Last week I had a hankerin’ for what my kids used to call American Tacos (as opposed to Mexican tacos, which are quite different from Tex Mex or Taco Bell offerings). I’m talking about a classic, crisp-fried corn tortilla shell, seasoned ground beef filling, shredded Iceberg lettuce, grated cheddar cheese and fresh salsa.
So off I went to the market to buy my ingredients. When I returned I realized I had no store-bought taco seasoning, which is key to a genuine American Taco! Not willing to brave the aisles again I searched for and found a taco seasoning mix recipe, which Eddie quickly put together for me.
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
Mix well by shaking together in a small airtight jar.
My second homemade ingredient was fresh salsa, though some might argue that bottled salsa would make these more authentically American. Oh well.
Pico de Gallo
2 large ripe tomatoes
2 large jalapeno peppers (seed them if you want a milder salsa)
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Dice all ingredients, mix and salt to taste. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
For the filling I simply brown a pound of lean ground beef and mix in 3 tablespoons of the taco seasoning when the meat is almost done. I then shred the lettuce, grate the cheese and fry the taco shells.
The taco shells require a little attention, but basically you fry the the corn tortilla in very hot oil (deep enough to cover the tortilla) until it is somewhat firm. Next you fold it in half and quickly fry it on both sides, while holding it open with tongs so that when it is done there is an opening wide enough to fill it. I drain the shells on paper towels sitting up on their edges.
Fill shells with seasoned ground beef mixture, a layer of grated cheddar, a layer of lettuce and finally the salsa. If you want to get fancy pants you can also add a dollop of sour cream or slices of avocado.
The combination of crispy, savory, creamy, and piquant flavors made for a fiesta in my mouth and brought back sweet memories of making this meal for my children. Viva El Taco Americano!