Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Baked Tacos, Refried Beans, Margaritas

Sorry, folks, I'm a little behind...this was our dinner on Sunday night. This is another ground turkey recipe that's traditionally been done with beef...good old-fashioned taco meat. Again, you'll find that I mix authentic touches with short-cuts, mostly trying to achieve the best flavor profiles I can in a reasonable time frame. This is one of the most flavorful dinners I make. I hope you enjoy!

Baked Tacos
Green Blender Salsa (see recipe from March 25th posting)
Refried Beans
(Serve also with homemade tortilla chips from March 24th posting)

Baked Tacos
1 lb. ground turkey (7% fat)
1 T light olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. Ortega (or other brand) Taco Seasoning
1 T tomato paste
1 T pureed chipotles in adobo sauce (see note below)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin seed (see note in Chiles Relleños recipe, March 24th)
1/2 tsp. chili powder (see note in Chiles Relleños recipe, March 24th)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cinnamon (I buy Vietnamese Cinnamon from Pensey's Spices)
1/4 tsp. or more freshly ground pepper
pinch of salt
18 corn taco shells
1 2-cup bag of shredded colby-jack or other preferred cheese.

OK, true confessions again. I use packaged taco seasoning. I do so because it contains a base of seasonings and sauce thickeners that make my life easier. Most of the flavor in this recipe comes from the add-ins. I invented this recipe after falling in love with chorizo, and wanting to emulate that rich flavor. This isn't chorizo, but it's almost like a Mexican curry...redolent with aromatics that blend into an out-of-this-world complexity and savoriness.

Brown the turkey in the olive oil, breaking it up into tiny bits. Add onion and garlic and cook until meat, onion and garlic are all starting to brown. They will want to stick to the pan a bit...that's good. Keep scraping and stirring. At this point, quickly add all other ingredients, and cover the mixture shallowly with water. Stir to thoroughly mix, scraping any remaining stuck bits from the pan. Heat to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until enough of the water has evaporated that the mix is mostly meat with a little sauce (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350. Arrange taco shells in a large baking pan. When the filling is done, spoon a heaping tablespoon into each shell and spread out in the bottom. The shells will soften a bit, enabling you to arrange them a little tighter in the pan. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese into each taco. Bake until the cheese is melted and the shells are golden brown.

A note on chipotles. This smoked, dried red jalepeño has become Miss Popularity of pepper society, and with good reason. These hot, smoky babies are unique in the culinary world, and are extremely versatile. They come primarily in two forms: dried and canned in adobo sauce. I use both frequently. When I buy dried, I often grind them in my coffee grinder (the next pot of coffee after that is interesting!) to make a powder I can use in mayonnaises, flavored butters or sour creams, etc. When I buy canned, I puree them in a food processor and store them in a plastic container in the fridge - they'll keep for many weeks. This form works great in sauces, stews, soups, and salsas (I still have to give you my favorite salsa recipe of all time, which includes chipotles in this form).

Accompaniments & Refried Beans
tomato, diced
black olive slices
cilantro leaves, rinsed well and removed from stems
jalepeño, minced
red or yellow onion, minced
scallion, minced
lime wedges
yogurt or sour cream
canned refried beans

We like all of these items with tacos. Just put them all out in bowls and let everyone serve themselves.

For the refried beans, I don't do anything fancy...I just love them plain. Empty the can into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low until warmed through and slightly bubbly. You can also spread them on a plate, sprinkle with cheese, and bake in the oven.

(makes 4 regular or 2 jumbo)
~2 c. Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix
1/2 c. Cuervo Gold
1/4 c. Cointreau
1/4 c. Gran Marnier

Mix the alcohol in a glass container and place in the freezer at least 2 hours before serving. Freeze glasses as well. Just before serving, place two large handfuls of ice cubes in a blender (fill it just under 1/2 full). Add alcohol and the margarita mix so that it comes to about 2" from the top of the blender. Blend on high for a minute or so until the ice is pulverized. Pour into the glasses and serve immediately.

I start this meal by freezing the liquor for the margaritas. I find that I can chop the onions and garlic for the tacos while the turkey is browning, then I can chop all of the remaining accompaniments while the filling is cooking, and then while the tacos are baking. The whole meal takes about 75-90 minutes to prepare - longer if you make chips from scratch.

No real complex technique today. I find this meal is a good time to exercise knife skills - lots of mincing and chopping. Also, the technique of browning onions, garlic and meat (maillard reactions!), then adding spices, acid (tomato paste) and liquid, will recur when we make curries.

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