20 March 2010

Beef Soft Tacos

I came across a recipe for taco meat a few years ago. The first time I made it, Hubby declared it was not that much better than the seasoning packet you get at the grocery store. But two days later, when we were driving down Reynolda Road, Hubby changed his mind. It was completely out of the blue, we weren't talking about the tacos again, but it was in his head and he said as much. I couldn't believe it. And ya know what, we haven't used that little packet since.  

High quality ground beef is easily found around here if you get to the store before late. Sometimes they run out (in fact the first time I made these, I realized I didn't have enough meat, so I went back to the store to get more and they were out... so I had to get ground pork), but if you get there early enough, they'll have it. I frequently use small red chilies rather than jalapeƱos b/c they are easier to find, but for the most part this meal is pretty stress free and easily adaptable to our new grocery stores. Recently, however, the grocery store was out of soft taco sized tortillas and only had the tiny ones that can barely hold anything. From what I've learned from The Splendid Table, these are the usual size in Mexico, but Jason declared they were too much work, and frankly, I agreed. I knew what I had to do next... I had to learn how to make tortillas!

Okay, so I've actually been wanting to make flour tortillas since just after we moved here, but since they are readily available here, I haven't gotten around to it. I can't tell you how many times I've made sure the ingredients were on hand only to wimp out the night I had planned to make them. Jason was receptive to the idea of me making tortillas, so we decided that the next time I made tacos, I would make the tortillas too.  
I made them on a weeknight (I'm crazy, I know, you don't have to remind me). I got home from work, put the dough for the tortillas together and headed to the store to get the ingredients for the tacos. Next time I'll go to the grocery store first because the tortillas really don't take that long. So where did I go to find a recipe for flour tortillas? To Lisa at Homesick Texan of course!  Come on, you had to see that one coming.

Texas Flour Tortillas (adapted by Homesick Texan from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison)

Two cups of all-purpose flour (can make them whole wheat by substituting one cup of whole-wheat flour for white flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cups of warm milk


Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and oil.

Slowly add the warm milk.

Stir until a loose, sticky ball is formed.

Knead for two minutes on a floured surface. Dough should be firm and soft.

Place dough in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap for 20 minutes.

After the dough has rested, break off eight sections, roll them into balls in your hands, place on a plate (make sure they aren’t touching) and then cover balls with damp cloth or plastic wrap for 10 minutes. (It’s very important to let the dough rest, otherwise it will be like elastic and won’t roll out to a proper thickness and shape.)

After dough has rested, one at a time place a dough ball on a floured surface, pat it out into a four-inch circle, and then roll with a rolling pin from the center until it’s thin and about eight inches in diameter. (If you roll out pie crusts you’ll have no problem with this.) Don’t over work the dough, or it’ll be stiff. Keep rolled-out tortillas covered until ready to cook.

In a dry iron skillet or comal heated on high, cook the tortilla about thirty seconds on each side. It should start to puff a bit when it’s done. Keep cooked tortillas covered wrapped in a napkin until ready to eat.

Can be reheated in a dry iron skillet, over your gas-burner flame or in the oven wrapped in foil. While you probably won’t have any leftovers, you can store in the fridge tightly wrapped in foil or plastic for a day or so.

Makes eight tortillas.

I loved the tortillas, but Hubby didn't. They were a bit too puffy for him. I'm not certain if that is because I let them sit for so long or if that really is the recipe. I may decrease the baking powder next time. But it was awfully fun to make tortillas... or at least to be able to say that I've made them! Obviously, I'm not a regular pie crust roller, so I had great difficulty getting them circular.  But who needs a circular tortilla? (I love the dark spots on them!!)

For the Filling!

Tacos Picadillos (very slightly adapted from Food Network)


2 tablespoons corn oil

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded (if you like it hot include the seeds) and minced

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder*

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt

4 whole peeled canned tomatoes, chopped and about 1/4 cup of their juices**

3/4 pound lean ground sirloin beef

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Oil, for frying

8 taco sized tortillas, homemade or store bought

1/4 head romaine or iceberg, thinly sliced
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored and diced
1 to 2 Hass avocados, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Sour cream, for garnish

Brown the ground beef in a medium skillet. Remove meat and drain. Set aside. Put the oil, onions, garlic, and spices in a medium skillet, season with salt and cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes, and their juices and boil to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef and chicken broth, adjust the heat so the mixture simmers and cook until the mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro, taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and cover.

Put the fixings and meat in individual bowls and the tortillas on a platter. Serve encouraging your diners to build their own tacos, with meat in the shell with fixings on top. Feel free to add your own touch with your favorite taco topping. 
*  Adjust the chili powder to the heat of your chili powder. If you are using hot Indian chili powder, you may only want a half teaspoon. If you are using McCormicks Hot Mexican chili powder, follow the measurements above. If you're using German chili powder mix, you may want to double the amount.
** Lately I've been using four small fresh tomatoes and chopping them with my stick blender... any excuse to use my new toy!  I also use it for chopping the onions and hot pepper so I don't have to worry about getting pepper juices on my fingers.


  1. You will have to make them for us when you come home! They look really yummy!

  2. Of course! But I want you to make me meatloaf and chicken and dumplings! :)


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