Breakfast Tacos con Chicharron

I‘ve had a nearly insatiable craving for habanero peppers lately. I’ve been mixing up quick-pickled habanero to ladle onto leftover pot roast nachos. I’ve been spiking my canned Chunky soup with overly-aggressive shakes of Cholula. I’ve been adding green El Yucateco in dangerous quantities to jarred salsa, and then running around the house carrying on about my burning, blistered mouth. Each day, though, I wake up unsatisfied, ready to assault my palate with more heat.

It wasn’t long before I began trying to figure out a way to make eating tacos for breakfast socially acceptable. Oh, sure, the world already has huevos rancheros; I was looking for something simpler, a more direct vehicle for applying hot sauce to the back of my throat.

After field testing this dish three times for out-of-town overnight guests to From Away Worldwide Headquarters, and delighting our visitors each time, I think we’ve found the solution.

The secret here is twofold. First, we scramble our eggs properly, which is to say, slow and low. Your scrambled eggs should take a fair investment of time to cook over low heat, while you lazily scrape a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pan occasionally. Cook them on as low a flame as you can muster, and be patient. Your scrambled eggs should be just barely set, creamy, with a custard-like consistency. “Fluffiness” should only be the goal of a scrambled egg that is made from a powder and about to be served at the free continental breakfast in the lobby of a Comfort Inn; your scrambled eggs should be soft, curdy, and ever-so-slightly underdone when you take them out of the pan.

The second part of the secret to this dish, and this shouldn’t really be a secret to anyone, is that crunchy-fried bits of pork fat and skin instantly send any dish into the stratosphere. We used some leftover skin-on pork belly from our porchetta recipe, scoring the skin so that it puffs and crackles in a hot pan. The combination of tender meat, flavorful fat, and crunchy skin make the perfect compliment for the velvety eggs.

You can invite your guests to assemble these tacos themselves, using any combination of toppings they like. We serve ours with sliced green onions, diced tomatoes, a sprinkle of cotija, and our fakey-crema (sour cream diluted with milk). You could also try adding some black beans, refried beans, or jalapenos. Of course, as with everything else I am eating these days, a liberal application of habanero hot sauce is recommended.

Breakfast Tacos con Chicharron
Makes 8 small tacos; Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup skin-on pork belly, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1o eggs
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend, such as Jack or Cheddar
  • 3 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons cotija or Parmesan cheese
  • 8 small corn tortillas, warm
  • Hot sauce

Method:

In a small frying pan over high heat, warm oil until nearly smoking. Add pork belly and cook, stirring occasionally, until pork is brown and crunchy, about 10 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels, and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine eggs and water. Whisk until eggs are smooth, with whites and yolks incorporated. In a medium frying pan over very low heat, melt butter. Add eggs, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook slowly, dragging a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan when curds begin to form, about 5-7 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until eggs just barely begin to set. Add cheese, and continue cooking until cheese melts and eggs are no longer runny, about a minute more.

For each taco: Place a few spoonfuls of egg on a tortilla. Top with cooked pork belly, scallions, tomato, crema, and a sprinkle of cotija. Serve with hot sauce.

Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as the junk food blog "Spork & Barrel," and "Brocavore," a blog about food trucks and street food culture. His contributions include Serious Eats, Down East, Eat Rockland, L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, and The Huffington Post and his food truck, "'Wich, Please," was named "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015 by Eater. Finally, he finds it very silly to be trying to write this in the third person.

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