Nacho Ordinary Taco:
“You know how I feel about tacos. It’s the only food shaped like a smile. A beef smile.”-Earl Hickey, My Name is Earl
Ah, yes! Tacos! Do you remember eating your very first one? Well, I sure do. It was in Florida at Taco Bell many years ago. I was going to say “many, many” years ago, but, no need to press the issue, right? Now, this was not the neon-lighted, “pass the Pepto-Bismol” megalopolis drive-through chain that exists today. This was a restaurant (albeit fast food), an actual sit-down eatery (maybe one of the original ones) that was nothing less than charming: housed in an off-white brick building (a real Spanish architectural vibe) with terra cotta shingles, complete with a brass bell that hung in the center of the roof’s arch. Cobblestone paths that wound lazily around stately, swaying palm trees, framing a massive blazing fire pit that presided over the outdoor seating area. For a little girl who rarely dined out (and never had such “worldly” fare), this was the culinary equivalent of going to Disney World. Eating away from home and having food I’ve never tasted before? Add in some over-the-top pyro? That’s just too irresistible to a small, impressionable child. It was awesome. And we hadn’t even gone inside yet!
Our dinner instructions were this: you could have as many tacos as you wanted (they were 25 cents back then!) but you had to finish one before you ordered another. I’m not proud, but hearing that we could have as many as we wanted? Well, that was like winning the food lottery! All I can eat? Woo hoo! It was too good to be true. I loved this joint!
I bellied up to the counter and ordered. I carefully chose a seat; then sat down and slowly and methodically began to undo the Taco Bell-labeled origami that contained my dinner. I didn’t know the word at the time, but I was marveling. I had never had anything wrapped up before! How fun is that? I must have eaten five or six of them just for the unveiling alone. But, I’ll admit, I thought they were pretty tasty…back then (this is an eight-year-old’s palette we’re talking about). And that was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with tacos. And, I’ll even venture to say those first individually-wrapped Mexican “sandwiches” sparked the genesis of my unnatural fixation with single servings.
I love the whole taco experience. Warm, spicy ground beef encased in salty, crunchy corn goodness. Combined with the crisp, coolness of shreds of lettuce and fresh, diced tomatoes. Add in creamy cheddar cheese and tangy sour cream…ridiculous. This recipe is “nacho” ordinary one because it has the ultimate “wow” factor, too—homemade tacos shells. You won’t believe how easy they are to make…way better than anything you can buy! Now, that’s something that’ll make you smile!
Beef Tacos with Homemade Taco Shells
- For the filling:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup beef stock
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Homemade Taco Shells
- In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium; add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and beef, season with more salt and pepper and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, breaking up the meat. Drain off any fat. Add in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook for several minutes to toast the spices. Add in the beef stock and cornstarch, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce has thickened. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Assemble the tacos with the meat filling and toppings of your choice.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: The spicy beef mixture is also awesome in burritos or taco salads. Of course, you can skip making your own shells (buzz kill!) but you’ll miss out on the best darn taco you may ever have.
Product Purity: I use organic corn tortillas for my taco shells (other store brands are made with hydrogenated oils or shortening). Check the label on your beef stock for added MSG. I use all-natural Kitchen Basics.
Presentation: Did somebody say Taco Tuesdays (or Taco Wednesdays or Taco Thursdays)? Plan a taco night – it’s a fun and affordable meal that’s perfect for casual entertaining. Set out a big buffet with a variety of toppings (like shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, cheese, sour cream, black olives and jalapeno slices) and let each person build their own edible masterpiece. Serve with cold Mexican beer or margaritas (and then call to invite me).