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October 15, 2013 12:10 pm | | HOME | BLOG HOME | ARCHIVES |
Pati Jinich Bricklayer Tacos

A taco is a beautiful thing.

One of the most satisfying, versatile, exciting, and downright honest foods I can think of.

Plus, there is no need or mood a taco can’t tackle.

You are hungry and have but one peso in your pocket? Eat a Taco de Nada. You pass a tortillería on your way home? A Taco de Sal will hold you off until you get there. A deep hangover ails you? Go for Tacos de Barbacoa with Salsa Borracha. Did you say you have a broken heart? A pair of fully stocked Tacos al Pastor will be your most effective rebound. You are home with a cold? Soft chicken tacos dipped in fresh crema will make you all better, no doubt about that. Need to feed your teen kid and his buddies before they head out? Crispy Potato and Chorizo Tacos dressed with shredded lettuce, crumbled queso fresco and Salsa Verde will make them happy and fill them up. It’s lunchtime and you are on the road? If you are in Mexico (or somewhere with a large Mexican community), you will find someone with a huge basket selling Tacos Sudados to go. Planning a backyard party? Tacos de Carnitas will kick it off, without you even saying a word.

I could write an endless post on all sorts of tacos and all they can do for you… But, if you want to feed your family a generous, satiating, and super tasty weeknight meal, make them bricklayer tacos. Step by step instructions follow below. But as I cook, let me quickly reflect on The Taco.

Cooking Bacon for Bricklayer Tacos

Start with a large casserole or skillet and fry some bacon. Until crisp. 

Whenever I teach Mexican cooking, I never fail to say that the food of a country resembles its people. The taco, the most emblematic of Mexican foods, fully embodies Mexico and its people. Through the gazillion different kinds of tacos that have existed, we can explore the evolution of Mexico and the identity of Mexicans. The stories told by each taco, linked to one another, holds us Mexicans (and Mexican food lovers) together.  I am getting a tad too philosophical about tacos, I know… but just think about the possibilities.

Cooking Steak for Bricklayer Tacos

 You don’t need to add any other fat. You will add tender pieces of tenderloin or sirloin straight into the bacon fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and let the meat brown without fully cooking.

There is no exact date on when the taco came to be. It existed before the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, in pre-Hispanic times, for sure. There is anthropological evidence that it was thousands, not hundreds of years, before the Spanish conquest that people in Mexico were eating tacos (even if they weren’t called that). Indigenous people had domesticated corn and found a way to make it fully nutritious by way of the nixtamalization process (where corn is shucked, dried, cooked in slaked lime or ashes, hulled and ground) and turned into a malleable dough to be used in a thousand different ways, including tamales, drinks, all sorts of patties and that flat bread we call tortilla.

Adding Onions and Jalapenos

 Add onion and jalapeños.

Now, how long since has the tortilla been used as an edible plate, or torn into pieces to scoop up food as an edible spoon, or held in hand to wrap a filling to munch on? I am guessing more years than you probably are. The filling could have been cactus paddle or iguana, who knows.

Adding Garlic to Bricklayer Tacos

 Add garlic and cook for less than a minute, until garlic is fragrant.

The first documented tacos appeared in the “Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain” (1520), by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a conquistador. He reported a taco feast, enjoyed by Hernán Cortes and many of his commanders, where many kinds of fillings were eaten wrapped in tortillas. Friar Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish ethnographer, also wrote about many different kinds of tortillas based on corn (different colors including yellow, blue and white; small and large; thin and thick) during the time of the conquest, in his “General History of the Things in new Spain.” It wasn’t until the Spanish arrived that the flour tortilla came to be, as they are the ones who introduced wheat.

Roasted Tomatoes for Bricklayer Tacos

 Add chopped roasted tomatoes.These is how they need to look, charred, juicy and mooshy.

