Friday, March 27, 2020

In Defense of the Crispy Taco

Crispy tacos have long been a Tex-Mex staple. However, in recent years with the widespread blandness of Taco Bell, sub-par Mexican restaurant chains, and store-bought "taco kits," they seem to have lost their favor, with the exception of the 2 am drunken crowd. In addition, who decided that crispy tacos don't have their roots in authentic Mexican? In fact, in Mexico they are called "tacos dorados" (golden tacos), and are filled with meat and fried. "Flautas" (flutes) are usually flour tortillas rolled up around the filling and fried. "Taquitos" are usually corn tortillas rolled up around the filling and fried. Both are considered tacos dorados. I've even seen taco dorados made by closing the tortilla in half with the filling inside and fried that way.

According to Gustavo Arellano, author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, via Julia Moskin of The New York Times, the crispy taco began at Mitla Cafe, east of Los Angelos. Mitla Cafe was established in 1937 by Vicente and Lucia Montano, and is still family owned today. Their signature dish is "tacos dorados con carne molida," golden taco shells filled with seasoned ground beef, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. Here is where the story gets interesting! "In 1950, one Glen Bell, an entrepreneur possessed by envy of the McDonald brothers' success, opened a burger stand across the street from Mitla." "According to Mr. Arellano's research, Mr. Bell ate often at Mitla and watched long lines form at its walk-up window; later, having persuaded the Montanos to show him how the tacos were made, he experimented after hours with a tool that would streamline the process of frying the tortillas."

Mr. Bell started serving his own tacos in 1951." The business went through several name changes (Taco Tia, El Taco) before starting as Taco Bell in 1962." "On the Taco Bell website, Mr. Bell is cited as the creator of the 'fast-food crunchy taco.'" Hmph! What do you think? Either way, the only way to make truly delicious crispy tacos is to make the beef seasoning yourself, instead of using those mystery packets from the store. In addition, either buy the best taco shells you can find (I like La Tiara brand, not Old El Paso or that blasted Taco Bell brand!) or fry up your own. Heat a couple inches of oil in a pot, drop in a corn tortilla (home-made or store-bought), shape with a spatula and tongs until golden, a few minutes. Drain and voila! These tacos are an easy and delicious week-night dinner that you and your family will love!

Awesome Crispy Tacos

1 lb ground beef chuck
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon chili powder (like Gebhardt, if possible)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Mix the dry ingredients together, set aside. Brown the meat in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon. When browned, drain the excess fat. Add the onion, spices, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Serve with crispy tortilla shells, avocado slices, your favorite salsa from my site! (or your favorite store-bought salsa), shredded iceberg lettuce dressed with a dash of cider vinegar and pinch of salt, diced tomato, chopped cilantro, Mexican crema or sour cream, and top it all off with some freshly grated cheddar cheese (the store-bought pre-shredded stuff taste nothing like freshly grated)! Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. These are the best tacos, spices are perfect without being too spicy. A new family favorite.