Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote the first dated account of the taco in 1520. The key to serving this delicious Mexican classic is to include lots of fresh condiments on the side, so that everyone in the family can garnish the tacos to their liking.
Makes 8 tacos, serving 4 Tomato sauce is sold in cans in the same aisle that carries canned whole tomatoes. Do not use jarred pasta sauce in its place. We prefer to let diners top their own tacos with whatever fillings they prefer. There’s no need to prepare all of the toppings listed below, but cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes are, in our opinion, essential.
2 tsp corn or vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound 90 percent lean (or leaner) ground beef
1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar, preferably cider vinegar
Ground black pepper
Shells and Toppings
8 Home-Fried Taco Shells (recipe follows) or store-bought shells (warmed according to package instructions)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 small tomatoes, chopped small
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, diced medium
1 small onion, chopped small
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
2. Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells; place two tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately. Home-Fried Taco Shells The taco shells can be fried before you make the filling and rewarmed in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.
3/4 cup corn, vegetable, or canola oil 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1. Heat oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 -minutes (oil should bubble when small piece of tortilla is dropped in; tortilla piece should rise to surface in 2 seconds and be light golden brown in about 1 1/2 minutes). Meanwhile, line rimmed -baking sheet with double thickness of paper towels.
2. Using tongs to hold tortilla, slip half of tortilla into hot oil. With metal spatula in other hand, keep half of tortilla submerged in oil. Fry until just set, but not brown, about 30 seconds.
3. Flip tortilla; hold tortilla open about 2 inches while keeping bottom submerged in oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip again and fry other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds. 4. Transfer shell upside down to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adjusting heat as necessary to keep oil between 350 and 375 degrees.