Friday, May 09, 2008
D.I.Y. TACO SEASONING
I can’t believe I never thought of this before. Because, you know, every now and then I want to make tacos. Like, the old-skool Ortega “taco night” tacos of my youth. Not often, but once every few months. So I’ve been buying the stupid seasoning packets and feeling guilty about all the powdery chemicals therein, especially when I dump them onto my beautiful ethical-gourmet grass-fed ground beef, but I want my tacos to taste like I want my tacos to taste, dammit, and that taste comes from a packet, right?
On a whim, I started Googling last week and happened upon this Allrecipes entry, which had been rated an average of five out of five stars by a whopping 654 users, and over and over again the reviews said, “I will never buy packaged seasoning mix again!” I had every single one of the ingredients in my spice rack (even the onion powder, which I possess for the sole purpose of making Chex Mix), and it was the work of just a few minutes to mix the spices together in a bowl, brown some hamburger and add the seasoning, grate some cheddar cheese, shred some lettuce, chop some cherry tomatoes, warm up the taco shells, and open a container of my favorite salsa.
People, pay attention: The taco meat I made with this seasoning tasted exactly like the stuff made with the storebought packets, except maybe better. It was spicier (not overwhelmingly spicy, despite some of the “too spicy!” reviews, which were probably left by Minnesotans of Scandinavian descent, because this is only spicy if you think Taco Bell is authentic Mexican food), and yet at the same time the beef tasted beefier—the seasonings were enhancing its flavor, not masking it. I wouldn’t change a thing about the spice mixture, although of course the beauty of making your own seasoning is that you can adjust the quantities if you want to, and if you take the time to wade through the hundreds of comments on Allrecipes, you can find many suggested variations (for instance, using real onion and garlic instead of powders).
So with that, I’m joining the chorus of people who will no longer be buying taco seasoning mix (take that, corporate America!), and now that I’ve found this recipe I’ll probably be having tacos more often. (I’d also be interested to try the seasoning on chicken or veggies.) Now I just need to try making my own taco shells….
1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (if you don’t have coarse salt, use less than a teaspoon; I suspect some of the commenters found the seasoning too salty because they were using table salt)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. If you aren’t going to use the seasoning right away, store it in an airtight container.
The original recipe doesn’t officially tell you how to use this to make beef tacos, but following the guidance in the comments, it was pretty simple to work out a successful method. The recipe makes enough seasoning to season about a pound of ground beef (I actually had about a pound and a quarter, which worked just fine). Brown the beef and drain off the fat. Dump the bowl of seasoning into the pan with the beef. Whisk about a teaspoon of cornstarch into about half a cup of water, then pour the water into the pan of beef. Stir well, and simmer over medium heat until the liquid reduces and the mixture thickens (it seemed like a lot of people didn’t even bother with cornstarch but just mixed together beef, seasoning, and water; however, I wanted a sauce-like effect like the storebought packets have, and the cornstarch helped).
Time: For the seasoning mix, 5 minutes; for the tacos in their entirety, maybe 30 minutes