Friday, July 9, 2010

Tacos don't have to be awful

(note: my photographer, Frances, disappeared to take pictures of her American Girls in the middle of this project, so I had to take my own photos on my iPhone. You be the judge as to which ones were with a real camera.)

I used to make tacos with that awful packet in the ethnic foods section of the grocery. It came complete with corn tortillas, stabilized with a cardboard cylinder, and maybe even some taco sauce. All you had to do was brown the meat, add the spice packet and a can of tomato paste, some water, and simmer. Well, you know what, they don't have to be so awful. I make awesome tacos, complete with homemade tortilla shells, that are amazing. It's another great one from Cooks Illustrated.

Tacos Filling
2 tsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed (or finely chopped)
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 pound ground beef (preferably 90% lean)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (Swanson's)
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar

Saute the onion until soft, 4 minutes or so. Add garlic and spices and saute about 1 minute. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon until no longer pink. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar and let simmer on low for about 10 minutes.

Vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas

Heat 2-3 inches vegetable oil over medium to medium high heat. I use my smallest cast iron skillet, which is about 6 inches across. You know it's ready when you add a bit of a corn tortilla and it floats to the surface in about 2 seconds. Place a rimmed baking sheet nearby lined with 2 layers of paper towels. Hold 1/2 the corn tortilla in the oil using tongs. (The part you're holding will be at a 90 degree angle to what's in the pan.) Keep it there about 1 minute. Switch and put the other half in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Finally, put the 1st half back in to ensure it's golden brown. Place shell upside down on the paper towels to drain.

Serve the tacos with sour cream, shredded cheese (I use Monterey Jack), avocado, and diced tomatoes.
(Oops, that's one of Frances's photos: Chloe (just like me), Nellie, Kit, Samantha, Lily (just like me); and in front: Chrissa, Felicity, and Lanie)

They're delicious left over too. Just throw the taco shells in the toaster oven for a bit. They may seem soft at first, but let them sit after toasting and they'll crisp right up.

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