Intel Drop: Taco Magic in a Deceitful World

Jim Dean in Beirut (photo by G. Duff)

By Gordon Duff, Senior Editor

The internet has become an infection, but in ways, no one talks about it.  To begin with, the carrot as it were, some advice on cooking.  The tostada is a good ‘early in the day’ meal for the soon to die but not infected yet crowd.  Thus, we discuss the magic of the refried bean.

Never buy the canned stuff.  Don’t get any cooking instructions on the internet, except maybe Rick Bayless.  Don’t make any attempt to do anything healthy, it will backfire and kill you.

VT staffers cooking with Hezbollah, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

A basis for Mexican food and the tostada is refried beans.  Two choices, Canary/yellow/Peruvian beans, less flavorful but much less gassy or pinto beans, which taste better but can get you kicked out of the house.

Another choice is Canelli or White Kidney.  Canned can substitute for soaked.

Pressure cooker or instant pot or equivalent retain a bit more flavor.

Hold the seasoning when making beans.  Start with 2 pound dried beans (preferred) soaked overnight.  Cover with water and only a bit more and set the IP for about 10m (way longer if dried/check instructions…40m probably).

VT girls in Paris

With an IP, clean the steam valve first and every time.

When done, grab a bean, eat the thing, make sure it is totally done.  If not, add some time.  Make sure you are not burning.  If the valve is working properly your water should be ok.  There is a reason I am harping on this.

Gene and Gordon in Barbados (photo by C. Duff)

OK, beans cooked.  Look at the amount of water and remove excess with a ladle.

Ah, the painful part.  Add half a cup (more) of lard, cold rendered if possible, best quality.  The Armor stuff in the green container, which lasts years on a shelf after opening, works fine.  Suggestion, a bit of liquid smoke or equivalent, not mesquite but hickory.

Careful with salt, it can be added later and can wreck things.

Nana with Russian commanders in Syria

Break up beans partially with an immersion blender.  Taste.  Remember that these are used more or less as a condiment, not a food group.  These will be better than anything you have had unless of course, your mom is Hispanic.

Now to store them, ZipLock bags with about half a cup per bag.  Flatten out, push out air, lock the bags and stack.  There will be lots of them.  Freeze them.  They last a long time.

Meat is not needed for tostada’s but we can discuss two versions of the popular Mexican sandwich call the “taco.”

If you are Islamic or Jewish (kosher Jewish, not the regular ham eating kind) leave now.

The key to the taco is bacon.  Figure two slices per taco.

Use no real cheese. Preferred, Land-O-Lakes or similar fake white cheese slices (what authentic restaurants use) or Kraft American Cheese Slices.

If you choose to use a sauce, get the Yucateco green or red habanero.

For soft tacos, if available, the fresh paper wrapped kind, el Milagro.  They can be turned out a variety of ways, quickly turned in fat until they expand or dampened (healthier) or a light coat of first cold pressing olive oil.

Two tacos for each one set slightly offset.

Prep:  Cilantro, washed, folded and fine shopped.  White onion finely chopped.  Lime sliced into 6ths.  Optional shredded cabbage.  Bacon set aside.

For the filling, the bacon works fine by itself.

Fish tacos:  Best, Sams/Costco best quality cod fillets battered and deep-fried, nothing larger than a fish stick.  (2-3 oz).  Easiest, best quality breaded cod, deep-fried and then cut in half.  Big tacos are bad tacos.

Shrimp:  Best is largest (Aldi or equivalent) raw, totally thawed and 20 seconds flipped in a hot pan with smoking olive oil.  Best use smokey oil and good ventilation than play with Canola.

Depending on size, two or 3 shrimp per taco.  You can substitute cooked but please remove the tails. Never cook shrimp in liquid, let them finish cooking, if raw, after being removed from the pan.  Season only after cooking, lemon butter if at all.

Assembly: You have your double tacos lined up.  Each gets a slice of cheese.  Then the bacon.

The beans, microwaved on low for 5 minutes (watch carefully) and only one teaspoon per taco. This is optional, which means you won’t taste them anyway even as good as they are.

For Fish/Shrimp add the very small breaded (preferred) fish filet or portion of shrimp.

Small avocado slice works well here but we are getting into the “big taco” world.

Option, finely diced tomato, very small amount.  No “big tacos.”

A tiny amount of shredded cabbage.  Sprinkle with finely chopped onions followed by generous fresh chopped cilantro.

Soak with lime juice.  Optional, 3 drops of red or green hab sauce.  Don’t use hot sauce.

Side:  Assuming you have a rice maker, use only brown rice.  One cup with 2.5 cups of water and NO salt.

If your rice maker came with tiny cups, use two of them to 5 tiny cups of water.

This will take 25m so do this in advance.  When finished, season with 3 tablespoons of Green Mountain cooking sauce (light soy/best quality/authentic).

Add unsalted butter.

