Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Homemade taco seasoning & shells

Lately, I've noticed that I prefer to make my own [insert easily store-bought item here].  I'm not turning up my nose at the packaged stuff because it's both incredibly convenient and, let's be honest, pretty darn tasty.

Instead, I like to think of this new-found preference as a personal culinary challenge.  "Can I make such and such as good as the pros?"  And, maybe do it with a little more control over what goes into my food.  Because, hey, my name is Katy and I'm a control freak.  I know, I know, you're so shocked.

I've conquered some of the best pre-packaged foods out there with great success and made homemade versions that rival and even surpass the originals.  Brownies.  Marshmallows.  Even beloved Oreos.  If I could make myself dessert, I could surely tackle the main meal, too.

(I bet I almost fooled you into thinking I've never eaten just brownies for dinner.  Totally have and totally will again.  Many times.)

A week ago, out of the blue, Matt said, "We should make tacos."  That was all it took for me to jump on the taco train.  In part because he never, ever requests particular meals, but mostly because I looooooove tacos.  So, so very much.

And, as luck would have it, we had almost everything needed to make tacos: ground beef, salsa, a previously unpurposed but perfectly ripe avocado, and small corn tortillas.  If only there were a way to avoid a trip to the store just for a single taco seasoning packet -- you know how I hate mid-week grocery excursions.

Oh wait, there was a way to avoid getting in the car and driving an oh-so-terrible 1.2 miles to the local Giant Eagle for a $1 purchase... by making my own taco seasoning at home!

It was so ridiculously easy!  After I did it, I was totally ashamed to think I ever hesitated in the first place.  All of the spices that go into taco seasoning are super common and most home cooks should have every last one in his/her pantry.

While the beef was browning and marrying with the spices, I took my ingenuity a step further.  Soft tortillas just weren't doing it for me that night.  Crispy or bust, I say!  It's the only way to go when tacos are on tap.

Are you ready for the ultimate trick for making crispy taco shells at home without the mess of frying?!

All credit to, what else, Pinterest for this find.

Step 1. Preheat oven broiler.
Step 2. Hang small tortillas centered over two rungs on the middle rack.
Step 3. After 3 to 4 minutes, tortillas will have curled/bent and be ready for filling.


From this...

To this!

Not only do they stand up on their own and retain the shape, but they manage to be crispy without shattering into a million pieces like store-bought taco shells do.  In other words, totally 100% better than the original.  Success!

Being 2 for 2, I decided to quit while I was ahead and scarf down said tacos.  Oh my sweet savory goodness!  Easily the best tacos I've ever had.  Period.

(Really.  That's all I've got.  Go get started on your tacos!)

One year ago: The famosa (non-alcoholic mimosa)
Two years ago: Perfect roast chicken

Taco Seasoning
(adapted from All Recipes)
-equal to 1 packet from the store for 1 pound of ground meat

A few notes: You may have noticed that paprika was not pictured in the above lineup of the spices.  That's because I am an airhead and forgot to add it until after the rest of the spices were mixed with the beef.  Better late than never.

1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (which I omitted on account of my sensitive taste buds)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix spices together.  Add to cooked browned beef or other meat, stir until evenly incorporated.  Serve with shells, salsa, and other toppings.

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