When you see the word albañil, or “bricklayer,” grab a napkin. “Bricklayer,” in culinary lingo, means a meat-based dish sauced with a combination of onions, jalapeños and tomatoes that can be easily tucked into tortillas for a fast meal. According to Chef Pati Jinich in her new book Mexican Today, the tacos are so named because they were an easy, filling hot lunch served at construction sites; a woman would come by with a comal (griddle), tortillas and a stew, and the workers would come and fill their own tortillas. Even if you have only a few minutes to eat on the job, your meal must be delicious.
In this recipe, bacon is first crisped in a heavy skillet. Then the beef is cooked in the smoky bacon fat (no need to add any other oil), and a chunky sauce is made in the same pan with tomatoes, onions and jalapeños. Build on the sauce’s natural smokiness by first roasting the tomatoes, which also adds extra sweetness and depth. Salsa verde cruda makes a bright, fresh contrast to the rich, smoky filling. There’s no shortage of crisp, full-flavored pale ales on the market these days, and the style is an excellent pairing.
1 pound ripe tomatoes or 1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
8 ounces sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-wide strips
2 pounds boneless beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large (or 2 medium) onions, cut lengthwise in half and then into thin slivers (about 2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 jalapeño chilies, thinly sliced (seeded if desired) or to taste
12 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
Fresh Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa Verde
1. If using fresh tomatoes, preheat the broiler. (You can also roast the tomatoes on a hot griddle or in a skillet, but a broiler is quicker.) Line a baking sheet or baking dish with foil. Put the tomatoes on the foil and place under the broiler, 2 to 3 inches from the heat. Broil for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip over. Broil for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the skin is charred and the tomatoes are completely soft. Remove from the heat.
2. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop them. Transfer the tomatoes, with their juices and seeds, to a bowl. Or if using fire-roasted tomatoes, drain them, reserving the juices, and coarsely chop, then transfer the tomatoes to a bowl along with the juices.
3. Heat a 12-inch-wide deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to crisp and lightly brown. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sear the meat, in batches if necessary, for about 4 minutes, turning once.
4. Add the onions, garlic and chilies to the pan and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Turn off the heat.
Serve with the warm tortillas and salsa. Makes 6 servings