

Helpful Tips:

·         In normal chef talk, “dices” are: medium = ½ inch by ½ inch, small = ¼ inch by ¼ inch, and fine = 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch.

Uses:

·         As a dip for your favorite chips.

·         Served on top of grilled fish, pork chops or pork loin.

·         As an appetizer: stuff dates with goat cheese, wrap the dates in bacon and place on a skewer. Grill them on a medium hot grill until the bacon is crispy. Make a bed on a plate with some of the Mango Salsa. Remove the bacon wrapped dates from the skewer and place on top of the salsa.

 

Tomatillo Salsa       Yield: 1 1/4 cup

Ingredients: Amount:
Tomatillos, husks removed 1 pound
Water 3 cups
White Onion, small dice 3 Tablespoons
Garlic 1 clove
Serrano Chiles, cut in 6 pieces 2 each (use 1 jalapeño if serrano not available)(medium high spice level)
Cilantro, chopped ½ cup

Method of preparation:

1.       Put tomatillos in a pot with water, cover. Place pot on stove on a medium-high heat for 12 minutes. Remove the tomatillos from water and allow to cool.

2.       Place diced onion, garlic, Serrano Chiles and half of the cooled tomatillos in a blender. Blend until smooth.

3.       Add remaining tomatillos, chopped cilantro and salt. Pulse blender 5–6 times to break up ingredients. Finished salsa should be pulpy with small pieces of tomatillo.

Uses:

·         As a dip for your favorite chips.

·         Brush on a raw chicken breast, place on the grill. Continue to baste with the Tomatillo Salsa for the entire cooking time.

·         Mash a ripe avocado so it is still a little chunky. Add ½ cup of the Tomatillo Salsa and stir. Yield: 2 cups.

This is a great dip for chips, or mix it with chopped hard cooked eggs, a bit of mayonnaise and a pinch of salt for a zesty egg salad. You can also fold into chilled, diced grilled chicken as a chicken salad for a sandwich or use on a bed of greens and veggies with a light vinaigrette dressing for a summer salad.

·         As an appetizer: skewer shrimp for the grill (if not sure how to do this check out “how to skewer shrimp for grilling” online), brush with Tomatillo Salsa, place on grill, continue to baste for the short cooking time. Serve with the Avocado/Tomatillo Salsa above.

Table Salsa           Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients: Amount:
Canned Tomatoes, diced, roasted 1 each 28 ounce can
White Onion, diced small 2 ounces, about 1/3 cup
Jalapeño: remove stem, seeds, veins  
and diced small 1 each (about medium spice level)
Garlic, diced small 1 clove
Salt 1 teaspoon
Cilantro, chopped 1/4 bunch
Lime juice 1 lime worth

Method of preparation:

1.       Empty entire can of tomatoes into a blender.

2.       Split the onions in half, and put half in the blender.

3.       Add the jalapeños and salt, blend on low to medium low speed for about 10 seconds. Check to see if ingredients are broken up but not puréed; we want to have some texture in our final salsa.

4.       Add remaining onions, cilantro and lime juice. Turn blender to about medium high. Pulse blender 4–5 times. These ingredients should just be broken up slightly.

 

Helpful Tips:

·         If you want a spicier salsa, remove the stem from the jalapeño and dice the remaining jalapeño, seeds, veins and all. Chef Roberto Santibanez is a strong believer that you should always use the whole chile (seeds, veins and all), either fresh or dried, because much of the flavor and nutrients are found in those components.

·         It may seem odd to dice ingredients before putting them in a blender, but we really want to have some texture in the final salsa, and if we put large pieces of the vegetables in the blender it would require a longer blending time and the tomatoes would turn into a purée.

·         I leave the salt a little low to make up for salt from chips or other ingredients, so once you know how you are going to use the final salsa adjust the salt as needed.

 

Uses:

·         Same revisions as above Dip your favorite chip in.

·         Use as a dressing for a summer salad. Salsas are very low in calories and often fat free, but full of flavor.

·         At Breakfast, make Chilaquiles, a traditional breakfast in Mexico that uses day old tortillas and salsa. Place chips in a frying pan to cover the bottom in a heavy layer. Pour salsa over and simmer covered (with chilaquiles the chips are served soft so you get all that great corn flavor in the dish without the crisp). Scramble some eggs and place on top of the salsa/tortilla mixture. Sprinkle your favorite cheese over and serve in the pan.

·         As an appetizer: take one cup of the salsa and squeeze in additional juice from a lime. Grill or bake your favorite fish, remove it from the grill and place on a plate or dish with a lip on the edge. Pour one cup of salsa over the fish and place in the refrigerator to cool. Break up cooled fish with the salsa (break it so the pieces are approximately ¾ - 1 inch). Place a small amount of the fish in Escabeche on a corn tortilla chip, squeeze on a little fresh lime, top with a bit of guacamole and/or queso fresca cheese. If you are feeling really “chefy,” get some cilantro micro greens and place a small bunch of those on top.