If you want to try a Syrian version, use the soy, then add a bitter herb spice mix.  Stuff into cups/small bowls and turn over, dropping shapes onto a plate.  Dress with the best quality olive oil.

To stay Mexican…place a serving on a separate plate/bowl and place two-plus tablespoons of the very real refried beans.  Hold the hot sauce.  Sprinkle on onions and cilantro.  Consider a few drops of olive oil to make it easier to eat without choking to death.

Other options here are julienne slices of chicken breast, tossed in frying pan with hot oil…very very short cooking time.  Careful cleanup with chicken, of course, good knife needed much danger of need of band-aid here.

For those who would prefer to dodge the carbs of the stone-ground corn tortillas, this can be a “bowl” assembly as well.

The base of the brown rice, a dab of beans, then shrimp or chicken, much more cabbage, tomato, then onions and cilantro and topped with avocado.  The hot sauce works on this.

Soak with lime juice and dress with olive oil or not.

Now that you have been fed, I will keep the whiny stuff to a minimum.

I just described how you can turn out $24 average restaurant meals if you are lucky to have somewhere like this around, and few can say that, for a plate cost of around $4 or less.  Plus you will have fun and suffer from a secretly balanced diet with fats, limited carbs, lots of good stuff and have something nice to eat, festive even.

You won’t find this on the internet. In fact, you won’t find anything good, not help with your car, with appliances, cooking, certainly not news, not unless you are really good and investigate every source and every writer.

You will get information that will destroy your lawnmower, kill your garden, poison your family, destroy your car and it won’t be an accident.

For those out there who work their asses off to make videos that are really helpful, I thank you.  You are a rare breed.  Please, never address people as “YouTubers.”  Please don’t chat and beg for money.

Oh, for advertisers, please stop burying vital news reports on the pandemic behind ripoff ads.  We will remember and punish you.

OK, if you run to the store, take Chlorox wipes or make them yourself using 30 percent bleach and whatever cloth/paper towel you have.  Bleach destroys clothing, be careful.

Wipe cart, hands, car doors, steering wheel, take off shoes when you get in the house, wash face and nose and stay the hell away from people.

If you buy food to make this meal or many variations, chances are you won’t find yourself in front of empty shelves.  Use authentic “Mexican” or “Asian” grocery whenever possible.

We can get into other cooking things, several of us at VT are trained chefs and as Mike Chester found out when we went to Germany (and everywhere else) a few years ago, I am a guest chef at several medium top European eateries.


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  1. When I was young, my mother and all of my friends’ mothers had an urn of bacon fat sitting on their stoves. The used this for frying eggs, fried chicken and any thing else fried. (which were many meals) The smoky pork flavor added a lot of taste.

  2. I was going to suggest the baking soda trick but JS beat me to it. It works.
    I use Anasazi beans which taste similar to pintos but with half the gas. (these are an ancient bean from the SW that was thought to be extinct. A jar of them was found in an archaeological dig and they were still viable. From this one jar all of the current production of these beans developed) They also cook faster and don’t need the soak cycle. Lard is the most authentic and IMNSHO the best tasting but for the pork free or the vegetarians, a neutral vegetable oil can be used. EVOO adds a flavor that some people like but it is a bit different.
    Brown rice is less authentic but much healthier.
    The small cup that comes with many rice cookers is actually 5 oz. but it results in a full cup of cooked rice.
    I like to use home smoked pulled pork on homemade corn tortillas, but ground chuck with taco seasoning on a factory made tortilla works in a pinch. Fresh made pico de gayo is better than any factory sauce but more trouble.

  3. Uncured bacon is available commonly, Oscar Mayer, Hormel…others, sometimes labeled ‘natural’

  4. Two tablespoons of Soy Sauce to a pound of Pinto Beans as you boil the dry beans for a minute prior to the disk.
    Farts are gone and the boil stops the little shoots that look like maggots from growing during the soak.
    Mash and fry with olive oil, toast just slightly against the cast iron skillet. Twice.
    Ya gotta blend and toast a second time, with Cumin and garlic the second.
    That’s my Irish refried recipe.

  5. Do not eat foods made with beans (or any heavy meal) before a long motorcycle ride where you need to make good time (or a day at the track).

    • Canary beans work because they have little or no skin. Cannelli work as well, same reason. Pinto or Great Northern…NO.

  6. I hope you had the chance to sample the local rum when you were in Barbados. Clear as water, smooth as silk, and a kick like a Missouri mule. I spent a glorious week there when my ship (research vessel) put in. It would have been perfect if we were not moored downwind of the molasses ships. Want to annoy african americans at home? Remind them that the first slaves brought to the new world in chains to work the sugar plantations were Irish. Today the descendents are called the “Redlegs of Barbados”. Back then to be “Barbadosed” was a verb. I have a personal stake in this tale as some of my ancestral kin are named on the gravestones on that island.

    • Jim lived there for some time. Gene’s regional consulate was there as reigning Russia diplomat for the Caribbean

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