Monday, August 16, 2010

Ground Beef Tacos

Its easy to overlook something as simple as beef tacos when planning your weekly menu.  Or to just throw it on there as an afterthought for a quick and easy dinner.  Ground beef, taco seasoning, and store-bought shells.  Done and done.  To be honest, that has never really been one of my favorite dinners, and I don't know when the last time I bought taco shells was.  If I'm going to cook Mexican food, I'm making chicken enchiladas, quesadillas, or burritos.  Well, now I'll be adding these tacos to my favorite Mexican meals.  The whole time we were eating I just kept saying over and over again how good they were.

The secret of these tacos lies in the homemade seasoning and the home-fried taco shells.   I've been making my own taco seasoning for quite some time now, but the spices and seasonings used here were pretty much perfect.  I'll also never buy a taco shell again now that I have this recipe.  Yes, it was a little time consuming, and I hate to say that its worth it, since I know everyone has different limits, but well, they were worth it.  Crunchy on the outside, with a little chewiness inside.  Once you get the hang of shaping them it goes quite quickly, and I really don't mind just mentally checking out for a bit at the end of a long day.  It was actually a little therapeutic.  The shells can also be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven, which makes these tacos ideal for entertaining. 

I'm listing the toppings I used, but feel free to mix them up or add whatever suits your tastes.  Sliced jalapenos, salsa, black olives, or guacamole would all be great as additional toppings as well. 

One Year Ago:  Garlicky Oven Fries and Mango-Banana Daiquiris

Ground Beef Tacos
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
makes  12 tacos

Beef Filling
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1/2 Tbs minced fresh oregano
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound 90% lean (or leaner) ground beef
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Shells and Toppings
  • 3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 4 ounces shredded cheese(about 1 cup)
  • 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped small
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped (2/3 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • hot pepper sauce
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching, about 5 minutes longer, until meat is no longer pink.

Add tomato sauce, broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until liquid has reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and set aside to keep warm.

Meanwhile, fry the shells.  Heat oil in an 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 minutes.  You can test by dropping a small piece of tortilla into the oil.  It should bubble and the tortillas should rise to the surface within 2 seconds.  Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

Using tongs to hold the tortilla, slip half the tortilla into the oil.  With a metal spatula in the other hand, hold the tortilla in the oil, at a 90 degree angle to the top half.  Fry until just set but not brown, about 30 seconds.

Flip the tortilla, and hold it open about 2 inches while keeping the bottom half submerged in oil.  Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Flip again and fry the other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Transfer shells to the baking sheet and lay upside down to drain.  Repeat with remaining shells.

When all the tortillas have been fried, divide the filling evenly among the shells.  Serve immediately, passing the topping separately. 


Christine said...

There is no turning back after making your own hard shells! This is my go-to recipe too - yours look great!

Sue said...

I hadn't thought about frying my own taco shells before, I just bought the ready made ones. That would make them seem a bit more genuine wouldn't it.

Anonymous said...

I once tried to make my own shells and my husband complained about how uneven they were. Ha ha. But apparently there are lots of great little things you can buy to help

Plain Chicken said...

The tacos look great. I need to try making my own shells. I think I would really like them.

Anonymous said...

These are great. I just practiced a couple times with my shells till i got them just right. Kinda like crepes, the first one wasn't so great. But after that all went well thanks.

Shona said...

Hey there! I used this on my food blog, and I gave credit to you! hope you don't mind ;)

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