Beef Tacos with Homemade Flour Tortillas


For one reason or another I’ve never been crazy about “taco night”. Troy has been very frustrated by this in the past because it’s one of his favorite meals. He doesn’t need anything fancy; he’s fine with any ground beef seasoned simply with one of those little packets you buy for 50 cents at the grocery store full of mystery ingredients and unimpressive flavor. Not passing judgement on his taste-buds, just figuring I could do better. And maybe then I would feel more like I’m cooking a real meal and feel more inclined to have “taco night” more often.

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Homemade seasoning recipe, pack of grass-fed ground beef (my favorite), lots of fresh toppings for said tacos (avocado, onion, lettuce, tomato, etc), good to go right? Well I guess I was feeling even more ambitious on this particular evening because I set forth to make homemade flour tortillas. While the rest of taco night came together without a hitch, these flour tortillas tripped me up a little bit. Maybe it’s because  I don’t have a tortilla press or maybe I just needed to get through the learning curve for this particula project, but these shells were really difficult to roll! They kept sticking to the pin, to the board and if I tried to stretch them by hand they would rip. Argh. I got the first one rolled out to a sort-of circle but it was far too thick. The next one was a weird rectangle with little protrusions on the sides. I think by the end I figured out that you sort-of need to pretend you’re “smearing” the dough. The edges will kindof mash out on your rolling surface and you’ll have to lightly roll those mashed edges up to peel the thing off the board but it worked! Never a perfect circle but that’s okay, there’s something to be said for a “rustic” final product. So yea, use a lot of pressure on the pin and almost come at your ball of dough like you’re going to smear it across the board. The thinner the better with these, although you can really only go to a certain point before you rip holed in them. I also found that when I kept trying to overwork a piece of dough to get it thinner, I tended to rip it and then have to start over with it.

So don’t be scared, just be patient. Mine were far from perfect but they were delicious! Simple ingredients go into these shells: flour, baking powder, salt and vegetable shortening. Although I must point out that a number of recipes I read actually said to use lard but this was something I don’t have on hand so I went with shortening. I would like to try it with lard sometime. Lard has some sort of stigma and a lot of people don’t cook with it and I won’t exclude myself from that bunch but it’s something I would certainly like to change! You know, just to give it a try. Anyway, these shells were really tasty, tender and soft. The dough was delicate but after a quick grill in a dry skillet they firm up just enough to be a secure vessel for you taco fillings. If the shells sit for too long they will start to become a bit brittle (just like store-bought ones) so just heat them up in the microwave or in the frying pan again and they will become pliable again. Making tortilla shells will most likely be a once-in-a-while project, not every-time we have taco night.

However, the homemade seasoning blend will make many repeat appearances I’m sure. It is very flavorful and thickens up nicely without the need for added thickeners like flour or cornstarch. It is a unique filling in that it contains tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and chicken broth. Sound strange? Well it turns out this combination of ingredients along with an array of spices creates a robust, well-rounded taco filling when cooked up with some onion, garlic and ground beef. I based this off of the “Beef Taco” recipe on Cooksillustrated.com.

***PRINTABLE RECIPE (BEEF TACOS PDF)***

Beef Tacos

(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated “Beef Tacos”)

Ingredients for Beef Filling:

  • 2 tsp. vegetable, canola, corn or sunflower oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, small dice (about 2/3 cup)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or passed through a garlic press
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
  • Salt
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (85-90% lean)
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • Ground black pepper

Accompaniments (all are optional or to taste, except for some sort of shell):

  • 8 taco shells, flour or corn
  • Taco sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (or crumbled Queso Fresco or Cojita)
  • 2 cup shredded iceburg lettuce
  • 2 small tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 small onion, small dice
  • ¼ cup pitted and sliced black olives
  • Diced fresh avacado
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

  • Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat
  • Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes
  • Add garlic, spices, 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 1 minutes

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  • Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with the a spoon and scraping the 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 a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain and until liquid has reduced and thickened, about 10 minutes

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  • Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper
  • Serve hot in taco shells with desired toppings

***PRINTABLE RECIPE (FLOUR TORTILLAS PDF)***

Flour Tortillas

(Adapted from The Tasty Kitchen.com “Homemade Flour Tortillas”)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½-cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½-tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp. lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup hot (not boiling) water

Directions:

  • In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt
  • Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening to the flour mixture and then cut it in with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs

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  • Slowly stir in the hot water
  • Dump out onto a board and knead 30-40 times or until it becomes one cohesive ball of dough and becomes less sticky
  • Cover with a towel or paper towels and allow to rest for 1 hour

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  • Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into balls, about the size of ping pong balls (or larger depending upon the size tortillas you want to end up with- ping pong ball size will yield small tortillas)
  • Place rolled balls on a tray or large plate, cover again with the towel and allow to rest another 20 minutes
  • Heat a large cast iron griddle or dark skillet to medium/medium-high
  • One by one, roll out the balls of dough until very, very thin

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  • Throw tortillas onto the hot griddle
  • Cook on each side for about 20-30 seconds, removing will tortillas are still soft but brown in spots. You may need to adjust your heat to get it right, you want them to cook quickly but also not to burn. If you cook them too long they will get crisp and brittle
  • Remove and stack tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm

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  • Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing

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5 responses to “Beef Tacos with Homemade Flour Tortillas

  1. Pingback: Southwestern Taco Pot Pie | therapy bread·

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