Unless you're at a place where the trackside specialty is a breakfast sandwich, early morning track food is either nonexistent or a surefire way to get the trots before noon. Why not make your own? Anyone with a stove and a pan can half-asleepedly make the best breakfast in the world: breakfast tacos.
I know what some of y'all are thinking: breakfast...tacos? Look, you're probably going to be standing over a car for the first hour before the drivers' meeting doing last-minute fixes and/or pleading your race-hooptie to start, so you need something portable. That's why lunch runs are usually sandwiches, burritos, brats, pizza and other delicacies you can eat with your hands.
Breakfast typically means eggs, though, which usually means a knife and fork have to get involved. You don't want to be that guy standing over his still-not-ready-on-day-two race car knife-and-forking an omelette into his mouth. Nor do you want to eat scrambled eggs with your hands like a total philistine.
What you need is some ingenious method to get eggs and other breakfast foods into your mouth without coating your hands in egg slime.
Breakfast tacos are so good, I don't just eat them when I'm hovering over a busted 944 somewhere. They're everywhere and anytime food. Make them at home. Order them at taco stands. Order them at 2 a.m. because you're hungry. Order them anywhere you see tortillas and eggs on the same menu. "Can you put those migas in that tortilla and put a couple of those concoctions on a plate?" They're that good.
Sure, breakfast burritos (read: bigger tortilla) are bigger, but they also fall apart easier. You know what smells bad? Egg and cheese dribbles on your manifold. That's going to smell bad all day, especially when you're in the car and twice-cooked egg stank wafts into the driver's seat. You can eat three or four tacos and accomplish the same exact thing without as much need to carefully monitor your Leaning Tower of Egg-za as you waddle around rubbing the eye crusties off your eyelids and trying to find a tool you knew you packed yesterday.
The taco uses a hand-sized tortilla, and thus, is the perfect vehicle to get breakfast into your mouth as quickly, deliciously and efficiently as possible.
What's so genius about the breakfast taco? Well, you can put anything inside it.
If you have a teammate with special dietary needs, swap out some of the components: avocados or nopales (delicious marinated cactus chunks) for meat for vegetarians, tofu scramble for eggs and/or non-dairy cheeselike product for cheese for vegans, corn tortillas instead of flour for gluten allergies, or absolutely everything for bacon for That Guy.
Common breakfast taco fillings are eggs (duh), potatoes, cheese, some form of meat (bacon, sausage, fajita steak, brisket, venison you hit with your tow vehicle, etc.), nopales (found in the Mexican aisle of bigger grocery stores; also delicious), avocado, and some kind of pico de gallo or salsa to put on top.
Sometimes migas or a scramble gets plopped into a tortilla and boom, done. Tacos achieved. For sharing, though, it's probably easiest to just prep everything a la carte to appease any picky eaters in your paddock space.
Some people even skip the egg and do all meat. You know what's delicious first thing in the morning? Shredded beef with nothing else but onions and cilantro on a tortilla. The possibilities are endless. If it exists, you can put it in a taco. Whole restaurant concepts have thrived on that idea 'round here, for what it's worth.
Gathered here, in my gross little kitchen, are some basic ingredients you'll need to make tacos:
- Pan: For cooking, duh.
- Comal: For cooking tortillas, du—uh, wait. You mean those things have to be cooked? Yes. Fridge-temperature isn't a tortilla's ideal temperature. Tortillas are more flexible when warmed, and you can't get those nice, almost crunchy brown spots by tossing them into a microwave. In lieu of a comal because I haven't been able to find one yet, I usually just cheat and use another pan.
- Spoon or spatula: For cooking, also duh.
- Big bowl and a whisk: Not pictured, but still necessary for whipping your raw eggs into a scrambled mass of tastiness.
- Things to cook: I'm going to keep this simple, so I'll just do sausage (un-cased, and whip out the cooking spray so it doesn't stick to your pan), eggs (you'll need salt, pepper and a couple teaspoons of butter for these, too) and tortillas (yes, these need cooking, too). I brought out the jar of nopales here, too, but didn't end up using them this time. This jar is basically pre-prepared, so I recommend scrambling them into the eggs to warm them up to the same temperature as the rest of your taco and because they're delicious.
