FOOD: Tacos! The perfect food |

FOOD: Tacos! The perfect food

Lee Mathis
Free Press Food Columnist
Lee Mathis
Staff Photo |


“Carnitas” usually means little pieces of fried pork or beef. At the edge of the Plaza in the heart of Santa Fe, N.M., it means a delicious lunch. Roque’s Carnitas Wagon parks here between Easter and Halloween and dishes out a hefty sandwich of grilled beef in a tortilla. It tastes best if you can cook the beef on a tight-knit grate over an open fire, but a hot skillet will do fine. Make the salsa in advance, as you want to eat this sandwich good and hot. Note also that the meat needs at least an overnight marinade before being cooked.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 4



2 cups diced fresh tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-6 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped, to taste

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)


2 tablespoons oregano

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup salad oil

1/4 cup beer

1-1/2 pounds top round or sirloin sliced into 1/4-inch strips against the grain

1 large yellow onion, sliced thin

5 fresh green chile peppers, sliced in circles, with seeds

4 broad flour tortillas, warmed


1. Make the salsa by combining all its ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.

2. Combine oregano, garlic, soy sauce, oil and beer. Marinate the beef a minimum of 12 hours, preferably 24. Drain beef and discard marinade.

3. On a screen over an open fire, or in a hot, greased skillet, cook the meat, onion and peppers about 5-6 minutes, tossing almost constantly, until meat is well-browned.

4. Use a tongs to lift a heap of the meat mixture from the grate or skillet, allowing any excess juice to drip away, and place one quarter of the mixture into a warm flour tortilla. Top with salsa (recipe follows), fold the tortilla around the ingredients and serve.

P lain and simple, I love tacos!

Hard shell, soft shell, beef, steak, chicken, pork, I do love me my tacos!

In my travels, I have had the opportunity to enjoy tacos all over the country and, while I will be the first to admit that they are not all great, the majority are.

Think about it. You can pretty much have anything in a taco — shredded chicken, carnitas, ground beef, steak, fish, or veggie. Personally, most of the time I prefer a crisp shell, but that might be because of the old “Rockford Files” TV show, when Rockford would stop by a little taco stand along Highway 1 in Southern California and buy Becker lunch, which consisted of a couple of tacos.

You can have corn tortillas or flour tortillas. You can have diced tomatoes or even tomatillos, iceberg lettuce or romaine, salsa or sour cream. It’s all your choice. You can fry up some ground beef or grill some marinated steak and chop it; grill up some chicken or fish; or just see what proteins you have left in the fridge and use that. It’s all your choice. Some of the best tacos, in my opinion, come from little roadside stands. Not the ones that pop up for a month or two then go away, but rather the ones that have stood the test of time; people do gravitate back to places that they enjoy!

Last year, after the final month of fair and festival season, I took off for a little vacation through Pepperland, otherwise known as New Mexico and when I was in Santa Fe, I found this little stand that I had read about — Roque’s Carnitas Wagon, located on the plaza. Some of the best I have ever had… but the road is not done being traveled yet, so onward into the search for more tacos!


This one comes from our friends at They’ve listed 14 of their top tacos from steak to barbacoa to achiote-rubbed butternut squash and more! The “Recipe of The Week” is from Roque’s Carnitas Wagon and it’s for Roque’s Carnitas.

Lee is the founder and owner of Decadence Gourmet Cheesecakes and Catering. He can be reached via email at, on the web at, or by calling 970-256-4688. Also, find him on the web by searching Facebook, Pinterest or by visiting Twitter (@decadenceGJ).

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