Dad’s Beef Tacos

Okay, okay, so I made my usual tostadas. But you could make tacos, like my dad does.

Here, I also used black beans as a base, because my partner is vegetarian and I had them ready, anyway.  And I threw on some red bell pepper because I had it on hand. The recipe below is adapted from my dad’s ever-evolving, greasy, slightly tangy tacos.

Dad’s Taco Beef

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 Tbsp basic barbecue sauce
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
splash Tabasco sauce
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup water

For taco assembly

8 tostadas, taco shells, or plain old tortillas
2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
chopped lettuce, to taste
chopped tomatoes, to taste
Ranch dressing*

1. In a large skillet, melt butter and add onions. Saute them until they are soft, about two minutes. Next, cook beef until thoroughly cooked; it will change from red to greyish-brown. You will want to continuously turn the meat over, breaking it up with your spoon or spatula, to ensure that it’s evenly and fully cooked. As it cooks, go ahead and sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

2. Once all of the meat has cooked beyond the raw stage, go ahead and add the tomato basic, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, cumin, and water. My dad always mixes these ingredients first with a fork, in a large measuring cup. Thoroughly stir the mixture into the meat and onions, and reduce heat to simmer. Allow the beef to cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has cooked off, stirring occasionally. If the mixture is drying out, add more water.

3. Meanwhile, you can prepare your garnishes and your tortillas. If you are making white people style crispy tacos (or if you’re in the UK), you can get out your Old El Paso box at this time and fire up your oven. I usually just make tostadas because they are easier, don’t crack down the middle on the first bite, and—especially when fried up fresh with El Milagro corn tortillas—have a crunch and flavor that can’t be beat.

4. Once both the beef and tortillas are ready, create a taco assembly station on your kitchen counter. Ask your guests to make their own tacos, choosing the toppings they prefer. Carefully spoon the beef, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, and any other garnishes (I like raw onions!) into/onto your taco, and serve immediately. In the photo above, I (of course) added a generous drizzle of Hal’s Hot Love from Shanita’s Salsitas, my go-to salsa.

These tacos will be greasy like a good, New York pizza. The flavor contrast between the slightly tangy beef and the bright, creamy Ranch dressing—while perhaps an acquired taste—is addictive, I promise.

My dad making venison tacos, 2008.

*Hold your gasps. I never said this was a Mexican recipe. If my Texas Fried Potatoes recipe and the fact that I put bacon (and bacon grease) in everything weren’t sufficient clues, I’ll out myself now: I’m from East Texas. So is my dad. Which means we’re Southerners. And we put Ranch dressing on everything. It’s delicious.

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