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Chris Hennes

Ground Beef Tacos

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One of the staple meals in my family when I was growing up was ground beef tacos, made from the Ortega "taco kit" (it came with shells, seasoning for the beef, and hot sauce: you supplied the lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese). Well, I've sworn off the kit... but not the tacos. Surely I'm not alone here: who else makes this quintessential Tex-Mex favorite from scratch? What do you put in yours?

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Oh man.. They are super gringo and I don't ever go to taco bell to get them or anything, but I have made them at home before. used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated. But the best thing I learned from them wasn't the filling. IT was frying your own taco shells. It makes a HUGE difference in the finished product.

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We had ground beef taco's even though my mom is from Mexico. But no powdered spices, the ground beef was braised in had crushed WPT serranos, green onion (whole and removed later), water and knorr, reduced until just a tiny bit saucy and finished with cilantro. Yum!

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We had ground beef taco's even though my mom is from Mexico. But no powdered spices, the ground beef was braised in had crushed WPT serranos, green onion (whole and removed later), water and knorr, reduced until just a tiny bit saucy and finished with cilantro. Yum!

Can you amplify about WPT serranos and which Knorr?

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I loved those taco kits! Great memories there.

Here's a taco seasoning mix I make in quantity to just keep in the pantry. I think it is pretty important to toast the cumin and grind it yourself.

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon paprika

My one tip and some may be horrified, I never drain the grease. :P

Might be a fun investment? http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-1061-Taco-Press/dp/B00004UE8A

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Oi - forget the kit mix - here's my absolute favorite recipe for the meat:

1lb Ground Beef or so (about 1/2kg)

1 Large Red Onion, finely minced

1 Large handful of garlic, finely minced

1 Large handful of cilantro leaves picked and chopped, stalks finely chopped

1 Medium handful of fresh curry leaves, chopped

1/2 Can green chillies

1 Medium serrano chili

Salt/Pepper/Cumin/Red Chilli Powder

Toss the onion/garlic in butter before adding the beef, when the beef is about 1/2 done, add the cilantro and curry leaves.

Fresh curry leaves will add the most amazing smoky flavor to it, and you'll be convinced it's the way it was meant to be!

My mom's technique for the tortillas was to stuff the (corn) tortillas with the filling, and fry it complete like that. It's a lot of work but sure comes out nice.

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Whole peeled tomatoes.. usually Hunt's. They are hand crushed, not cut for that rustic texture. Actually I lied she uses the Wyler chicken Boullion powder, not the cubes so she has more control. She also uses it to adjust salt/ and savoryness. She has a really good (and critical) palate, even though she doesn't cook much any more. S&P does go in TT Serranos are diced seeds n all usually like 9 per pound to stem off total destruction when we were younger. The proceedure was just saute grnd beef, but don't brown. Add tomatoes, chile, water sprinkle boullion TT add green onions and simmer. Adding Cilantro off the heat.

From memory I think it was 1 small can WPT, 1 can of water 3,4 green onions, 9 chile serrano (or guero the yellow mexican chile is really good here but milder) per pound or two of meat. Oh and 1 bunch cilantro ruff chop

Off the top of my head anyway..It's a bit liquidy that first day even reduced, but chilled and reheated the meat absorbs the juice.


Edited by AAQuesada (log)

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We had ground beef taco's even though my mom is from Mexico. But no powdered spices, the ground beef was braised in had crushed WPT serranos, green onion (whole and removed later), water and knorr, reduced until just a tiny bit saucy and finished with cilantro. Yum!

Isn't Knorr a type of powdered spice mix? But I know what you mean. Knorr is a typical item found in most kitchens in Mexico.

We do tacos of all types from very traditional Mexican to the gringo ground beef tacos most of us grew up on. I don't use any prepackaged ingredients except the tortillas. Basic comfort food.

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Chop the meat with a knife not ground. All the difference.

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We had ground beef taco's even though my mom is from Mexico. But no powdered spices, the ground beef was braised in had crushed WPT serranos, green onion (whole and removed later), water and knorr, reduced until just a tiny bit saucy and finished with cilantro. Yum!

Can you amplify about WPT serranos and which Knorr?

