Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Taco Meat

For those of us who enjoy cooking, there is not much greater reward than having people tell you how wonderful your dish was. Whether an original recipe or not is irrelevant, because YOU are the one who put the time and energy into it, maybe added some of your own little touches, and shared it with your loved ones.
For those of us who are health-conscious, or at least semi-conscious of what we're putting into our bodies, it is extremely gratifying to know that what you prepared for your loved ones not only tastes good but is also good for them. With all of the artificial colors and preservatives junk, not to mention a TON of added sodium and MSG, is there really much about the prepackaged mixes that is real?! With so much concern about heart disease and obesity, I can't even begin to explain how important it is to keep an eye on your sodium intake. A little bit really does go a long way, and it's not necessary to douse your food with the stuff. You really do want to taste the other ingredients in your dish, not be overwhelmed by the excessive salt flavor assaulting your mouth with every bite.
And that is what I love about growing my own herbs, especially basil, and mixing together my own spice mixes. Taco seasoning is no exception. For a long time, I've looked for a really good taco seasoning mix, and everything I had tried seemed to fall somewhat short of my expectations. Finally, my cooking mentor, Alton Brown, came along with his taco seasoning concoction, and I am now quite content with the taco seasoning I mix together right in my own kitchen! Not only do I get to choose the best ingredients that go into the mix, there are no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and I get to control how much salt goes in to my dish (which I have to say is not even half of what is suggested in a recipe).
The original recipe for Alton Brown's beef tacos, which is where I got this from, is here, and I would encourage everyone to at least take a look at it. Keep the things you like, change the things you don't. As with every and any other recipe - make it your own! In my case, I couldn't find the hot smoked paprika, so I just bought the regular smoked paprika and added a tiny bit of extra cayenne pepper to the mix. I wouldn't have even needed to do that, though, since it was spicy enough!

2 Tbsp. chili powder
1½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. sea salt

Put all of the ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Store spice mix in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Yield: ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons spice mix

To use: Pour 2 tablespoons of canola oil into a skillet and turn heat to medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add 1 medium onion, chopped, and cook until softened and lightly browned around the edges, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add one pound of ground sirloin, ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, to break up the meat. Add Taco Potion and ⅔ cup (low-sodium) beef broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

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