To say that Mike grew up eating a limited variety of foods would be the understatement of the year. He and his mom knew what they liked, and so that’s what they ate. Why mess with a good thing, right? I love to hear Mike’s step-dad tell the story of one of the first times he cooked a meal for Mike and his mother. He went waaaay out there, culinarily speaking, and whipped up some Old El Paso tacos. He served them their meal and they looked at their plates as if he had served them fish heads with a side of beef tongue. You heard it here first: my husband never had a taco until high school.
Now? We all love them. For awhile there we were having them almost once a week (on Taco Tuesday, of course). We’ve slowed down a bit now, but tacos are still the biggest hit around here. They also seem to be popular when I take myself on the road. I had requests to make tacos on both my beach trips this year, so I’ll take that as a sign that this recipe was meant to be shared.
This is one of those recipes that looks daunting at first, just from the long list of ingredients. Don’t let that turn you off, though. It’s really easy to throw together. I’ve been known to double or triple the recipe and stash a bit in my freezer. As I was making these the other week at the beach house, my sister said, “You know they make an envelope for tacos, right?” I do, but once you’ve had them this way, you’ll never want the envelope again.
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like them spicy, less if you don’t. I usually go just under – we’re spice weenies here)
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (this is the key ingredient, according to Elena)
Heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and just beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic, spices and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook 30 seconds, until you can smell all the spicy goodness. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking into small pieces, until the meat is browned and no longer pink. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar and brown sugar. Simmer until thickened, usually around 10 to 15 minutes. It will thicken up a bit more upon standing.
Divide among taco shells or flour tortillas. If you’re feeling really frisky, you can buy fresh corn tortillas and fry them yourself. Once you’ve had a freshly fried taco shell, you’ll probably find yourself passing by the boxes, too. Mike is our fry guy, and he fries his into the usual taco shape. He leaves mine flat and I eat my tacos tostada-style (as you see in the photo).
Serve them up with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes or salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, diced red onions, avocados, whatever you like! I find they pair quite nicely with fresh guacamole and an ice-cold margarita. If you need someone to swing by and make sure you’ve made them right, you know where to find me.