Ground Beef Tacos

I’ve been going through a “dry spell” recently, when I have not felt much like cooking. Pressures from work and home have led towards sleepless nights lately, and the combination has sapped my energy to do anything beyond the basics. However, my kids still need to eat, so I have been relying on easy recipes: Macaroni and Cheese, Pepperoni Pan Pizza, Barbecues Burgers, Pasta, etc.  Another of these easy recipes is ground beef tacos. I’ve made them at least 100 times for my kids, each time using a small envelope of taco seasoning costing $1. However, this week I discovered that Chris Kimball has a recipe for Ground Beef Tacos.

Sorry for the terrible cell phone photo

Chris Kimball’s recipe turns out to be no more difficult than using the envelope. Adding just one extra minute to mix my own spices; all of which were already in my kitchen. Of course, there are other improvements, but nothing that adds more than a few extra minutes. (1) Sautéing the onion and garlic, (2) blooming the spices rather than soaking them in water, (3) using tomato paste , and (4) using chicken broth instead of plain water. The kids certainly love them, but I made one mistake that prevented this tacos from reaching their full potential. As such, I’d give them a solid 3-stars; good, but not great. Fine for the kids, but no something I would consider cooking for guests.

Issues/Comments:

  1. I made one small mistake. The recipe called for 1/2-cup tomato sauce, but I inadvertently used 1/2-cup of tomato juice. This meant that I had to let the filling cook much longer to dry out the extra moisture.
  2. I just gave my kids regular  flour tortillas, not the homemade taco shells described in the recipe.
  3. Also, I noticed that the first ingredient in Taco season is Maltodextrin. I’m not sure what that is, but I don’t like the sound of it. Chris Kimball’s recipe is 100% Maltodextrin free.
  4. Actually, the only thing that has motivated me lately has been baking bread. I’ve been baking a lot of this; a loaf based upon Rustic Dinner Rolls, but formed as a typical loaf. Oddly, the dog days of summer are the worst time of year to be baking bread.
  5. Chris Kimball has a collection of 30-minute meals, I should give them a try, to get me through my motivational lull.

Rating: 3 stars.
Cost: $6.00
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Small.
Start time: 5:00. Dinner time: 5:30

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion
3 medium cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

  1. Dice the small onion, which should yield about 2/3-cup. Peel 3 cloves of garlic.
  2. Preheat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sauté the diced onion for 4 minutes, stirring as necessary.
  3. Meanwhile measure out and combine all dried spices into a small cup.
  4. When onions are ready, press garlic directly into skillet and add spice mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute to bloom flavors.
  5. Add ground beef to skillet. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to prevent scorching. The beef should no longer be pink.
  6. Add 1/2-cup tomato sauce, 1/2-cup chicken broth, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons cider vinegar. Heat up to a simmer, then turn down to medium-low. Continue to simmer until liquid has thickened, but not completely dry, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently and ensure that no chunks of meat remain. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.
  7. Place in serving bowl and pass toppings separately.

7 Responses to Ground Beef Tacos

  1. Jenny says:

    You’re not alone in lacking motivation. We’ve been in a horrible heat spell here in Kansas City and it’s killing all desire to cook anything more complicated than a salad. As always, thanks for posting, I enjoy reading these recipe reviews! Cooks Illustrated/ATK has been my consistent “go to” recipes for years and I love that you are trying things out for me.

  2. jean says:

    thanks for posting from me too. :-)
    FYI, this recipe freezes great. I make 4 lbs at a time, in 2 skillets though since it doesn’t reduce well over that amount. And if you mix up a WHOLE bunch of the spice mix (including salt) you only need to measure out 3 slightly rounded tablespoons per batch.
    I freeze in 1 cup containers for the kids lunches and for nacho topping, and in bigger container for when i can’t be bothered to cook.

  3. Neil Enns says:

    My wife and I highly recommend the 30 minute meals cookbook from Mr Kimball. The white bean, escarole, and linguica soup is dead simple and absolutely delicious!

    Wikipedia sez maltodextrin is derived from plants (corn or wheat) and is often used in beer. Doesn’t seem scary at all, honestly.

    Neil

    • Hi, thanks for the suggestion. I’ll definitely give the soup a try (but too hot for soup in August).

      I’m glad maltodextrin doesn’t seem bad, since I’ve given it to my kids at least 100 times. After some googling, it looks like it is used as a slightly sweet thickening agent.

      Mark

  4. Emma says:

    You’ve got to make the homemade shells. I made this recipe with shells for my husband’s birthday. PITA but awesome!

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