Nothing of the sort has happened to either Mara or me since we started Umami. We may agonize over cheese, but that’s where the similarities end.
Life does go on, though, and things do happen. Just not those sorts of things. But last Thursday, I did have a memoir-worthy experience. I was arraigned. In a court of law. I have to admit that I still don’t know what “arraigned” actually means. I should ask my lawyer, but, since I pay him a hefty hourly fee, the two-minute answer would probably cost me 100 bucks.
Normally on a Thursday morning, I get out of bed, take my kid to school, and head off to work, maybe humming a jaunty tune. Perhaps something by Lady GaGa. On this particular Thursday I took my kid to school, lied about where I was going, and headed to the Roxbury District Courthouse to meet my attorney. After listening to a string of other people’s traffic infractions (for which, again, I was being charged at an hourly rate), I heard the words I never thought I'd hear in my life:
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Janetta S_________
Really? The whole Commonwealth? I darted my eyes around the room looking for Ashton Kutcher. I’m still looking.
Two-and-a-half years ago, someone hit my parked car and didn’t leave a note. And, even though I paid my bills on time every month, Hanover Insurance (I spit at the name) didn’t think that was enough. They refused to pay my claim and got all CSI on me, regaling me with stories of forensic evidence and my alleged duplicity. So, I cried and I cried, and I paid the freaking $3500 to have my car fixed. And I never really got over the unfairness of it all.
Jump forward to 2010, and I’m in court – being prosecuted for insurance fraud and plotting to commit a crime. I’d love to explain how this happened, but I really don’t understand it enough to jot that particular musing down. I do plot, but not about crimes – mostly just about which friends I’m going to invite over on the weekend and what I’m going to cook.
The arraignment only lasted a minute or two. My lawyer informed the court that I was “not guilty,” (another $100), and we settled on a date for the “pre-trial" (whatever that means). It was easy enough, but it was only the beginning, so I didn't have the best day. I stayed home from work and went to yoga and made dinner. The good news is that when you're not having the best day, you can still have the best tacos. So, if you have to go to court and the entire Commonwealth is against you, make these. You’ll feel better. A margarita or two wouldn’t hurt either.
The Best Tacos
a recipe in my head based on one I read in Cook's Illustrated several years ago
For meat filling:
1 T canola oil
1 lb ground beef
3/4 c diced onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T chili powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T brown sugar
1/2 c tomato sauce
1/2 c chicken broth
10 corn tortillas
a lot of canola oil
First make the shells:
Heat about 3/4 c of canola in a small frying pan – it's hot enough when a corner of tortilla dipped in the oil makes it bubble. With tongs, gently place one half of the tortilla in the oil, keeping it submerged while folding the un-submerged half into a taco shell shape. When the bottom half is golden brown, use tongs to flip and continue to shape. It may take some practice, but the ones that don't work out can be crumbled on top of a taco salad. Drain on paper towels. Repeat for remaining shells.
Heat 1 T oil in pan, add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and spices and cook for a minute more, until fragrant. Add ground beef and sauté, breaking up meat, until brown. Add broth, tomato sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Meat filling can be made several hours in advance and reheated.
Fill shells w meat filling and accompany w any or all of the following toppings (in no particular order, although there's a reason that the guacamole is listed first):
Olives (I prefer green w pimentos, or the ones they sell at Trader Joe's stuffed with garlic. Canned black ones are okay too, I guess)
Shredded Lettuce (not my personal fave, but some people like it)
A bowl filled with the perfect antidote to the courthouse blues. Enjoy.