Filed under: Recipes
May 16, 2014
May 16, 2014 by SISSY KRAMER

 

 

Brett, Matthew and Harold, along with their teacher     Mrs. Munroe, spent the day at the Taco John's Franchise Support Center on Wednesday, May 21 to continue developing their winning entry - Fiery Cornbread Bites. They are the 2013-2014 Taco John's West Mex® Culinary Competition team from Encampment High School. Aside from winning scholarship money, the team was invited back to Cheyenne to work with Carl, Bob and me to get their menu item ready for the next step: research.

 

    

 

 

I can't give away all their secrets on how they enhanced their menu item; let's just say we tasted several different versions and felt very good about the end result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our vendor partners, William Franklin, CMC, Corporate Executive Chef with Nestlé Professional, was in attendance to observe and offer suggestions to the team. He sat down with them and discussed how the created menu item would go through several different phases before actually getting produced.

 

The team then met with our Marketing team and discussed the different ways new menu items get designed, produced and marketed. If their creation is tested in the future, it will be sold in Taco John’s restaurants in Cheyenne.

It was a fun filled day, and I feel confident that Brett, Matthew and Harold have a good idea how much work goes into creating, developing, researching, testing, producing, training and marketing a new menu item, along with how long the process can take.

Congratulations to Team Encampment; you are WINNERS!

Filed under: Culinary Competition
May 9, 2014
May 09, 2014 by BOB KARISNY

So what does it take to make a menu item featuring an iconic ingredient like Flamin Hot® Cheetos® snacks? Lots of collaboration.

One of the first things we needed to learn was the characteristics of the Cheetos® brand. Their brand team shared with us the physical, emotional, attitudinal, sensory and behavioral characteristics their brand invokes. With this information we built prototypes that paired these attributes with our Taco John’s® characteristics. These prototypes were shared with the Pepsi/Frito-Lay innovation team to get their feedback.

After this step, we had a menu item – but now we needed to advertise it. Enter a lot of collaboration between the Cheetos® brand team, Taco John’s® brand team and our advertisement agency. We had to consider the words used, the images portrayed and, most importantly, if and how we could use Chester Cheetah. It is important to remember, come the end of the day, we were blending two brands with separate identities that needed to look as one.

In the end, Cheetos® allowed us to use Chester Cheetah, not just his image but also his voice. This was very exciting for us and generous on the part of Cheetos®.  Like the food, all of the marketing needed design, critique, redesign and further critique until it was perfect for all groups.  Now all we had to do was produce the advertising. All of the brand elements belonging to Cheetos®, Flamin’ Hot ® Cheetos® and Chester Cheetah are brand specific and needed to be correct, so we worked with animators for Chester Cheetah and the design folks at Cheetos® to create the right look for both brands. Even the smallest element, like the amount of light used for Chester Cheetah, needed to be just right!

The result of all of this collaborative work? Well, the Taco John’s® guest will be the judge of that, but check out the attached video and see what you think. Hopefully it makes you hungry enough to try our new Flamin’ Hot® Cheetos® Burrito! {see the video}

Filed under: R & D
Apr 21, 2014
April 21, 2014 by SISSY KRAMER

Something exciting is happening at Taco John's today! Last year, Carl created a new menu item that includes Flamin' Hot® Cheetos® snacks. After conducting research with our guests, with the restaurant teams, and partnering with our vendors on the best prices available, we are happy to introduce the Flamin' Hot® Cheetos® Burrito!

We start with a NEW Cayenne Salsa Tortilla created just for us, then Chorizo sausage, our famous nacho cheese sauce, chile de arbol salsa, sliced pickled jalapeños and top it off with the Flamin' Hot® Cheetos® cheese flavored snacks, all for a great price. This new burrito has a nice spicy note, which is a hot food trend right now (pun intended!), especially among younger guests. Come to the nearest Taco John's and get your Flamin' Hot® Cheetos® Burrito. But hurry, they are only available for a limited time!

 

 

Filed under: Food
Apr 11, 2014
April 11, 2014 by CARL BLACKBIRD

 

Growing up in Wyoming, I only thought of tacos two ways –crispy or soft and they should be filled with one of two things:  beef or chicken.  I had no point of reference for seafood in a taco.  Fortunately, years later on a trip to California I had my first shrimp taco and it was amazing! 

This restaurant was near the beach, and its menu had items like shrimp and crab nachos, ceviche, queso fundido, and guacamole prepared tableside.  Their crispy shrimp tacos formally changed my beliefs from those of a young kid who was wary of the concept, to a person who was in love with it!  

Being that there are still a couple weeks of Lent, I thought I’d share this super simple recipe based on this first shrimp taco.  This is my version of what I remember eating back then.   These have a good kick to them; if you’d like them milder use a bit less chipotle powder.  Serve them with some tortilla chips and salsa, and you have a delicious meal for two.

Here's what you'll need:

For the crispy Shrimp:
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
Salt and pepper
1 pound peeled & deveined shrimp, tails removed (small-51/60’s to medium 41/50’s sized)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
 

For the Chipotle-Lime Sauce:
1 cup fat-free greek yogurt
2 chipotle peppers from a can of chipotles in adobo

Fresh squeezed juice of 1 lime (medium sized)

 

For the garnishments: 

1 ripe avocado, chopped
Purple cabbage, shredded
1 jalapeno, sliced (remove the seeds if you like your food less spicy)
4 small flour tortillas, warmed

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and chipotle powder with a fork. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, and set aside.   Rinse and dry shrimp. Place in a large bowl, and toss with the flour mixture until all of the shrimp is thoroughly coated.  You might have a bit of flour mixture left over.