I feel pretty sure after spending a lot of time in Mexico that the "Knorr" refers to this ubiquitous green & yellow label:

Knorr Caldo de Pollo

We actually discussed it in another Mexican cooking thread. For the most part, the Mexican home-cooks I know all use it basically as a sub for salt. And when they refer to it, it's either "Knorr" or "caldo de pollo" or even just "caldo." Full name not required. Everybody knows that's what you're talking about.

And to answer the original question... Back during the heyday of that packaged taco-kit thing, we generally used it to make Sloppy Jose's - the taco meat ladled hot onto a hamburger bun, then topped with grated cheese (immediately, so it starts to melt), shredded lettuce and chopped tomato and onion to garnish if desired, and/or pico de gallo or hot sauce for a little heat. Much easier for kids to handle instead of that crispy tortilla shell that crumbles in your hand. And those tasty juices get soaked into the bread. I raised three kids, which meant a LOT of birthday parties. These "Sloppy Jose's" were my go-to birthday/slumber party meal. The kids all loved them. To get that corn tortilla taste and crunch, either I'd break up those tortilla shells and serve them alongside, or we'd open a bag of Doritos or something.

And frankly, although "inauthentic" junk Mexican food it clearly is, the grownups found them pretty good as well.

Along with a cold Dos XX to wash it down.

Por supuesto.

_______________


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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There are several things I think you should be able to make out of things that may be going south in your refrigerator without going to the store. Soup is one of them. So are ground beef tacos.

My constants are beef, fresh and dried chilis, cumin and onions and from there, it's what you want to get rid of. I've made tacos with half beef half wilted chopped cauliflower. I sauteed that with all of the above, and whatever else I had that tasted good, if I remember some celery, green chilis and cilantro. They are always a little different, just like soup is always a little different. I call them one of my "garbage entrees". Num, huh? :laugh:

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Sometimes I make tacos with carnitas meat, chopped. I also have a Mexican roast beef that can be shredded and used in the meat but most of the time I use ground beef, chorizo, onion and refried beans for the meat filling. Others have posted good seasonings- With the ground beef mixture I use Spanish Gardens from Kansas City. My son's GF is half Mexican and she prefers that taco seasoning too.

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I may be alone here, but I don't see the point in making "taco kit" from scratch. I have a jar of McCormick Taco Seasoning in my cupboard (it was too cheap at Costco to pass up) for when I crave comfort food (junk food) "tacos". Not to be confused with real food tacos.

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One of the staple meals in my family when I was growing up was ground beef tacos, made from the Ortega "taco kit" (it came with shells, seasoning for the beef, and hot sauce: you supplied the lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese). Well, I've sworn off the kit... but not the tacos. Surely I'm not alone here: who else makes this quintessential Tex-Mex favorite from scratch? What do you put in yours?

I grew up with the El Paso crispy taco shells and French's Taco Seasoning. The French's is still my favorite seasoning for ground beef tacos but I make my own now from a copycat recipe I found online. I've moved away from the crispy corn shells to a preference for soft tacos using flour tortillas. We add chopped onion, diced tomato, shredded cheddar and taco sauce.

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I use the Penzeys taco seasoning mix. We have it about once every other week for dinner, but as soft tacos on flour tortillas with shredded jack cheese, lots of sour cream, lettuce, homemade guacamole, and black olives. Like nothing even resembling authentic mexican food, but so so good!

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We had ground beef taco's even though my mom is from Mexico. But no powdered spices, the ground beef was braised in had crushed WPT serranos, green onion (whole and removed later), water and knorr, reduced until just a tiny bit saucy and finished with cilantro. Yum!

Can you amplify about WPT serranos and which Knorr?

I feel pretty sure after spending a lot of time in Mexico that the "Knorr" refers to this ubiquitous green & yellow label:

Knorr Caldo de Pollo

We actually discussed it in another Mexican cooking thread. For the most part, the Mexican home-cooks I know all use it basically as a sub for salt. And when they refer to it, it's either "Knorr" or "caldo de pollo" or even just "caldo." Full name not required. Everybody knows that's what you're talking about.

