On this blog we've talked a lot about tacos. Turkey tacos, fish tacos, skirt steak tacos, veggie tacos...but we've never really talked taco tacos. You know, the tacos of your childhood: ground beef, shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomato, yellow cheddar cheese, a thin red taco sauce and of course, the hard corn tortilla shell. Your mom made them with a spice packet she bought at the supermarket. Lawry's, maybe La Preferida, but they all tasted the same. A chili powder/cumin spice blend and a bit of water that made the meat reddish in hue and spicy and tangy to the tongue. It's a good nostalgic flavor that is comfort food to a 70s kid.
I still like to make these tacos once in a while and my husband loves it when I do. But now I'm sort of against spice packets full of dehydrated stuff. I found a recipe from the people at Cook's Illustrated who set out to duplicate that taste using only real ingredients.
Here's the recipe for a 1 lb of ground beef :
2 t corn or veg oil
1 small onion, small dice (about 1/2 c)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1lb 90% lean ground beef
1/2 c canned tomato sauce
1/2 c canned low-sodium chicken broth
A skant 1 t brown sugar
2 t vinegar, preferable cider vinegar
ground black pepper
Have your spices (not brown sugar) measured out and set aside. You can combine them in a little bowl. Also have ground beef package open and ready to add. You don't want your spices to scorch so you need to be ready to add it without delay.
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering, but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices and 1/2 t salt, cook stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and vinegar, bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking up meat so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry) about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
Now as far as the corn tortilla shell goes...I'm lazy and I hate to fry so I just heat corn or flour tortillas. But you can pan fry corn tortillas in a shallow amount of hot oil (1/2 inch or so) and then, using tongs, fold the tortilla and continue to fry (flupping to the other side halfway through) until it crisps up. These can be drained on paper towels and kept warm in a 200 degree oven until you finish the batch. It works wonderfully and they taste really good, much better than the store-bought ones in a box.
For toppings, I trust you know what you like. This is great football Sunday food.