Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Loxaco, a Jewish Taco - Video Recipe

Wolfgang Puck built his food empire off his signature Italian/Jewish pizza made with Lox and cream cheese. And now The 99 Cent Chef has the chutzpah to come up with his own dish worthy of inclusion into the Entrees Hall of Fame - a Jewish/Mexican culinary mashup called the Loxaco!

 Los Angeles is known for fusion food (the collision of disparate ethnic cuisines), epitomized by Roy Choi's Kogi Truck taco, which features Korean spiced short ribs and sour slaw on a corn tortilla (click here to see my video documentary) -- so good! So why not a new taco twist featuring typical ingredients from your local Jewish deli?

I first had a Jewish breakfast sandwich that featured a bagel, cream cheese, and Lox, on a film commercial shoot, and have been addicted ever since. Usually laid out by craft services on a folding table, it seems an unusual first meal, especially with garnishes of sliced tomato and red onion -- Oy Vey! But, mild cured salmon and sweet cream cheese smooth out the pungent raw crunchy red onion.

With all my Los Angeles edible influences, it was only a matter of time before the Chintzy Chef came up with his latest outre entree.

And a lot of the credit goes to a Latino neighborhood (Boyle Heights) bookstore, Libros Schmibros. Thanks to my wife, whose bread and butter is earned through journalism, I've had the pleasure to meet many scribblers, including David Kipen, the proprietor of this lending library/used Bibliotheque in East L.A.

When we were invited there to a book launch party for the travelogue "Waiting For Foreign", edited by Veronique de Turenne and J. Michael Walker, I wanted to come up with a unique dish to commemorate the occasion, thus the Loxaco was born - my version of a Jewish Taco.

In my video, you can spot some noshing local literati in attendance, including Pulitzer Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold with wife Laurie Ochoa (co-editor of Slake), Kevin Roderick (LA Observed), and noir scribe Gary Phillips -- who gives my homemade lox a rave review, on camera!

Cold-cured salmon, or lox, is so simple to make that it seems like gouging to charge $2 an ounce (that's $32 per pound!) by your local deli and supermarket. All it takes is a coating of cheap salt and sugar, followed by a two-day wait for curing in the refrigerator. Cured salmon does lose half of its water weight, so maybe that's why it's worth so much gelt?

I bought a $5 salmon steak on sale for $7.99 per pound and cut it into 3 pieces for my video shoot: two for curing and one piece was kept raw. For one, two-ounce fillet, I went over my 99 cent price point, but not by much; and anyway, I am saving you mucho dinero! And my other Loxaco ingredients, red onion, tomato, cream cheese, and taco shells (or corn tortillas), are always a bargain. Plus all the ingredients are Kosher, including taco shells.

Lox makes for a versatile party canape for your next Bat Mitzvah or Quinceanera. I schlepped a package of tortilla chips to Libros Schmibros to stretch my homemade Lox. Stacking my Loxaco recipe on some chips, I was surprised how quickly they disappeared. A cured four-ounce piece of salmon will easily make a few dozen appetizers, depending on how thin you can slice it. And if you want to keep the party theme Jewish, just use bagel chips.

So pull up a chair and watch the haimisher mensch Chef show you how easy it is to make homemade Lox. And as a bonus, I take you to Boyle Heights to visit a great neighborhood bookstore, Libros Schmibros.  
The Loxaco  - Video
Play it here. The video runs 7 minutes, 42 seconds. 

Ingredients for Lox (about 8 Loxacos, or a few dozen canapes)
  • 4 ounces of fresh Salmon
  • 1/4 cup of Salt
  • 1/4 cup of Sugar
  • A pinch of dried or fresh Herbs makes a tasty flavor addition, including dill, parsley, oregano, etc.
  • If you want a smoked flavor, then lightly brush on a teaspoon of Liquid Smoke before sugar/salting.

Taco Ingredients
  • 8 Taco Shells - okay to use heated soft Corn Tortillas. Hey, go crazy and wrap Loxaco ingredients in a Flour Tortilla for a Jewish burrito!
  • 1/2 onion - typically Red Onion, sliced.
  • 1 large Tomato - or a couple of small, sliced.
  • A small tub or block of Cream Cheese.
  • A few sprigs of Cilantro - optional.

I removed the skin from the salmon fillet (also remove any bones). Mix 1/4 cup of salt and sugar and pour onto a small plate. Coat all sides of the salmon with salt and sugar. 

Wrap salmon in plastic and store on a plate, or small bowl, in the refrigerator for 2 days. If you leave the skin on you may need an extra day of curing.

Every 12 hours or so, open plastic-wrapped salmon and drain off the liquid. I re-coated salmon with leftover salt and sugar after one day. 

The salmon fillet will shrink and turn a deeper orange as it cold cures. It is done when firm to the touch and the center is no longer raw.

After 2 days (very thick fillets may need an extra day or two) rinse off lox with water to remove the extra salty taste. After the rinsing, you can also soak lox for five minutes in a bowl of water to dissolve away even more salt. Pat dry with a paper towel when done. 

Slice lox thinly. Store any leftover lox (highly unlikely) in the refrigerator in a Ziplock bag or airtight container.

To assemble Loxaco, smear taco shell (or soft warm corn tortilla) with cream cheese; add a slice of tomato, onion, and lox, finally topping with a few sprigs of cilantro.

My Loxaco is easily turned into canapes for a party food tray. Just assemble the same way with your favorite chips, including tortilla chips, bagel chips, and fried pork skins -- obviously, the last chip is not Kosher!

Libros Schmibros hours are noon - 6pm. Thursday - Sunday
103 N. Boyle Avenue (new location)
Los Angeles, CA 90033
phone: (323) 604-9991

99 thanks to Bob McGinness for his tasty kitchen camerawork.
Extra thanks to David Kipen of Libros Schmibros, plus all the customers and the volunteers.
*Click on orange type for links to Mexican or Yiddish phrase translations.
To embed, or to just link the video from YouTube, click here.


Cassiopeia said...

Is the 1/4 cup of sugar/salt actually 1/4 cup of each, or 1/8 cup of each, totaling 1/4 cup at the end? Thanks!

99 Cent Chef said...

Use a 1/4 cup each to total 1/2 cup. Coat well, and coat again after a day. Salt & sugar are cheap enough.

moondancer718 said...

Curing my 2nd salmon filet with your recipe, and the 1st one came out great, Much cheaper than buying lox at the market. Threw some fresh dill from Vallarta market on top of the salmon, yum and yes it did not last long. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Barbara

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Ah, food for the body, food for the mind! I will be at Libros Schmibros tonight at 6:00 p.m. to read and sign my new novel, "The Book of Want" (University of Arizona Press). Come on by!

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