La Carnicería- Tacos al Pastor and Hot Banana Pepper Pico de Gallo

Tacos…oh, the wonder of tacos:  street tacos, gourmet tacos, BBQ tacos, fusion tacos, Americanized tacos…I love them all.  I go to all the taquerías I can get to in search of the best, most flavorful, most authentic taco, BUT I also love making them at home.  AND we have found the secret to making the best at home tacos…las carnicerías.  Living in Texas, we are super lucky to have access to Mexican meat markets!  If you haven’t ventured into one yet, don’t be scared- grab a friend and go!  You don’t know what you’re missing…

There are a slew of Mexican meat markets, “carnicerías,” around us- La Michoacana, La Tapatia, Fiesta, El Rancho…but our favorite, which we are very loyal to, is Mi Bandera on 14th St. and Jupiter Rd. in Plano.  Their meats are high quality and the flavor can’t be beat…We are obsessed!  They have huge containers filled with all different types of meat, marinating in their magic seasonings and sauces.  They have beautiful and cheaper produce too.

On the weekends we typically get pounds of “fajita de res marinada” (marinated fajita beef) and cook it in our smoker, put it on tortillas for street tacos, or just eat the meat with our fingers…it’s that good.  On this trip we tried the “al pastor” (pork usually cooked with pineapple) for the first time.  We rougly chopped some onions and added it to the meat, put it on a cookie sheet, and put it in our smoker.  I can’t even describe the deliciousness to you…it has a sweeter and tangy taste to it and the flavor is just outstanding.  I mean, please check out this pic below and tell me that does not look delicious!!

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To top it off, I wanted some pico de gallo, because, who doesn’t love some fresh chopped pico de gallo!?  I love to buy my produce, whatever vegetable I decided to chop up that night, from the meat market as well because they always have super fresh stuff- avocado, squash, cilantro, onion, peppers, whatever…so while I was buying the meat at the market, some beautiful, bright peppers caught my eye…HOT BANANA PEPPERS!  I loooove hot banana peppers and decided to grab one to see how I could use it to accompany our tacos…I was then struck with the idea to try a banana pepper in my pico de gallo, rather than the typical jalapeño/serrano!

This is a simple and fresh recipe, just like traditional pico de gallo, except using the hot banana pepper and cherry tomatoes, instead of the usual jalapeño or serrano pepper and plum/Roma tomatoes.  I don’t include exact measurements because most of the time I’m just winging with no plan, but use your judgment based on how much you want to make!…I taste as I go and adjust as needed.

Banana Pepper Pico de Gallo

hot banana pepper (or sweet?)
cherry tomatoes (5-10 toms)
fresh garlic (2-3 cloves)
white onion (1/4 onion)
cilantro (a handful)
olive oil (as needed)
fresh lime juice (to taste)
salt (to taste)
black pepper (to taste

-Chop tomatoes and onions and put it bowl, adding a few drizzles of olive oil.  Add salt and mix well.  (I add the salt at the beginning and a few times throughout mixing as it brings out more of the flavor and juices from the chopped veggies as it sits.)

-Chop garlic finely and add to the bowl, mixing well.  

-Add black pepper.

-Chop the banana pepper, add, and mix.  Taste it here to see how you like the spiciness/picante, and add more banana peppers if you need to.

-Lastly, chop your cilantro, add, and mix.

-Add a final drizzle of olive oil and sprinkles of salt, some black pepper, then top with a few squeezes of fresh lime juice to taste.

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-Serve fresh and eat with tortilla chips, use as a taco topping, or just mix with meat!

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