Sunday, July 14, 2013
Baked Tacos - Including Two Tricks for Taking Your Tacos from Average to Amazing!
Authored by Angela Steveson
Okay. You might be thinking that a taco is a taco is a taco. Right? Well, there are a couple of key components to this recipe that will yield the tacos of your dreams right at home.
These little "secrets" will truly take your "Taco Tuesday" from average to amazing.
The first tip that I want to share involves utilizing your slow cooker for the taco meat. We aren't starting in the slow cooker, but that's where the meat will eventually end up. (Bear with me!) Typically, we all brown up our ground beef in a skillet on the stovetop, then add in the seasoning and water (after draining the fat). And, typically, we would immediately serve up the cooked taco meat right away.
Here's where we take a little detour on our journey to "taco nirvana."
After you've cooked, drained and seasoned your ground beef, you want to place it in a bread pan or small, aluminum disposable pan. Where's it going to end up? Your slow cooker! That's right. I make my taco meat early in the day, then place it in my slow cooker on low for several hours. What's the point? Well, this method will yield ultra tender, soft and blow-your-mind ground beef. It will just melt in your mouth.
Think of cooking a pot roast ... it becomes fall-apart tender from all-day slow cooking. Same concept! (I use a small heat-safe container to place the meat in inside of the slow cooker because I usually only make one pound of taco meat. If you're making a large amount for a crowd, you can just place all of the cooked taco meat right into the actual slow cooker insert.)
My words do not do justice to the results. Just try it! (Pretty please.) This technique will not disappoint!
Now, let's move on the another aspect of AMAZING tacos. I know there are avid flour tortilla lovers out there. My kiddos were just like you! But, I urge you to start with soft corn shells, then transform them by baking them off and forming them into semi-crispy shells.
Don't we all just love when we eat tacos out at a good Mexican joint ... the corn tortillas are usually that perfect combination of crispiness and chewiness? Well, I've got a mega easy way to achieve that right in your oven using your bare oven rack. You can read all about it in the recipe directions below.
And, one last thing ... I use one pound of ground beef to make nine tacos. One pound of meat can yield between nine and twelve tacos - depending on how full you fill the shells.
1 pound ground beef (I prefer 80/20)
Taco seasoning (your choice of a store-bought packet or a homemade version that you prefer)
Water, as called for in your taco meat recipe (usually around 1 cup)
9 - 12 soft corn tortillas
5 - 6 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
Taco toppings of your choice (lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, black olives, avocado, salsa, etc.)
Fully cook the ground beef over medium-high heat in a skillet. (I add in a little water right at the beginning of cooking the meat and I kind of "smash" the meat with the back-side of a rubber spatula to produce a finely-ground texture to the meat.) Once cooked, drain most of the grease (I leave a little for moisture and flavor). Add in the taco seasoning and water. Stir to combine and dissolve seasoning. Transfer meat to a bread pan or other heat-safe container that will fit down inside of your slow cooker insert. (An oval slow cooker is recommended.)
Allow meat to simmer on low for about 4 - 6 hours. (I've kept it in the slow cooker for as little as four hours and as long as six.)
When you are ready to prepare the baked tacos, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Wrap the corn tortillas in a clean kitchen towel and warm for about 30 seconds in the microwave.
On a clean work surface, spray each side of each tortilla with a light misting of cooking spray.
Next, drape each tortilla over two bars of your oven wire rack. (Some may need to go on the back row of the rack if you run out of room in the front.)
Bake for about 6 - 7 minutes or until the shells are just starting to crisp around the edges. (You want them a little "chewy" still towards the center.) Watch them closely so that they do no begin to burn around the edges.
Remove all of the shells using tongs and place them in a large baking dish. (They should be slightly pliable, yet still hold their shape for the most part.)
Fill the shells with the taco meat and top with the shredded cheese.
Bake at the same oven temperature for 7 - 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Remove from oven and top with your choice of toppings.
NOTE: Refried beans could be added into the shells with the meat, if desired.
Adapted from One Good Thing By Jillee