Tacos are so simple to make…. just go down aisle 5 at the grocery store ….in the Mexican food section …. and look for the bright yellow and red packets of Taco Seasoning Mix. Cook up some ground beef, add the mysterious powder inside the package …and you’re done! What could be simpler?
Well, not much … and I’ve certainly made my share of beef taco filling using these packaged seasonings. But it wasn’t until we lived in Colorado for a few years that I realized that a much tastier taco could be made just as easily.
Just a short distance away from our home in Greeley, was the small town of La Salle. And in that town was the Armadillo, a small Mexican Cantina. Many Friday nights would find us, with two young children in tow, sitting at a big wooden table in eager anticipation of a Mexican taste fiesta. With lively mariachi music playing in the background, a perpetual stream of bowls of warm house-made tortilla chips and fresh salsa were served without interruption. Along with the best margaritas ever tasted, our favourite menu items were the enchiladas, and the chili rellenos ….and someone always ordered tacos ….simply the best. And you knew that in that busy kitchen, no yellow and red package would be found.
De-constructing a good taco is a worthwhile project, and the following ingredient list provides a very close Armadillo-effect.
To my knowledge, La Salle’s Armadillo, the original Armadillo, is still making great Mexican fare.
Some Ideas for making great Beef Tacos:
- The addition of black beans, cooked rice, or corn to the beef mixture provides another serving idea.
- If you don’t have any dry mustard on hand, stirring in some Dijon mustard when you are adding the beef broth also works.
- The heat of the taco filling can easily be adjusted for personal taste by reducing or increasing the amount of the chili powders. My guess is that this recipe would score about a 3 on a 5-point heat scale.
- It is easy to double or triple this recipe. By freezing the extras, you have an easy and quick meal ready for you.
- Or, better yet, triple or quadruple the dry ingredients and make your own ‘package’. Mix the dry seasoning ingredients thoroughly, store in a well-sealed jar, and use approximately 5 tablespoons (75 mL) of the mix for each recipe. Ensure the contents are well mixed prior to spooning out the 5 tablespoons, as some of the ingredients tend to settle out. This spice blend, placed in a decorative jar (with the recipe attached), makes a lovely hostess gift.
- The beef can be substituted with other meats, such as ground turkey or chicken.
- For an extra spice boost, a teaspoon or two of the seasoning mix is a tasty addition to chili, to burgers, or to soups.
Prep Time: 10 minutes Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes
Number of Servings: 4 servings
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
1 pound (450 – 500 g) lean ground sirloin
1 onion, finely chopped or grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½-2 tablespoons (25-30 mL) chili powder, preferably a combination of chipotle, ancho chili
and/or regular chili powders
1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground cumin
2 teaspoons (10 mL) hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground coriander
¼ teaspoon (1.5 mL) cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried oregano
1 teaspoon (5 mL) dry mustard
¾ teaspoon (3 mL) Kosher salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper
1 ½ teaspoons (7 mL) cornstarch
½ – ¾ cup (125 -185 mL) beef broth
¼ cup (45 mL) chopped fresh cilantro
Extra salt and pepper, if needed
- Heat oil in large sauté pan. Add beef and sauté until it is broken up, and no longer pink (thoroughly cooked) – about 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce heat a little, and add the onion. Sauté at low heat for a few minutes until soft and fragrant. Add garlic. Saute an additional minute.
- While meat is cooking, combine the dry seasonings in a small bowl – mix thoroughly. Add the seasonings to the beef mixture. Heat through and add broth. Start with ½ cup of broth, adding more if the mixture is too thick.
- Cook minimally. Just before serving, stir in cilantro and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Serve in cheddar-lined taco shells or wrap the mixture in a tortilla shell, or in lettuce leaf cups. Serve along with fresh tomatoes, some salsa, sour cream, or guacamole. Ole!
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