These are easily better than they have to be.
To make tacos it’s so easy to brown some ground beef, pork chicken or venison, toss in a packet of prepared spices (I prefer the Taco Bell store bought spice) and cook. Add the meat to a store bought corn or flour tortilla with lettuce, cheese and chomp, done.
I like fresh chopped onion along with pickled jalapenos and chopped fresh cilantro on my tacos too. Tomato and sour cream? No.
I have eaten tacos at those upscale Mezcan restaurants. They’re damn good but get 2 tacos for about $6? True ethnic bodegas in Chicago neighborhoods such as this one are delicious and less expensive but not worth the risk of getting robbed on the way home or having my car stolen.
We found this great taco recipe a few years ago that is very different tasting, nothing like the seasoning packets. In fact, they do not possess the usual flavor notes most taco fans are accustomed to. What makes them even more special is frying our own fresh corn tortillas. Dan and Carl have had our fresh fried nacho chips at tailgates. Frying wedge shaped tacos shells isn’t much different. This in itself makes any taco much better than it has to be regardless of your seasoning choice.
For the meat filling:
Start by adding a small amount of oil to a hot skillet. Toss in one small diced onion, a pinch of coarse salt, then stir for about three minutes on medium. When the onions become transparent add three large cloves of garlic either chopped or pressed. Stir for about 30 seconds. The next step is where the real magic happens.
Add to the onion, garlic and oil a spice (that has been pre-mixed) that consists of:
1T chili powder (I could pull a foodie snob trick here and recommend Penzys but brand any will do)
1t ground cumin
1t ground coriander
½ t dried oregano
½ t cayenne
Stir for a minute or so, this will bloom the spices to form a paste-like substance and bring out much more flavor. Then add 1-1.25 lbs lean ground beef. Stirring the beef and chopping it with a wooden spatula will give it the finer crumb that I prefer. Stir until cooked.
½ c canned tomato sauce
½ c chicken broth
1t brown sugar
2t cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
Fold in well then reduce heat to low and allow the resulting matter to reduce, up to 30 minutes.
While this is going on take a wide skillet and fill it with ¼ to 1/3 “ of oil. Heat but be careful not to burn it. I buy fresh corn tortillas and they’re everywhere. I cut one into quarters to test the oil temp. Then add a whole one using two pair of tongs. Fold it into ½ by holding up one side with tongs leaving a 2’ gap forming a wedge. It will soon become crisp, then flip to fry the other half, again keeping the gap using the tongs. This takes less than 2 minutes total per tortilla.
I try to challenge myself constantly to cook food better than restaurants serve. For the most part, I do. It takes work and time but worth it. The rewards beyond the taste is not having to go anywhere, drinking as I feel like it, having a good time (it’s like a hobby), and doing as I wish when full. It’s frugality at it’s best and there is no tipping : )
Homemade tacos…better than they have to be.