According to Jeffrey M. Pilcher, Mexican silver miners invented the taco, but he is most likely referring to the word… The word taco also refers to any small piece of material that can fit into a hole or gap, such as the pieces of paper wrapped around gun powder that were used to extract precious metals from ore, in that same shape. Workers in Mexican silver mines in the 18th century called their meals Tacos Mineros. Though there may be a link to the shape of the other kind of “tacos,” we know for a fact that edible tacos have existed for thousands of years before those…

Chopped Tomatoes for Bricklayer Tacos

 Did I say chop up the tomatoes?

So yes, indeed, there are Tacos Mineros, but there are also tacos for and of absolutely EVERYTHING else, including the Tacos de Albañíl, or Bricklayer-style Tacos, that I am here showing you how to make. They’ve been baptized as such, for they are quick to prepare, very filling and need nothing else to be added on the side or on top.

They can also be prepared on site in a comal and  can use any kind of available meat, as long as it is cut in small bite size pieces. Tacos de albañíl sellers an also be  found near construction sites. Just walk around Mexico City, or come over on a weeknight: It is also one of my family’s favorite fast meals. And you get to pick what kind of tortilla you want, flour or corn.

Adding Chopped Tomatoes to Bricklayer Tacos

 Add to the mix and cook for a few more minutes.

Soft taco, crispy taco, hard shell taco (wish I didn’t have to say Taco Bell taco but we can’t ignore they have in a way helped to spread the word), puffy taco… I hope you add these Bricklayer-style Tacos to your collection of taco recipes.

Bricklayer Taco Filling

 You are done. Set it on the table.

Wait, you don’t have a taco recipe collection? Make this your first one!

Bricklayer Tacos

 Warm up your choice of tortillas, corn or flour. And let everyone have a go!

Bricklayer Tacos Tacos al Albañil

Serves: 6 to 8

Tacos al Albañil" alt="Bricklayer Tacos Tacos al Albañil" />


8 ounces bacon, sliced

2 pounds beef sirloin or tenderloin, cut into 1? pieces

Kosher or sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 cups white onion, slivered or sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 jalapeño chile, sliced, seeding optional, or to taste

1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes

Flour or corn tortillas

To Prepare

Place tomatoes in a baking dish and under the broiler for 6 to 9 minutes, until charred, mushy and juices have begun to run. Once cool, roughly chop, but don’t discard the juices.

Heat the skillet, add the bacon and cook until it is crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper and sear for about 2 minutes per side.

Add in the onion and jalapeño and let them soften for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and before it browns, in less than a minute, add the chopped tomatoes. Stir here and there and let it all season for about 4 to 5 minutes.

In a skillet or comal, set over medium-low heat, heat the tortillas. It will take about 1 minute per side. Place the tortillas in a tortilla warmer or wrap them in a clean kitchen towel or cloth napkin.

Serve along with the tenderloin tips; guests can fill the tortillas with the amount of filling they desire.




Thank you for the nice recipe, Pati. Have a wonderful day!

My pleasure Liz, hope you have a great rest of the week too.

Looks delicious. Can’t wait to try them.

Let me know how they turned out!

Hello. A friend of mine told me about your blog and “Cooking With Mr. C.” on Facebook. I now have two favorites. Keep up the great work. Denise

Thank you!

I really appreciate the discussion of history and social traditions that you provide in this article. I am curious about the inclusion of smoked bacon, an ingredient I don’t ordinarily associate with Mexican food. Are there other dishes that incorporate bacon?

Hi Zora!
So many dishes! Pig was introduced since the Spanish arrived and since then.. it has thrived in Mexican kitchens. I couldn’t even begin to list its many uses…

LOVE the historical and phylosophical twist to the TACO post. Do you have any book recommends (other than your book, of course) on the history and technique of Mexican Cuisine?

Super feliz por tu exito!

Soooo many! Look for Diana Kennedy and Patricia Quintana’s books, they are both fabulous. Fany Gerson has an incredible book on Mexican sweets as well!

Gracias! Had the pleasure of meeting Diana Kennedy MANY years ago during a short stint at Fonda de San Miguel Restaurant in Austin, Texas. At the time, one of the first authentic Mexican restaurants in the US.

