So I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I hate July. Also, apparently July hates me because in the 9 years and 2 months that my husband and I have been married, we have not had a single July that wasn’t disastrous or at least moderately-to-really, really bad. This July hasn’t been like the hopefully-never-to-be-repeated July of 3 years ago, but in the last month, I’ve fallen down a hole and had an abscessed tooth (and any of you who know me know I would rather have a visit with the “lady doctor” than see the dentist…hence the abscessed tooth, which, when it was a mere minor toothache, I just kind of assumed would go away on its own if I pretended it wasn’t there). An orange crayon snuck itself into a pocket and melted over an entire load of laundry, my crock pot died, our water heater leaked through our kitchen ceiling and had to be replaced, the oven stopped working, and we had to replace one of the hubs on our car thanks to some guys at a place that rhymes with Flam’s Schlub who didn’t tighten the lug nuts on our car properly the last time they fixed a tire. My kids are bored, it’s too hot outside, and I’ve just generally been kind of bummed out, you know? I mean, I realize that in the big scheme of things, they’re just a bunch of annoyances that all happened at once and that others have it (heck, I’ve had it) way, way worse, but still. Adulthood isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be when you’re 18 and dying to get out of the house.

When I first went away to college, I was glad to only be two hours away from home because it seemed like about once a month, I just wanted to go home and not have to be a responsible adult–someone else could wash my clothes and make me dinner. The longer I’ve been a “grownup,” I’ve felt that less and less, but this last month, I really, really wished that I could take a break from responsible adulthood for a day. Since, no matter how I cut it, I’m way too far away from my family and my mini mind vacation isn’t happening, I needed something that reminded me of home. Not Utah home–I make a lot of things that remind me of Utah a lot of the time. But home home. Sitting around the dining room table home. Stuff we ate when I was a kid.

I’ve got another confession to make (I know, you’re thinking, “What is this, Kate’s therapy hour??): I’ve never been a huge Alton Brown fan. I like his food and really like his scientific approach and explanations, but there’s something about the weird characters that always appear on his show. And he has a KitchenAid with a flame job on it which just seems…ostentatious. Or something. And really, he’s Alton Brown–he can put whatever the heck he wants on his KitchenAid. But still. Anyway, one night when my stupid tooth hurt and there was nothing on TV (another nail in the coffin for July), I was flipping through the channels and found an episode of Good Eats where he covered all sorts of tacos. And seriously, in the span of about 4 minutes, I was an Alton Brown convert, even though there was a creepy caped Englishman from another time in it. Seriously, for the useful (and highly practical “why didn’t I think of that?”) tips from that episode alone, I will forever love him.

One of the tacos he made was a good ol’ beef taco. On our blog, have chicken tacos and steak tacos and these fish tacos and those fish tacos, but I realized while watching the episode that it had been a long, long time since I’d had a taco made with ground beef and that was exactly the food I wanted when I was longing to be a kid again.

He tweaked these just enough to be foodie-worthy, but still reminiscent of childhood. I mean, it’s the same stuff, right? Ground beef, corn taco shells, spices and seasonings…

I did slightly modify his seasoning recipe because the reviewers said it was a) extremely spicy and b) very salty and I agreed.

Alton (we’re on a first name basis now) must have taste buds of steel and an iron stomach because I can’t even imagine using all the spice he recommended, plus topping the tacos with pickled jalapeno slices.

I topped mine with pico de gallo, shredded lettuce, and feta (because I have a lot of it and it tastes almost identical to cotija).

And it was awesome. Enough to give me hope that August will be a better month. The tacos did not, however, do the dishes or fold the laundry when we were done. That’s okay–I still love them, anyway.

Beef Tacos
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

1 c. canola or peanut oil*
12 6-inch corn tortillas*
Kosher salt for seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
16 oz. ground sirloin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 recipe of Alton’s Taco Potion #19 (adapted by Kate), below
2/3 c. beef broth (low-sodium if you can swing it)

Desired toppings. Some ideas include:
–Sliced, pickled jalapenos
–Diced tomatoes
–Chopped cilantro
Pico de Gallo (I used this instead of the jalapenos, tomatoes, and cilantro since it’s essentially the same thing)
–Shredded iceberg lettuce
–Sour cream
–Crumbled cotija or Athenos feta cheese
–Chopped olives

2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (plus more if necessary; how much you’ll need depends on how much salt is in your chili powder and how salty your beef broth is. Start small here and add more a little at a time to the final beef mixture if necessary)
1 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot; 1/4 tsp. had a little bite for me and was just right)

*The tortillas and oil are for making your own taco shells, which I’ll include pictures of below because the text alone can be kind of confusing. However, you are not obligated in any way by me, Alton Brown, or the universe to make your own taco shells, even if they are extra awesome. Just buy some at the store, your favorite Mexican restaurant, or make soft tacos with flour tortillas.

Combine the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl or jar. Set aside.

To prepare the taco shells, heat 1 c. canola or peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. The oil will be ready when a few drops of water flicked into the pan sizzle but don’t immediately pop.

While the oil is heating, rip off 2 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum that are about 5 feet long (you can do just one if you want, but 2 will make things go by more quickly.) Fold the sheet in half so it’s 2 1/2 feet long and then repeat until it’s about 6 inches. Bend the foil in half but so the bend is rounded, like a little tin foil hut.

This will be the mold for your taco shell. Repeat with the other piece of foil.

When the oil is ready, place a corn tortilla over the rounded edge and hold onto it with a pair of long-handled heavy-duty kitchen tongs. Place one side in the hot oil and hold it there for about a minute or until that side is golden brown and crispy.

Flip the tortilla and cook for an additional minute (sorry these pics are so dark–my kitchen has ZERO natural light!) or until that side is browned and crispy. Transfer the whole thing, foil and all, to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and season lightly with kosher salt. After about a minute, remove the shell from the mold and allow it to cool completely. Repeat the frying process with the remaining tortillas and set aside.

Drain all the oil from the pan except for about 1-2 Tbsp. Return the pan to medium heat and add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the ground beef and cook until all the pink is gone. Add the seasoning mix and beef broth and cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and serve in the taco shells with desired toppings.



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