I’ll be the first to say that not every night can be crispy duck breast, roast beef, or even vegetarian lasagna. Few of us have personal chefs and most of us have jobs and family commitments that compete for time, so even if you love eating, you’re going to once in a while be tempted to take your shopping cart down one of the aisles that predominate our supermarkets and you’re going to look for something processed.
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t judge anyone their daily food choices. It all comes down to balance and moderation. However, what perplexes me is the number of food choices people make that don’t add value and don’t actually save you any time. I’m talking food choices that just take hard earned money out of your pocket and in exchange give you mediocre processed food typically full of salt, sugar, and/or fat. To me that smacks of thievery — how can that be a real choice?
Once a month or so Anne and I have “taco night.” It’s a night dedicated to quick, easy, comfort food, typically at the end of a crazy week when our energy is low and we just want to spend some quality time together. Yes, my life is like most. And, admit it, many of you also have your own “taco night” every once in a while too.
But hands up who picks up a “taco kit” from Old El Paso, the name-brand from one of the largest multinational food conglomerates in the world, General Mills? Don’t be shy — some of you are doing it because there are more choices of taco kits on the shelves than there are of steel-cut oat meal, unbleached flour, or even corn combined. What galls me is that anyone will pay 5-bucks for something that you can make for pennies. What are you paying for apart from the corn taco shells in that box? You’re buying corn starch, salt, sugar, and some spices and perhaps some dehydrated vegetables (if you’re lucky).
Truly, you can do better in no more time than it takes to empty this package on some ground beef you have to fry up anyway. Some of you likely already have your version of this for your own taco night, but here’s my solution that keeps things simple and still drives flavour onto your homemade taco beef. My no longer secret ingredient: a few shakes of liquid smoke (found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores).
And while the beef is cooking or resting, slice up your other toppings and you have a night that is cheap, healthy, and easy. Wanna kick it up another notch? Pair this with my persimmon salsa,which is also super easy to make, and serve alongside a couple of Pepper-Lime lagers.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12-18 tacos
Ground Beef Tacos
- 1lb (450g) lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion, julienne
- 1 yellow/red sweet bell pepper, julienne
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) cilantro, chiffonade
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) chili powder
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) all-purpose “flour”
→ or gluten-free flour, or half cornstarch, half rice flour
- 1/2 cup (125mL) prepared salsa
- 1/2 cup (125mL) water
- 2-3 shakes “liquid smoke”
- 1/2 teaspoon (3mL) kosher salt
- pepper to taste
- optional heat: add some ‘hot’ chili flakes to taste
- 12-18 hard-shelled corn tortillas
- Do all your prep in advance: slice/chop all your veggies and have them ready.
- Heat a frying pan over-medium heat; then add the oil and the onions and sauté 3 minutes until lightly golden.
Add the bell peppers and continue to sauté for another couple of minutes until peppers and onions have slightly browned.
- Add the ground beef and, breaking it up with a spatula, and cook for about 5 minutes until all the pinkness is gone.
- Drain off excess fat and leave about 1-2 tablespoon (15-30 mL) in the pan. Season with chili powder and cumin. Add the cilantro.
Sprinkle with “flour” (or gluten-free substitute) and stir in until well-incorporated and fat is absorbed.
Cook for a minute or two and then stir in the salsa.
Drizzle in the water which will help form a “gravy” or sauce around your meat ….
… and cook until a “thick porridge” consistency is reached.
- Season with liquid smoke, salt, and pepper and add hot chili flakes if you choose. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- Reduce temperature and let simmer until ready to serve. Taco mix will be thick enough to hold to a spoon when ready. Adjust thickness to your preference with more cooking or by adding teaspoon or two more water.
Serve on a platter along with other taco fixings and toppings (e.g. grated cheese, shredded lettuce, fresh tomatoes, olives, green onion, sour cream, salsa etc).
Nicholas Robert Parkes says
Great article and recipe, I use liquid smoke too in my taco meat. Olives though, weird :;
Thanks Nicholas. Appreciate the feedback. Liquid smoke is a wonderful ingredient for any pantry, that’s for sure. Not our secret anymore. 🙂
No worries about the olives — just a family love here, but given ’em try sometime. You may be surprised.