- Things to add to tacos afterwards: Cheese and pico de gallo. Some people like a fresh slice of avocado or a tasty salsa on top here, too. Go nuts with it.
You can make tacos on-site (camp stove and a pan) or you can make them at home, bring them along with you, and be the envy of everyone who knows what you're eating.
Put a little cooking spray down. Even though it's a nonstick pan, I don't always trust these things. I put a light spritz of cooking spray so the sausage doesn't glue itself to the pan just in case. You don't want one charred side and one raw side.
I like the big lump of pre-prepared sausage-meat for my tacos. I've seen people do links before, but then you have this tougher mass in the middle of your taco and the sausage-to-egg ratio is all wrong instead of distributed fairly evenly among your eggs.
So, brown your meat. If you're working with a Jimmy Dean tube-o-sausage or in this case, Whole Foods' wad-o-"artisanal pork-chunks" from behind the meat counter, the hard work of sausage making is mostly done. All you have to do is cook it.
Cook your meat thoroughly and make sure it doesn't break up into too-small chunks. Small chunks of sausage tend to get hard and sad compared to the softer, more supple larger chunks. Aim for a light brown all around, then remove them from the heat.
Drain the pork grease from the bottom of the container to save it for later, and set the clumps-o-sausage into a some kind of container where they'll stay warm for a few more minutes. If you're cooking outdoors, go for a closed container or put a lid on your pan and break out a second pan for the eggs.
I actually overcooked mine a bit in the example shots for this article, but I ate it anyway. Consider them exhibition tacos. Like the Race of Champions of tacos: I enjoyed them anyway, but dagnabbit, you still know deep-down that it's still the off-season and that these don't really mean anything. Go for a lighter brown than I have in the photo at the top of the page. The goal is cooked, not crispy.
Some people put fried eggs in their tacos. Sometimes it's part of an authentic Tex-Mex recipe. More often, though, the kind of person who puts a fried egg on a taco is what is known as a "hipster" and a member of that special class of human beings whose goal is to stick fried eggs, bacon and sriracha on everything.
You don't want a fried egg on your track tacos. The goal is portability, not a hot, oozing mess.
So, make scrambled eggs instead. Get a big bowl with ample room for whipping and a whisk. Throw as many eggs in there as you'd like.
Here's the part that will drive you crazy about cooking breakfast tacos (or anything, really) if you're used to working on finicky German crapcans and having very precise, set measurements for everything: cooking really doesn't do that, and when you stick to measurements, it usually ends up a bit off.
Part of the problem is the egg itself: sometimes you get a little more out of the shell, sometimes you don't. It's a gooey mess. They all grow to be slightly different sizes, too, despite the "Large" or "Extra Large" labeling on the carton. So, that full quarter-cup of water might work sometimes if your eggs are big and plop neatly out of their shells. It won't when you have a couple punier eggs and one's a beast at coming out of its shell.
Anyway, drop your nekkid, de-shelled eggs in a big bowl. If you get egg goo on your hands, wash it off immediately. Stuff's gross, dude. If you are camping out next to your car, opting for pourable, pre-de-shelled eggs in a carton may save you a "please get the salmonella off my hands" trip to the super gross track bathroom. Separated egg whites are more common to find like that, which may or may not be what you want if your doctor has warned you about impending cardiovascular doom.
Thin your egg mixture slightly with water. I used a little less than a quarter-cup of water for four eggs, for what it's worth. Some people use milk instead of water. You'll find people who swear by both and fight each other to the death over it, but both will taste good. Put a little bit of salt and pepper in there, to taste.
I threw in a little Cayenne pepper in my egg mixture because why not? I always put hot sauce on my eggs anyway. This just saves me time.
Whisk the bowl of eggs and seasonings together until all the yolks are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
So, here's where the pork grease comes in. If you made sausage or bacon, you now have the perfect fatty lube to keep your eggs from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and it makes your eggs taste like fluffy clouds of fatty heaven in your mouth.
