I always try to eat delicious food. Unfortunately I don't have that much money, so I have to cook a lot of it at home. But thats OK because I love cooking and I love eating at home with my wife. This is a website with my favorite recipes and a little bit of commentary.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Taco Bake

I spotted this recipe in the October/November 2007 issue of Cook's Country magazine. The magazine is a spinoff of one of my favorite cooking magazines Cook's Illustrated. In every issue you can find at least one recipe that you absolutely love and most times you can find half a dozen. I have always been impressed by the extent of testing that the authors do. For instance, if they are trying to come up with a roast beef recipe they will do 100 pounds of roast beef with slightly different recipe variations. I still have to tweak the recipes a little bit to my tastes, but usually the recipes are very close. Cook's Country is a lot like Cook's Illustrated but the recipes are simplified to save time. I have modified the recipe to make it a little more difficult. Howya like them apples?
You can re-simplify the recipe by using a packaged Taco seasoning. You also don't need to add a chipotle pepper. If you can't find ro-tel tomatoes where you live you can substitute a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes and one 4 oz can chopped green chiles. You could kick this recipe up a notch or two by making your own refried beans and taco shells. You could also go completely from fresh tomatoes and chiles.

Taco Bake

The first thing you need to do is make the taco seasoning. It really isn't that hard and you should make your own because you can customize the flavor to your liking.

Taco Seasoning

1 T flour
1 T corn starch
1 T dried minced onions
2 t chili powder
1 t beef bouillon
1 1/2 t cumin
1 t paprika
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t ground oregano

Combine the above in a bowl.

Next preheat the oven to 400 with the rack on the second to the top rung.

2 (10 oz) cans of Ro-tel tomatoes
16 oz can refried beans
1 T hot sauce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
3 cups shredded cheese (Mexican cheese blend works well)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 chipotle pepper, chopped up
1 recipe of taco seasoning
Salt to taste
12 taco shells
3 green onions, sliced

1) Drain the Ro-Tel tomatoes and save the liquid
2) Combine 1 can of Ro-Tel with the refried beans, hot sauce and cilantro.
3) Spread the mixture of tomatoes and beans in the bottom of a 9X13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle the top with cheese

4) This part is a trick. It makes it so that the hamburger ends up in very small particles. Put the hamburger in a cast iron skillet with an inch or so of water. Use 2 forks to mash the hamburger up into very fine particles. Now brown the hamburger in the liquid.
5) Drain the hamburger. Combine the taco seasoning with the chipotle pepper and the leftover juice from the 2 cans of Ro-Tel. Add water until the total volume is 1 1/2 cups. Stir the tomato/water/spice mixture until well combined. Add the sauce to the hamburger. Add the remaining can of Ro-Tel tomatoes to the pan and cook until thickened and nearly dry, about 5-7 minutes. Taste the meat. If it needs salt add some.

6) Pack some cheese into the bottom of a taco shell and top with meat.
7) Arrange the packed tacos in the baking dish. Cover with tin foil and bake for 15-20 minutes until everything is bubbling.
8) Remove the foil and top everything with the remaining cheese. Return to the oven until the cheese melts.
9) Sprinkle with green onions just before serving.