Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Homemade Tacos

I still feel guilty about the cheater meatball recipe, so I'm trying to allay that guilt by tossing in another homemade recipe. Go to your pantry and chuck those Old El Paso Taco seasoning packets. We are going to build these tacos from scratch.

First, a word about a key ingredient, oregano. There are two types of oregano, Turkish and Mexican. Turkish oregano is used in Mediterranean dishes like Italian sauces, Greek salads and Turkish kebobs. It has a sweet, strong flavor. What you want for this recipe is Mexican oregano. It is stronger and less sweet and goes perfect with spicy, hot, cumin-flavored dishes of Mexico. Any cook worth their weight will have both types in their pantry. If you don't have both, you can buy them here: .

Also, I like to make my tacos with organic ground bison. Organic bison meat has less fat (typically 10% or less) and is always drug and hormone free. If ground bison is not available, use organic ground beef.

This recipe is from my cooking bible, Cook's Illustrated and it serves four. If you'd like to subscribe, go here: .

Taco Filling Ingredients
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, well chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound organic ground bison
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Shells and Toppings
8 taco shells
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 small tomatoes, well chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, diced medium
1 small onion, well chopped
4 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
Tabasco Sauce


  1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. 
  2. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 
  3. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up 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.
  5. Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells; place two tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately.

Wine pairing: Zinfandel or Sauvignon Blanc, but I prefer El Pacifico Mexican beer with my tacos.

If you want to make your own home-fried taco shells, follow the instructions below. The taco shells can be fried before you make the filling and rewarmed in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

3/4 cup corn oil
8 corn tortillas (6 inch)


  1. Heat oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 minutes (oil should bubble when small piece of tortilla is dropped in; tortilla piece should rise to surface in 2 seconds and be light golden brown in about 1 1/2 minutes). Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with double thickness of paper towels.
  2. Using tongs to hold tortilla, slip half of tortilla into hot oil. With metal spatula in other hand, keep half of tortilla submerged in oil. Fry until just set, but not brown, about 30 seconds.
  3. Flip tortilla; hold tortilla open about 2 inches while keeping bottom submerged in oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip again and fry other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds.
  4. Transfer shell upside down to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adjusting heat as necessary to keep oil between 350 and 375 degrees.

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