Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Toss the Seasoning Packet: Make Old School Tacos

Homemade Seasoned Tacos

Have you noticed that tacos you can get today are different from what we had as kids? ("We" being used here for those of us who remember the '80s as a time of our youth.) Tacos today are "authentic" dishes of fillings like carne asada or pork carnitas. They're served on freshly made corn tortillas and garnished with raw onion, cilantro and a variety of fresh salsas. They're amazing.

Thirty years ago, tacos looked a lot different, at least if you were a child of suburban America where Taco Bell reigned supreme. Taco supreme, I suppose. Back then, a taco featured seasoned ground beef with shredded cheese, maybe tomatoes and lettuce, and crunchy corn shell. They were amazing...well, okay not really, but they were satisfying.

Arguably, the tacos we can get today are way better. But sometimes, that nostalgic pull of food memory makes me yearn for the tacos of my youth. When you weren't eating tacos like that at Taco Bell, you could have them at home. All it took was a taco kit, a pound of ground beef and a seasoning packet.

This recipe shoots for reliving some of that '80s taco nostalgia with a few modern updates. I've replaced that seasoning packet with a custom seasoning blend. It's really not that hard to assembled the spices to make good taco seasoning. And you can customize this any way you want. Don't have onion powder? It's probably just as delicious with just garlic. Can't find Mexican oregano? Use the standard kind. Want more chili powder? By all means add more. Making your own mix means you're in control, which includes dramatically reducing the sodium, if you are so inclined.

I also made some alterations to the taco ingredients, swapping in ground dark turkey meat for the beef, using colby jack cheese (you and I probably used cheddar as kids), and garnishing the tacos with a quick spicy corn salsa and fresh avocado instead of tomatoes and lettuce (tomatoes aren't in season right now and lettuce is just boring on tacos). Having a little chipotle hot sauce on the side ain't a bad idea either.

Seasoned Turkey and Corn Salsa Tacos

1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tbsp cumin

Corn Salsa:
1 tsp of olive oil
4 oz frozen corn
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 jalapeño minced
Pinch of chipotle chili powder

1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb dark ground turkey
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups finely shredded Colby jack cheese
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8-10 taco shells

1. Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Make the corn salsa: Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the corn, onion and jalapeño, season with chili power and sauté until lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove salsa from pan and set aside.

3. Make the ground turkey: Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently, until the turkey is cooked through, breaking up with a wooden spoon as the meat cooks (when cooked, I chopped the meat on a cutting board to break it into smaller pieces). Stir in the spice mixture and cook another minute or so until the mixture is fragrant, then add the Worcestershire sauce and water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce has thickened.

4. Serve the seasoned taco meat with the corn salsa, shredded cheese, avocado and taco shells.

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