 

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Cook the shrimp for 3-4 minutes, until cooked through and opaque.   While your shrimp are cooking, place the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, and lime juice in the bowl of a mini-food processor. Puree until smooth, and fold mixture into the greek yogurt.  Season to taste with salt.   As soon as your shrimp are done, remove from heat and assemble your tacos, garnishing with shredded cabbage, sliced jalapenos, chopped avocados and as much of the Chipotle-Lime sauce as you’d like. 

 

Filed under: Recipes
Mar 13, 2014
March 13, 2014 by BOB KARISNY

Taco John’s is a not just a business; in the cities where we’re located, we are a neighbor. Our franchisees and Support Center employees are very involved in our communities. So much so that at the Taco John’s Support Center in Cheyenne we are encouraged to do volunteer work, and Taco John’s pays us for our time doing it.

 

Since our home base is in Wyoming, I like to do what I can in the business I love – food. I help support the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association Education Foundation as a board member. While this great group has many functions, my favorite is giving young adults the opportunity to dive into the food business and see how they like it. A great way high school students can do this is through the ProStart Program. This program, developed by The National Restaurant Association, is a nationwide, two-year high school program that unites the classroom and industry to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice leaders.

 

The culmination of all of this teaching and study is a competition. There are two areas of this competition: management (teams actually design a restaurant concept from philosophy to tables and chairs) and culinary (teams complete culinary skills and develop and produce an appetizer, entrée and dessert). Since my passion is with the food, I help by judging the culinary portion of this completion. This is a timed event, so the students are moving and being judged on how they plan, communicate and execute cooking and knife skills, sanitation practices and, of course, the look and taste of their three courses. They do this in a kitchen that is constructed in a banquet hall with only two table-top burners and no electrical (battery or plug in) equipment allowed. It is amazing what these creative, well-trained future culinarians make. Nine teams competed this year, and the scoring was very close. The winning team came from Glenrock High School in Glenrock, Wyoming, second was East High School in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and third was Encampment High School in Encampment, Wyoming. Glenrock will represent Wyoming in the national ProStart competition in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May.

 

Please enjoy the photos from these teams’ great work, and congratulations to all teams. It was a close competition, and they all did very well.

1st place Glenrock High School

2nd place Cheyenne East High School

3rd place Encampment High School

Filed under: Culinary Competition
Feb 25, 2014
February 25, 2014 by SISSY KRAMER

Recently, I went to a goal-setting workshop where we focused on our life goals using the SMART business goals model. Asking myself what I want to be doing in one, five, ten and 20 years really made me think. 

 

 I have been in quick-service for over 30 years, starting out as a team member at McDonald's when I was 17 years old and working my way up the ladder. I loved  that in the workshop we did a fun exercise where we cut out pictures and made our “goals” poster. I even put mine up in my office as a reminder that I need to work EVERY DAY to achieve my goals. The beauty of sharing goals is that others can help you to attain them.

 

 

Here are the goals that the images on my poster represent:

  1. I want to help my girls achieve their dreams financially.
    • My youngest daughter is going to college to become a doctor. She will need my support, not only financially but spiritually, to go the distance.
    • My middle daughter is a cosmetologist, and one day I am going to invest in her salon.
    • My oldest daughter is a teacher; I am helping her to pay her student loans.
  2. I want to learn to play the guitar this year.
  3. I want to take my whole family (all 11 of us) on a tropical family vacation in five years. (Maybe in five years, my family will have grown.)
  4. I want to go to Rome and visit Vatican City in ten years.
  5. I want to eat healthier and walk more starting now!
  6. I want to spend time with my grandchildren and make their dreams come true.

 

There are many other things on my poster; I just shared a few. But the bottom line is that having life goals only makes me work smarter and harder at my job so that I can attain both my personal and professional goals.

Filed under: Chef Bios
Feb 6, 2014
February 06, 2014 by BOB KARISNY

Have you ever seen flying vegetables, floating pizza crusts, or tumbling French Fries in TV commercials and wondered how it happens? Well, it’s all due to guys like Prop Master Kurt Thoresen. Kurt builds the gadgets that help create “food ballet” for some of Taco John’s TV commercials.

On our last television shoot, we were looking for a waterfall-like tumble of Salsa Tortillas (this tortilla is part of a very exciting new menu item we are introducing at the end of April). So Kurt went to work designing the optimal device that would allow each tortilla to float through the air independent of all the other tortillas and fall in a way that looks like geese landing in a field. Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but pretty cool all the same.

Check out the video of one of my favorite drops (I love the suspense of the last tortilla) and see photos of Kurt in action with his Rube Goldberg device, making the tortillas fly.

Also, keep your eyes and ears open for a fun and tasty new menu item coming to Taco John’s soon.

Filed under: Advertising
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