Alternately, if you'd like to keep your eggs free of meatiness, plop about two teaspoons of butter into the pan and melt it down. This is also delicious.
If you're having to suck it in to fit in your driver's suit, stick to cooking spray. I haven't tried making them this way, but scrambled eggs are involved, so it's still probably pretty good.
Set your burner on medium heat, or even a little lower if that looks too hot. If you're outside and it's windy and cold, you may want to have the heat a little higher than medium. (Again with the lack of exact measurements and directions for things. Grumble.)
Once you've made sure (somehow) that your eggs won't stick to the pan, pour the mixture in there.
Eggs cook stupid fast. You'll soon notice your mixture forming into a giant egg-curd, or something akin to an omelette shell. Sure enough, if you were trying to make an omelette, you'd want to keep this intact as one big, round omelette-curd, but you're not.
Stir the mixture up a little bit to form the curd into big, meaty chunks of delicious eggness. Make sure nothing glues itself to your pan and burns. Once all of the bright, runny parts have formed into a semi-solid, you're done. Don't overcook them. Overcooked, brown chunks of egg are gross.
Eggs: so easy, even I can make them. (I've mentioned losing my apartment deposit to a kitchen fire before, right? Because I did.)
If you accidentally used too much water, draining your eggs before you put them into tortillas isn't a bad idea. Whip out the strainer and drain out the excess egg-pee from the bottom of the pan. Everyone who eats your tacos will thank you for this.
This is where I should be using a comal, but since I have less regard for the hydrocarbons from the non-stick surface leeching into my delicious flour tortillas than I do for eating cold tortillas, welp, here we go. Makin' do. I don't recommend that, though.
Do it right and get a cast-iron comal, though. First off, because there's no mystery nonstick substance coating the surface. Secondly, because care is simple. Because it's a device made solely to warm tortillas, you always wash it off with water only: never, ever with full soap and water. (The accidental placement of the comal in the dishwasher caused one of the biggest roommate fights I ever saw in college. You don't DO that.)
Most importantly, because cold tortillas suck. Yeah, some people warm theirs in a microwave cozy (meh) or directly over an open flame (this usually gets too crispy in spots, and tends to warms them unevenly), but some people also wear socks with sandals, too. Never go with what some people do when the right answer is probably in the cookware aisle of your local Mexican grocery, or at the very least, for sale on the Internet.
Place flour tortilla on comal. I like flour tortillas for breakfast tacos for two reasons. One, because they're more structurally sound than corn. Ever had a corn tortilla disintegrate on your hand, leaving you with a soggy lump of taco fillings and shredded outer shell? Flour doesn't do that as often. Eggs are moist and corn tortillas often don't handle that well. Two, because they're so easy to heat up. When the tortilla starts to bubble, flip it on the other side.
A flat, cast-iron surface allows the heat to distribute evenly across your tortilla. You'll get these nice browned pockets where the bubbles inside the tortilla expand as they heat up. When both sides have gotten warm, remove the tortilla (a fork works if you have delicate hands) and place the next one on there to warm up.
If you're cooking for a big group like an endurance team, you probably want to get someone started on warming up tortillas while the rest of the ingredients are being cooked. If you're cooking for one or two, though, eh, it can wait 'til the end and then your just-cooked sausage won't be a flaming hot mouth-bomb when you actually put it in your mouth.
Now that everything that needs to be cooked is ready, put it all together. I like to put the cheese at the bottom so it can warm up a bit under all the other ingredients. Then eggs and meat go on, and finally, pico de gallo on the top. There's something about pico de gallo that transforms a tomato chunk from being an icky unwantable to a vinegary, spicy treat.
Tacos are the perfect treat because you can put anything you want on them, as much or as little as you want it.
If you're taking your tacos to go, wrapping them up is simple.
Insert taco into tin foil. Fold over one side. Fold over other side. Fold up ends. Drop taco into a second sheet of tin foil, just in case the first layer leaks. Fold one side. Fold the other. Fold up ends. Done.
Now you have the greatest portable breakfast ever made. Just don't drop salsa in your coolant reservoir.