A Map to the Border.

In my house, growing up, there were a few questions that when asked were the type that, should one not be privy to the dialect spoken in Geezerville, may be confusing.  For example, the simple: “Going to the store?”  Those of a traditional English ilk may read this as a simple inquiry into the destination of someone about to leave the house.  In Geezerville, it meant “Hey Doug, call your friend David and make him come over after stopping by the local convenience store to pick up several bottles of pop and a couple of bags of chips.  If you don’t, we’ll bug you until such time as you go insane and decide to run the ‘errand’ yourself.”

Another, this one stemmed from a series of ad campaigns in the 80’s for Taco Bell, was: ” Going to the border?” Though we did live in a border town, my brother was not asking if I was going to the Ambassador Bridge or the Detroit-Windsor tunnel. No, he was asking if I was going to Taco Bell and, if I wasn’t before I was now, because countless hours of  “you sure” would follow until I did.  This helped to creat my love of tacos and nachos.

And so, my brother, Junior, asks for a Taco Recipe.  I am surprised that it was not simply phrased as “Got a map to the border?

My most recent mix of Taco Seasoning ver. 2.0

My most recent mix of Taco Seasoning ver. 2.0

TACOS

This recipe is very easy and can be varied according to how you like your Tacos. It is the one that I use regularly to great satisfaction and praise by My Wife: T.

First, the seasoning.  Because you never have any of those pesky Old El Paso pouches available when you want tacos and it is downright wrong and near criminal to pay so much for them.

SEASONING ver. 1.0

I  like this one, but the last time I made it, it seemed a bit salty. I may have mis-measured when making it though.

I originally found it at Allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and transfer to an airtight container to use when you want Tacos.

SEASONING ver 2.0

This one as well was found at AllRecipes.com

I have just made this one and have, as yet, not tried it but it seems to have more of what I perceive as the flavours of Tacos. Namely:  Chili powder, Cumin and Garlic.  It also has a bit of cornstarch in it to serve as a thickening agent for the tasty sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 5 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and cornstarch. Close lid securely, and shake well to mix contents. 7 teaspoons is equivalent to 1 (1.25 ounce) package of taco seasoning.

I would suggest that a third version of the seasoning may be as follows and I will surely try it upon completion of the most recent batch. It is simply a combination of the above two.

SEASONING ver 3.o

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 5 teaspoons paprika
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon seasalt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

Again, mix it all together and put in a container with a tight fitting lid.

Makin’ Tacos!

So now you have your seasoning of choice and want to actually make some freaking tacos!  Here’s what you need.  Feel free to add to this all of your favourite taco toppings. There is no wrong here.

Ingredients:

The hot meaty filling:

  • Scant 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb.  (454g)  Ground Beef or, for healthier option, Ground Chicken, or even healthier, Ground Turkey.
  • 2 Tablespoons of your choice of Taco Seasoning from above.
  • 3/4 cup of water.

The other tasty bits:

  • a bunch of your favourite shredded cheese.  Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss or a combination of whatever you like.
  • 2 cups approx.  Shredded lettuce-type greens. Green Leaf Lettuce, Boston, Iceberg or even Mesclun mix.  Whatever you like.
  • 2 or three chopped tomatoes
  • store bought salsa
  • sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup lightly toasted corn niblets. You can defrost some frozen niblets or drain some canned corn. Toast them in a dry nonstick frying pan on medium-high heat until they are fragrant and slightly blackened.
  • Guacamole
  • Hot sauce like Tobasco or those leftover Taco Bell sauces that you have been moving from fridge to fridge since your university days.
  • Chopped green or black olives

The vessel:

  • 6 to 10 (12 if you are skimpy on meat and large on the other toppings) Hard Taco shells or Soft Corn or Flour Tortillas.

Directions:

Prepare all of you extra tasty bits for your tacos.  Grate the cheese, shred the lettuce, chop the tomatoes &c.

Preheat your oven according to the warming directions of your taco shells or tortillas.  Most recommend 5 minutes in the oven set at 350 f.

In a frying pan, nonstick or otherwise, heat the oil on Medium to Medium-Hight heat until it feels hot if you hover your hand about and inch above the oil.  Add the broken up ground meat in chunks to the pan careful not to be splattered and burned by the hot oil. As the meat begins to cook, use a wood spoon to break the meat into smaller pieces.  Allow the meat to sizzle for several minutes. What you are trying to do is caramelize the meat and give it a good flavour base.  This means that you want to see nice browning on the meat.  You will achieve this by leaving the meat alone and not over stirring it.  Once the meat is broken up into pieces the size of which you are happy with, stop messing around with it.  The other thing that will achieve proper caramelization is sufficient heat.  You know that you have enough heat if you can hear a sizzle.  With too little heat you are simply boiling the water in the meat and are not going to get any decent browning. Too much heat and you will burn the shit out of it.

Keep an eye on the meat and once it is browned nicely on the bottom mix it up and continue until the meat is a nice, dark gold or tasty brown meat colour.  It should take about 5 to 7 minutes to get it all cooked through.

Now, drain any excess fat from the pan. You can do this by transferring the meat to a plate then draining the excess fat, or by dumping the contents of the pan in to a metal mesh strainer (sieve).

Return the meat to the pan over medium heat and add the 2 Tablespoons of Taco seasoning. Stir it up a bit so that the seasoning coats the meat and you can smell the spice as it warms a bit and toasts. Immediately add 3/4 cup of water to the mix and stir until the spice and water have combined to make a very thin sauce.

Reduce the heat on the pan to Medium-low or thereabouts and let the sauce simmer.  That means that there is steam rising from the pan and there are some bubbles coming up from liquid. It is not a violent boil. Let it simmer, uncovered for about 3 to 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened to a point that is like a nice thick gravy. Remove the pan from the heat. If you are fancy, we never are around here on Taco Night, you can transfer the meat to a dish along side all of you other fixings and call the troupes for Taco time!

There is a debate, here at Badger Sett, over the best way to layer one’s taco.  I prefer to lay down a layer of cheese first in the bottom of the taco as a way to allow the heat of the meat that goes on top to melt the cheese.  The cheese also acts as a bit of a protection layer to keep the meat from making the shell soggy as you fill the rest of the taco with the goodness.

On top of the meat, I like to add the tomatoes and salsa, then guacamole and shredded carrot, a little hot sauce then, and this is a bit controversial I know, the sour cream followed by the lettuce.  I do this because it is easier to get a more even spread of sour cream before adding the lettuce, plus you get the added bonus of using the sour cream underneath as a sort of mortar bed for the lettuce which improves the chances of the lettuce staying on the top of the taco.  T. uses a more traditional method of meat, cheese, tomato, salsa, guac, then lettuce then sour cream. This is a valid method and strong in tradition.  I especially respect the devotion to the meat on this one.  By adding it first, one usually puts too much  meat (how can there be really!) and ends up struggling to get the rest of the things that one likes on top.  Either way you stack it, though,  it is just plain good eating!

Enjoy.  Make your own way to the border right in your own kitchen.

Need some help on a few techniques? Here’s a couple links to some of the things mentioned above.

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One comment on “A Map to the Border.

  1. Is it wrong that, when I followed the first link, I read the title on the page as “Peeing Garlic” ?

    Just askin’. Worse than asparagus, I expect.

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