Jesse is my son. He's in the latter stages of thirty-something now with a seven-year old son of his own. Jesse was a really good kid. The kind of good that makes you wonder what you did to deserve a child that sweet, smart and easy to get along with -- until it came time to eat. Let's cut to the chase and say until he was a teen I had a very short list of 100% stressfree dinner options: pizza, pasta, bacon, shrimp, anything with ground meat, and, chocolate. That about covers it!
There really isn't too much more to tell. Whenever I latched onto a flavor combination that Jesse enjoyed, I did my best to prepare food using those herbs and spices as often as possible. Next to cooking Italian food, Tex-Mex fare was at the top of my kid-friendly dinner list. This basic but very flavorful ground beef taco recipe was created by me back in the early '80's, when Jess was around 6- 8-years-old, solely to please his finicky palate -- but his two older brothers loved them too, and, I served them "taco bar-style" so everyone in our family of five could make their own.
It wasn't long before I began making the meat mixture in large quantities, portioning it into user-friendly-sized 2-cup containers (enough to fill 8-10 taco shells), and freezing it to have on hand for quick weeknight meals and snacks. Yes, just like pizza, tacos make a great evening snack for kids (and adults too).
These beef tacos paved the way for chile con queso, burritos, fajitas and quesadillas too!
6 tablespoons corn oil
6 pounds 96% lean ground beef
1 pound diced yellow or sweet onion
6 large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press
8-10 ounces each: diced green bell pepper and red bell pepper
2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely-diced
2 14 1/2-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup sofrito (Note: Soffrito is a versatile puree of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, culantro and EVOO. It's the foundation of many Latin American, Portuguese and Spanish dishes. While it is not authentic Tex-Mex, it does contain the same basic veggies and flavors common to Tex-Mex, and, I keep a bottled brand stashed in my refrigerator at all times. It is NOT the same as Italian soffritto.)
~ Step 2. Over no heat, give the ingredients a thorough mix. Over medium heat, cook, breaking up and stirring frequently with a large spatula or spoon, until meat has lost its color and is steamed through, about 30 minutes. There will be quite a bit of liquid in the pan. Adjust heat to a simmer (medium-high) and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until almost all liquid has evaporated from pan, about 30-45 more minutes.
Note: The mixture is now technically ready to serve, however, I highly-recommend removing it from the heat, covering the pan and allowing it steep for at least 2-4 hours prior to serving warm.
#1. Spoon about 1/4 cup of meat filling...
Special Equipment List: 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; spatula; large spatula or spoon
Cook's Note: If it is an adult crowd your trying to impress with some Tex-Mex food, you might want to give my recipe for ~ Tequila-Lime Skirt-Steak Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon) ~ a try. These are a cross between a modern-day fajita and an old-style Mexican taco and you can find the recipe in Categories 2, 10, 13, 17 19 or 20!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)