Monday, March 1, 2010

Yo Quiero Beef Taco!

Without a doubt, most of us remember the wise-cracking chihuahua from the Taco Bell commercials of yore, spouting the the now-legendary catchphrase, "Yo Quiero Taco Bell!" or "I want Taco Bell". The popularity of the taco has boomed in the United States ever since wily entrepreneur Glen Bell opened his first taco stand in San Bernadino, CA, experimenting and perfecting the process of delivering delicious tacos to the masses, much like what McDonald's had done to the hamburger many years earlier. Along the way, Taco Bell, for better or worse, brought Mexican food into the mainstream, launching a south-of-the-border food craze that hasn't abated since. The taco is a simple traditional Mexican dish made up of a tortilla shell (either wheat or corn) wrapped around a particular type of filling (usually beef, pork or fish) and today I'll show you how to make a simple beef taco with everything that can easily be found in your local supermarket.

Here's what you'll need:

Beef filling:
1 - 1.5lb of fresh ground beef (makes between 8 - 12 tacos)
1 onion (small dice)
5 cloves of garlic (crushed and minced) or two teaspoons of garlic powder
1 green/red bell pepper (small dice)
3 teaspoons of cumin powder
1 teaspoon of coriander powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt & pepper to taste

4 fresh tomatoes (or whole peeled tomatoes that comes in a can)
1/2 red onion (small dice)
Juice from 1 lime
1 green jalapeno (small dice; bell peppers can also be used if you want to tone down the heat)
Cilantro leaves (chopped)
Scallions (green portion, chopped)
Salt & pepper to taste

Sour cream
Romaine lettuce (julienned)
Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese mix

And finally, the taco shells. I like to use the hard-shell corn tacos because I like the crunch. It's like biting into a giant tortilla chip! You can buy these shells off-the-shelf at your local supermarket. Depending on your preference, soft tortilla shells are also widely available in different sizes.

Start off by first making the salsa. Just add all the prepared ingredients listed above and mix them up well. Add salt and pepper to taste and you are good to go. Just store the salsa in the refrigerator for now while you prepare the beef.

To make the beef filling, first sweat the onions until soft and cook the garlic lightly. Now, add the beef into your skillet together with the cumin, coriander, chili and paprika powders. Cook the beef and when it is just about done, add the bell peppers and season with salt and pepper. At this point, keep tasting and add more cumin if you prefer. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Before serving, lightly heat up the tacos in the oven. Keep a close eye on the tacos because they burn easily. Now it is time to assemble our taco. I usually go with the beef at the bottom, then a dollop of sour cream, followed by the salsa, lettuce and finally, the cheese. You can serve your tacos with extra salsa and tortilla chips on the side.

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