And to answer the original question... Back during the heyday of that packaged taco-kit thing, we generally used it to make Sloppy Jose's - the taco meat ladled hot onto a hamburger bun, then topped with grated cheese (immediately, so it starts to melt), shredded lettuce and chopped tomato and onion to garnish if desired, and/or pico de gallo or hot sauce for a little heat. Much easier for kids to handle instead of that crispy tortilla shell that crumbles in your hand. And those tasty juices get soaked into the bread. I raised three kids, which meant a LOT of birthday parties. These "Sloppy Jose's" were my go-to birthday/slumber party meal. The kids all loved them. To get that corn tortilla taste and crunch, either I'd break up those tortilla shells and serve them alongside, or we'd open a bag of Doritos or something.

And frankly, although "inauthentic" junk Mexican food it clearly is, the grownups found them pretty good as well.

Along with a cold Dos XX to wash it down.

Por supuesto.

_______________

Oh, that sounds good.

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Not to be confused with real food tacos.

I'm going to dispute the notion that these aren't "real food" -- they may not be Mexican, but I don't see how seasoned ground beef in a shell with some fresh vegetables and cheese isn't real (whatever that means...). I make my beef mix with onions, garlic, chile powder, cumin, coriander, MSG, and a can of tomatoes pureed in the blender. I like it better than any of the mixes I've tried, though of course to each their own.

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We had ground beef tacos frequently when I was growing up. No kits and no seasoning mix though. If you wanted yours spicy, you added hot sauce and/or salsa. Mom just cooked the beef with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. She fried the corn tortillas but not hard and crunchy, they were soft and just slightly chewy.

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Ours is pretty simple. We brown the ground meat with McCormicks and/or add some green chile salsa to the browned (and drained) meat. Quick and tasty.

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Not to be confused with real food tacos.

I'm going to dispute the notion that these aren't "real food" -- they may not be Mexican, but I don't see how seasoned ground beef in a shell with some fresh vegetables and cheese isn't real (whatever that means...). I make my beef mix with onions, garlic, chile powder, cumin, coriander, MSG, and a can of tomatoes pureed in the blender. I like it better than any of the mixes I've tried, though of course to each their own.

By "real food tacos", I was referring to tacos as found in Mexico, as opposed to Taco Bell, McCormicks etc.

I need to pay more attention to the wording of my posts.

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as severalabove, cumin coriander NM dried red chili(ground)and some bottled red chunky salsa,reduce a bit and spoon in heated shells,topwith cheese,more salsa,serve

Bud

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Used to use ground beef, then tried to bring it up a notch for my family. Our current, ever changing recipe is:

INGREDIENTS:

- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

- 3 tablespoons lime juice

- 5-7 chipotle peppers, canned in adobo sauce (depends how spicy you want it)

- 1/2 sweet onion

- 5 cloves garlic

- 4 teaspoons cumin

- 2 teaspoons oregano, mexican style

- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

- 1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

- 1/8 teaspoon cloves

- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

- 4 lb. beef roast (a cheap one is fine)

- 1 cup chicken broth

- 3 bay leaves

- 2 juniper berries

METHOD:

1. Puree the lime juice, vinegar, onions, chipotle peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt and clove in a blender or food processor.

2. Cut the roast into smaller pieces and remove any excess fat.

3. Heat 2 tbsp of oil and sear all the meat until lightly brown to start the Maillard reaction. Put meat into large crackpot.

4. Pour the pureed sauce over the meat and add in the chicken broth, bay leaves and juniper berries.

5. Cook for 15 hours on low setting or if in a pinch for time, at least 6 hours on high setting (the low setting is better). Beef should pull apart into shreds for tacos, burritos, or fajitas. There is so much that we freeze several pouches for future meals. When storing or freezing, do not throw out the liquids from the crockpot, simply divide up the liquids into the beef for storing/freezing as that keeps the meat from drying out.

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I usually make up a cumin based spice mixture with chili powder (ancho is nice), paprika, coriander, garlic powder, etc. Seems like it's a bit different every time I make it.

Chipotles add heat and smokiness that I love. Smoked paprika will give you the smokiness without the heat if needed.

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I believe Rick Bayles described the seasoning packet and corn shell taco as "catfood on soggy cardboard" in one of his cookbooks. When we need dirt simple and quick tacos, we use the zucchini taco recipe in Mexican Everyday.

Dan

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