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Ruby Taco


“Echoes of reggae comin’ through my bedroom wall”

Inspired by Jimmy Cliff “Ruby Soho” from Rebirth
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Why Jimmy Cliff’s cover over the Rancid original? It’s my obsession with covers. I actually did not know Cliff did a cover until I went searching Spotify for a Listen link to the original. Turns out there are quite a few covers. I briefly thought about using the Inspector’s cover for its blend of ska and Mexican pop as this taco is a blend of Southern and Mexican cooking, but that seemed a bit too trite. The Cliff version is a perfect soundtrack for chilling in the sun while eating tacos.

This is another recipe that came out my recent cookbook writing test kitchen. I figure no one needs 5 gallons of sauce at home, so I have to take my restaurant size recipes and scale them down for home cooking. I have therefore ended up with a few batches of sauce good enough to make the cookbook, but necessarily my favorites. The base sauce for this taco – Ruby Soho – is one of those sauces.

This was not one of my Cha Cha Hut BBQ sauces. I created this sauce for a Q joint I ran in Bed-Stuy. I wanted a sauce based on the great selection of dried chiles I found in Bushwick. This was my first experiments with making my own chili paste. Ruby Soho is more of a hot sauce than a BBQ sauce. It’s a slow burn sauce that builds up over time. On the plus side, that burn dissipates fairly quickly.

The name is taken from a classic Rancid song. The Bed-Stuy Q joint I ran had a rock theme, and it was there I started my professional obsession with musical food puns. Our sampler platters were Mixtapes, Minor Threat, and Major Tom. Our vegetarian sandwich was the “12XU”. Ribs & chicken wings = “Pig On The Wing”. Our sauces: Mean Mr. Mustard, Whiskey A Go-Go, Straight Edge and Ruby Soho. It was also here that I first started making Tomatillo Chow – a Bushwick version of Southern green tomato Chow Chow.

Much like the Sweet Bird Of Truth, this taco is the result of wanting to use up a test sauce. It was also a test run for a Taco Takedown. I am fairly happy with the results. The chicken thigh works well with this sauce. Braising helps pull back on the base heat of the sauce and the rendered chicken fat makes for a great Ruby reduction. The Tomatillo Chow adds a nice layer of sweet and crunchy. Queso fresco and a bit of sea salt add the needed saltiness. I tend to add a bit of hot sauce to every taco so you should too.

RUBY TACO
Ruby Soho chicken, Tomatillo Chow and queso fresco on flour tortillas
Makes 3 tacos

6 ounces of Ruby Soho Chicken
3 tablespoons Tomatillo Chow
2 ounces of queso fresco
3 flour tortillas

Toast the tortillas. Divide the chicken between the tortillas. Top with Chow Chow and queso fresco. Add a bit of hot sauce if that’s your thing.

RUBY SOHO CHICKEN
Makes 1 quart

4 pounds of chicken thighs, deboned and skin removed (save to make chicken stock)
1 tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
16 ounces of Ruby Soho sauce
2 limes, juiced

NOTE: I buy bone in skin on chicken thighs as they are cheaper and the trimmings and skin can be used to make a delicious homemade chicken broth. If you do not want to trim your own thighs, 7-8 boneless skinless thighs will work.

Preheat oven to 325°F

In a small bowl, combine cumin, garlic powder, Mexican oregano, salt, and black pepper. Mix well.

Place trimmed thighs in a large bowl and coat with the spice mix.

Spray an 8×12 baking dish with cooking spray. Take a half cup of sauce and pour into the dish to coat the bottom. Arrange thighs in the dish on the sauce. Cover the remaining sauce. Squeeze 2 limes over the sauce. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 70 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest with the foil open for 15 minutes.

Transfer chicken and onions to a bowl and, using a fork, shred the thighs. Pour the sauce from the baking dish into a small pan and reduce by half on medium heat. Pour reduced sauce over shredded chicken and mix well.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

RUBY SOHO SAUCE
Makes 3 cups

2 dried ancho chiles
3 dried guajillo chiles
4 dried chiles de Arbol
3 dried puya chiles
4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Place chiles in a bowl and cover with 5 cups boiling water. Let chiles soak 1/2 hour to soften. Reserving the soaking liquid, de-stem and de-seed the chiles once soft and place in a food processor. Add soaking water and blend into a smooth paste. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Saute onion until soft. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add brown sugar, dry mustard & salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and the chile paste. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil – reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before using.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

TOMATILLO CHOW
Makes 1 quart

1 medium green pepper, fine dice
1 medium red pepper, fine dice
1/2 large sweet onion, fine dice
3 large tomatillos, husked and washed – fine dice
2 cups green cabbage, coarse chop
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Brine
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2  cup water
3/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/3 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
1/3 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and mix with the kosher salt. Cover and let sit at least 2 hours.

In a large heavy pot, combine the brine ingredients whisking until sugar has dissolved. Drain and rinse the vegetables and add to the pot. Stir to completely combine vegetables and brine.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Let relish cool and pour into a clean airtight container. Store in refrigerator.

Posted in bushwick, comfort food, cooking, food, foodmusic, grillclub, music, musicfood, recipe, taco, tex mex

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