Texmex style tacos

Yield: 12 Tacos

Measure Ingredient
2 pounds Ground beef, extra-lean
1 medium Onion, chopped fine
½ teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Chile powder (or more to taste)
1 Vegetable oil
12 Corn tortillas (the thinner the bet
½ pounds Cheddar cheese, sharp, grated
1 large Tomato, chopped
3 cups Shredded lettuce

Brown the ground beef and chopped onion in a large skillet. There should be enough fat in the beef to eliminate any need for extra oil and also to saute the onions at the same time. While you are browning the beef (it should be completely cooked with no pink or red color left), be sure to break it up so that it is granular in texture, as opposed to chunky, when completely browned. Onions should be limp and translucent but not brown.

Drain off as much fat as possible. Add salt and chile powder and continue to saute until the chile is completely incorporated into the meat mixture. Cover skillet and leave on extremely low heat, just enough to keep the meat hot.

Put about ½ inch of vegetable oil in a small skillet, and heat it.

Test the oil for proper temperature by putting in a small piece of tortilla. When the oil reaches the temperature where it immediately begins to bubble frantically over the tortilla as soon as it is put in the oil and the tortilla piece becomes crisp quite quickly, you are ready to cook the taco shells. This is important because there is nothing worse than a soggy taco shell (which results from the oil not being hot enough).

Using tongs, put the tortillas in the oil, one at a time, and cook for 30-60 seconds until the underside just starts to become crisp.

With the tongs, turn the tortilla over and, using a spatula, bend in half to form the shell. Cook each side of the bent tortilla until crisp, about 30-45 seconds per side. Remove the shell from the oil and drain on a newspaper-covered cookie sheet. The cooked shells can be kept warm in the oven at very low heat.

To assemble, fill each shell about 2/3s full of the meat and top with cheese, tomato and lettuce. We like to add extra zap with a shot of Tabasco sauce.

NOTES:

* San Antonio, Texas style tacos -- My dad is from east Texas and my mom from southern Oklahoma, but they developed their definition of Tex-Mex from several years in San Antonio. Since they now live in D.C., they feel extremely deprived, none of the chain restaurants come anywhere near the taste they developed in San Antonio.

Tex-Mex cooking is based on peasant-style dishes from the areas of Mexico bordering Texas. The primary ingredients of Tex-Mex cooking are corn tortillas (the thinner the better), ground beef, pinto beans and hot chile powder, sharp Cheddar cheese and onions. Yield: 1 dozen tacos.

* Don't try to use instant onion in this recipe. In San Antonio, people consider that the best chile powder is Gebhardt's or Eagle Brand.

: Difficulty: easy.

: Time: 20 minutes.

: Precision: measure the spices.

: Pamela McGarvey

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