(Originally published March 29, 2016 on Examiner.com).
At the recent Cochon555 held at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria in Costa Mesa, CA teamed up with supplier Walnut Keep Farm from Suisun Valley in Northern California to compete against four other chefs and suppliers in this year’s Cochon competition.
Chef Selgado made six different dishes for the judges from the Red Wattle heritage breed of pig provided to him by Walnut Keep. One of those dishes was his chorizo potato taco thickened with an adobo of guajillo chiles, garlic and spices. This dish also included a little queso fundido thickened with white corn and was served on an heirloom blue corn tortilla. Selgado makes these blue tortillas at his restaurant with corn imported for him from Mexico. This taco is the type of dish his restaurant would serve on its a la carte menu for lunch.
Selgado had never worked with a Red Wattle heritage breed pig before. What especially impressed Selgado and his team about this breed of pig is its incredibly delicious fat which is very clean with an almost pine nut quality. Because the fat is so delicious, his team focused on the lard in the dishes they made. For the chorizo they used back fat from the pig along with a combination of the shoulder and trim from the neck and the legs plus a little bit of the kidney. These different parts were ground together and marinated in the adobo. The adobo helped to tenderize the ground meat. The adobo itself took about a day to make. The adobo consists of roasted guajillo chiles, garlic, and warm spices.
This taco, along with the other dishes Selgado’s team made for this event from Walnut Keep’s Red Wattle pig reflect Selgado’s belief that great ingredients grown and cultivated by good people make the best food. That’s also the philosophy of Selgado’s restaurant Taco Maria.