Before I left home for the first time, I sat down with my mother’s recipe box and wrote down my favorite dishes. About twice a month, my mother would make tacos. While I have very fond memories of them, they were neither very healthy nor really Mexican cuisine.
She always deep fried the tortillas—not exactly to a crisp, but more semi-hard. Her tacos also had no chilies—beyond a sweet bell pepper—and she added tomato sauce to give them a red chili color. For the topping greens she always used iceberg lettuce, rather than cilantro. And the cheese topping as always cheddar—a more Californian cheese rather than something from South of the Border.
I have done a lot of cooking since I left home. I have picked up a lot of cooking techniques and personal preferences for how things should done and how they should taste. Jan is also always pushing me to add more vegetables to my dishes. So I add a lot more than my mother did. While this recipe is loosely based on my mother’s beef taco, it is very little like my mother would have made them.
Karl’s Beef Tacos
¾ lb. ground beef (20/80)
2 Tbs. Karl’s Four Chile Chili Powder, separate uses
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. corn oil
1 small yellow onion
1 Poblano pepper
½ green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ Jalapeño pepper, diced finely
½ cup cilantro stems
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup Mexican beer or water
2-3 tortillas per person
1. Put the ground beef in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Sprinkle one tablespoon of chili powder and the soy sauce over it.
3. Mix thoroughly and let the beef meld for 30 minutes.
4. Cut the onion, pole to pole, into thin half moons.
5. Cut all of the peppers into ¼ inch matchsticks.
6. Mince the garlic and cilantro and keep them in separate piles.
7. Form the hamburger into one large patty and fry it in the corn oil, until it is well browned on both sides.
8. Remove the beef to a plate to cool and spoon out all but two tablespoons of the grease.
Tip: Eighty-twenty hamburger will leave about four tablespoons of fat in the pan. While this oil represents a lot of flavor it would also make the final dish too greasy.
9. Sauté the onions with the salt until they are just starting to pick up some color, about five minutes.
10. Add the peppers to the pan and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft, about another five minutes.
11. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the cilantro stems to the hole in the center.
12. Sauté the stems for 2-3 minutes and then stir them into the peppers and onions.
13. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about one minute.
14. Sprinkle the rest of the chili powder over the garlic.
15. Bloom the spices for 20-30 seconds and then stir the garlic and spices into the vegetables.
16. Add a quarter cup of water or beer to deglaze the pan and to create a sauce.
17. Break the beef patty into small bits—half inch or smaller—and add them to the pan with any meat juices left on the plate.
18. Continue cooking until the the meat is heated through—tossing to coat it with the sauce—and the filling is fairly dry, about another 2-3 minutes.
19. Transfer the taco filling to a serving bowl and serve it with tortillas and your favorite toppings.
Tip: For soft tortillas, wrap the tortillas in a sheet of paper towel and microwave them for one minutes. Separate then while still hot, so they do not form a solid mass as they cool.