Now, that’s what I call a taco with all the delicious seasonings and aromas. Memories from my childhood. <3 <3 <3

Really looking forward to the debut of your cooking show- and in the meantime, Bricklayers ‘without the taco’ as I’m on a ‘zero carb’ journey!! Will share your web with others- fresh, simple, direct prep and food!!

Thanks so much, Savvy! Good luck on your zero carb journey…

Sabrosos! Muchas gracias. Que se cuiden.


Hello Patti, just wanted to let you know that I prepared your bricklayer tacos, sorry with out the tomatoes, and it turned out great. There was some left over and took for lunch. Easy Recipe, again thank you for sharing.

Hola Grace, So glad you liked them!!

I enjoy watching your show and watching you cook. You cook with passion and you love Mexico. I have made these tacos twice and they are a hit. They are great! I’m trying the hamburgers and potato salad today. Thanks for sharing your culture and recipes. Have a Blessed day!

Thank you so much, Cynthia!

My husband and I watched your TV show last night. I love how passionate you are about your cooking. I am making the Bricklayer Tacos today. There is no doubt in my mind how delicious they will be.
Thanks for this great website.

Thank you, Joyce!! Hope you enjoyed the tacos!

I am thrilled to find your website. My signifcant other is from Mexico so I love cooking Mexicsn dishes for him but often find the recipes too time consuming and complicated for everyday. Your recipes make it sooo much easier. Am really looking forward to surprising him with som new meals.

Hola Rita, Welcome! So happy to hear you like my site. Please let me know what you make & if you ever have any questions.

Pati, I love your show!!! Your Bricklayer Tacos recipe is what brought me to your site. They are GREAT!!! PBS has done a great thing bringing you on board. I hope you are around for a long, long time!

Hi Larry, Thank you so much for watching! Very happy to hear you like the show & the tacos!!

Making these for a party tonight with meat loving friends. I prepared the filling last night so I wouldn’t be rushing after work for this evening. I took a taste though and delicious and flavorful as promised. I think my friends will love them.
I love your recipes, Pati. I’ve also made the tomatoes, pepper and onion sauce that you simmer and crack eggs into to poach and it was loved by all at my brunch.(Rabo de Mestiza) And I had to use an Anaheim pepper instead of the poblano. I can only imagine how much better it would be. Anyhow, I was asked to host another brunch and make it again! Ha ha!

Haha! So happy to hear Karen (one of my sisters is also Karen… )

I love to cook… I have only one problem my Mexican or Spanish style rice never and I mean never comes out right. .. Can you give me tips or a no fail recipe for rice to help me thank you so much….

Hola Theresa, I like to “fry” the rice before I cook it. My recipe/method is here:

Saw this on “the chew”! I got the ingredients to make it right away & I was NOT disappointed!!! Soooo good & soooo easy!! This is my first time making a dish I saw on tv & it was so good I just might do it again! Thanks for making it doable!!

Hola Megan, Thank you SO MUCH for trying them!! Thrilled to hear they were a success, and I hope you’ll find some more recipes to try on my site. Let me know…

My boyfriend is Mexican American, and your website really helps with learning how to cook with all of your wonderful recipes–I also try to watch your wonderful show on PBS! I hope to order you cookbook soon.

Thank you !

Thank you, Lisa!

Gracias Pati! My husband (who is from Mexico City) and I absolutely love this recipe. After living in Mexico for 3 years I am always trying to make the most authentic Mexican food that I can and your recipes have been a constant hit at my husbands job at KitchenAid). I love to see what you make on The Chew and I hope my baby will one day love to help me in the kitchen as much as your boys do 😀

Thank you for your message, Ali! I’m so happy to hear my recipes have made it into your kitchen and, also, that they like them at KitchenAid!!

I was wondering, since I dont have enough money to buy the meat you requested. Can i use carne asada meat. I hope to hear from u. take care

I made these for the third time, and this time they were taco perfection. I think the difference was letting the bacon get really crisp. Next time I will double the recipe so the cook gets some. thank you, Pati!

Con gusto!

Thank you for the recipe. Never thought I could cook…

I’m glad you liked it!

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