Taco Night, California Style
I hope you're planning on having a fabulous Mexican feast tomorrow in honor of Cinco de Mayo. If you DON'T know what to make, I highly recommend establishing your own family tradition - tacos! Most families seem to have a default menu item they go to when the "cook" doesn't want to think about what to make for dinner. The options range from spaghetti, to meat loaf, to chicken, to breakfast for dinner. Growing up in my family meant the "go to" meal was tacos.
For years I lived under the assumption that everyone cooked up tacos like my mom. However, when I moved to Atlanta, I discovered that what was commonplace for me was more unusual for others. This is not a fancy meal, but there are a few important twists that make the preparation a big departure from your average taco.
Here's what you need for the meat filling:
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 6-8 oz Chorizo sausage (MEXICAN style, which is soft, NOT Portuguese, which has the consistency of pepperoni)
- 1/2 chopped yellow or white onion
- 1 Tblspoon chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove minced garlic
- 1/4 cup water
First step, brown the meat with the chorizo, onion, and garlic (if you're using fresh). When the meat is thoroughly cooked, drain off the fat and add the spices along with 1/4 cup (ish) of water. The water helps spread the spices evenly through the meat. Simmer until the water is absorbed.
If measuring the spices feels like a lot of work, don't be thrown off. This is a PERFECT time to try your hand at eyeballing the spices and tasting!! I think the first time I ever measured for this dish was for this post. ALTERNATIVELY - feel free to buy a pre-fab "Taco Seasoning" packet at the grocery store and use that instead. Just ignore their directions on the back and put it in with the browned meat. This is definitely an OK shortcut!The next step is what kicks the whole Taco Night into a new level. For an authentic "Taco Night" you must fry your own tortillas. I realize this may sound like a complicated process; I promise it's not! Here's a quick step-by-step look. You need:
- Small frying pan
- Canola/Vegetable oil (enough so the tortilla can float)
- 1 package white or yellow corn tortillas
- paper towels.
For my 8-inch pan, that's a little under a cup of oil. No need to measure - look for the float! Preheat your oil so you see little air bubbles forming. When the oil looks hot, slide a tortilla in.Let the tortilla cook until bubbles start to form on the top of the shell, then flip the tortilla.Careful when flipping! Allow the second side to bubble up as well. I don't like super crisp shells, so I make the flips at the first sign of bubbling. You should play with the timing until you get the shells exactly the way you like them. Before pulling the shell out of the oil, fold over and let it cook 10-20 seconds longer (again, depending on how crisp you like your shell.)Drain off of oil from the shell.
Place on a paper towel and dab with another paper towel to remove excess oil. After laying out a row of 4 shells, I put another towel on top and start the whole process again. Typically I make 12-16 shells for a pound or so of meat.
If you happen to stop by for Taco Night and ask, "anything I can do to help?" I'll put you on the frying station. (Emily shows off her skills below!) Once you make your tacos this way, you'll never go back! Fair warning : )