Saturday, April 28, 2012

Basic Taco Meat

You there.  Yes, you.  Step away from the taco seasoning packet.  Do you really think that stuff is going to result in anything but nasty beef?  What?  The real stuff takes too long?  Um, clearly you haven't given it a try.  As long as you're browning up a batch of meat, you might as well chop up an onion and throw in some real spices instead of that salt lick you've got there.

In case you're not convinced, here's a list of the ingredients on a name-brand taco seasoning packet:  Yellow corn flour [since when does flour count as a seasoning?], salt [that explains the 430 mg. per serving], maltodextrin [huh?], paprika [that's better, I guess], "spices," modified cornstarch, sugar [this isn't dessert, people], garlic powder [finally something tasty], citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract [I'm not even going to ask], natural flavor [whatever that means], caramel color [because all the flour and salt means this stuff would be a sickly white otherwise].  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure real Mexican cooks use stuff with names like cumin and chili powder and garlic to flavor their food.  And while I'm a fan of convenience as much as anybody, it really isn't that difficult to measure out a few spices, especially if you're a fan of food that, well, tastes good.

This is my dad's recipe--sort of.  My dad doesn't actually have the recipe written down; he just throws stuff together until it tastes right.  So if you like a little more cumin, feel free to add it.  If the chili powder scares you, tone it down if you want (but this really isn't spicy at all).  If you have the space, this is a great recipe to make in big batches and freeze in half- or one-pound amounts for later.  As far as turning this into a meal, the possibilities are endless--you can use it in tacos, of course, or in enchiladas, tostadas, nachos--you name it.

Basic Taco Meat
Yield:  1 pound
Time:  15-20 minutes

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
2 roma tomatoes, diced (canned diced tomatoes work also--use about half a can, drained)
1 garlic clove, minced (or dash garlic powder)
1 T. cumin powder
1 T. chili powder
dash seasoned salt (optional)
dash black pepper

In a large pan over medium heat, cook beef and onion until beef is browned.  Drain (I like to keep the grease in an old glass jar in the refrigerator; when it gets full, just throw the whole thing out).  Add remaining ingredients; simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender, about five minutes.

Freezes well.  Use in tacos or tostadas, enchiladas, or other Mexican recipes.

Next up: put your taco meat to good use with these amazing authentic enchiladas.

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