Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roll Your Owns

One of my family's favorite weekday meals is tacos. Although we use the packaged taco seasonings, we don't use the taco shells that they sell in the Mexican aisle in the supermarket. Instead we have what we've come to call "Roll Your Owns."

The process is simple. First, we brown some ground beef, discarding the extra fat that renders out. We use a wooden spatula to break up the beef into small crumbles as it cooks. Afterward, we add between a half cup and a cup of water and taco seasoning. Actually, we use a combination of one packet taco seasoning, and one packet "salsa mix," which I've found to give the meat a fresher taste than just taco seasoning alone. I've found that if you add too much water, the meat gets very runny; you can fix that up easily by adding a bit of cheese to make the mixture a bit firmer until you get the consistency you want.

As the meat is cooking, the rest of the taco ingredients are prepared. Lettuce is shredded, tomatoes are diced, onions sliced and diced, shredded cheese taken out of the refrigerator. We also add other things, depending on what's on hand: scallions, cilantro, whatever. All these ingredients, as well as the cooked meat, are put onto plates or bowls.

Next, we quickly wash the skillet we used to cook the meat, and then add about an inch or so of vegetable oil. The oil is heated until a drop of water "dances" when added to the pan.

Now, it's time to make the tortillas. We've found that about a dozen corn tortillas makes enough tacos for our family of four, so we usually make sure we have on hand two dozen tortillas in case somebody is hungrier than usual.

We fry the tortillas in the hot oil for varying amounts of time: about a minute for a "soft taco," a couple of minutes for a "medium taco," up to four or five minutes for a "hard taco" (folded) or "tostada" (flat). At our house, the "medium taco" is usually the favorite, with occasional requests for tacos or tostadas. The fact that they are "cooked to order" is why we call them "Roll Your Owns."

Once finished, the tortilla is placed on a plate covered with absorbent paper towel, and then the recipient will fill it with meat and various veggies and cheese, topping with taco sauce.

By the time four tortillas have been prepared, it's time to start again with the first person's second taco, and keep frying until everybody has had their fill.

Usually, at the end, there are still some tortillas, meat, and other ingredients left over. Not to fear! The remaining tortillas are cut into pie wedges (about six pieces per tortilla), and fried to make tortilla chips. Meanwhile, the remaining ingredients are collected into a single bowl to make taco salad. A few chips are crushed to top the salad, and the salad is eaten with the remaining chips.


1 comment:

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