"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived."
-Jean Luc Picard

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mama's Tacos and Tortilla Chips

This is the story I was told growing up that goes along with the recipe: Father Hairball was drafted into the Army in 1959 a few months after he and Mama Hairball were married. One of the places he and Mama Hairball lived during the Army years, was Germany. While there, Father and Mama Hairball befriended a young man of Hispanic heritage. The poor man was quite homesick for the tacos that his Mama used to make for him. He didn't cook, but had watched his Mama make them many times and thought he could instruct someone else to make them. A deal was soon struck that Mama Hairball would make the tacos for him in exchange for the recipe.

When Father and Mama Hairball returned to the states, Mama Hairball started making these tacos at gatherings. Everybody who had them was crazy about them. -Have you figured out yet that that my family likes to eat?

Mama's Tacos

I'm going to apologize in advance as this is one those recipes where I can't give exact measurements. Sorry!!

1 pound hamburger
18-20 corn tortillas
canola oil
paper towels
electric skillet or regular skillet ( if you have one skillet that is deeper than the others then please use that one!)
something lined with paper towels to hold the finished tacos

We will be using hot oil today so lets not emulate Sandra Lee and put on long flowing sleeves and let our hair down while making this, okay? I'm guessing on how many tacos I get out of a pound because I just pull out a stack of tortillas and whatever doesn't end up as tacos is fried up for chips. Tear off about five paper towels and use them to line your container for the finished tacos. If you don't have people coming into your kitchen and stealing them as soon as they are cool enough to handle, let them drain a bit, transfer them into an oven safe container, and keep in a low oven ~200F or so until you are ready to eat.

Divide your *raw* hamburger up into about 18-20 pieces. If you'd like to count I have 19 pieces in the bowl.

Then pat it out onto one half of your tortilla and repeat until you have used up all of your meat.

Add your oil to a large skillet until it is about 1/2 inch deep. Heat up your oil on medium high heat until a tortilla dropped into your oil sizzles and bubbles but the oil is not smoking. If your oil is smoking your heat is set too high so please turn it down. I'm making chips too so that's why the 'good sizzle' pic is of 1/4 of a tortilla.

Now **carefully** slide a tortilla into the hot oil meat side up and use your spatula to **carefully** flick some hot oil *away* from you onto the top of your tortilla. Let it fry for a few seconds and then **carefully** fold the side without meat on it over on the the meat side so it looks like wait for it....a taco. Once again **carefully** flick some oil on top of your taco or use your spatula to push it under the oil for a bit. Let the taco cook for a little while ( I know, I'm sorry!) and **carefully** flip it over and cook on the other side. When they are done, the edge of the meat will look dark reddish brown and the tortilla will be hard.

Here's a quick video I made that you may find helpful. Sadly, my inner Sandra Lee came out as I was addressing the taco. *blushes*

Cook as many at one time as your pan can handle and you feel safe attending to. Don't freak out if your tortilla tears or the meat falls out while cooking them. If you can get the meat back inside with your spatula do so and if not don't worry about it. Just fish it out and plop it on the tortilla it goes with in your holding area. Serve the tacos with whatever you like on your tacos.

Getting them open to put your preferred toppings on can be tricky. Mr. Hairball prefers to just break them open, put on some salt, sour cream, and taco sauce and replace the broken off piece, and turn it horizontal and eat it like a sandwich. If I'm careful, I can get them open enough to stuff in some cheese and whatever else looks good to me that day and eat them like people do normal tacos. It's up to you as to what method you prefer.

If you have any leftover tacos, reheat them on a sheet pan in a 350F degree oven for about 10 minutes. You know how ovens can vary so keep an eye on them so they don't burn! Open up the oven and if you hear sizzling, they are probably done.

Tortilla Chips
skillet or electric skillet
hot oil
paper towels
sheet pan or other container

Take your tortillas and fold or tear them into quarters. (If you want to cut them so they look all pretty then knock yourself out.) ***Carefully*** add several chips to your oil and fry on each side for about a minute or so. Remove from oil with your spatula and place on your paper towel lined containment vessel.

I apologize that this picture is so blurry. Please just try to focus on the color of the chip for reference. Sprinkle your hot chips with salt, garlic salt, etc... if desired. Serve with salsa, guacamole, etc..


Sandra Lee again...

I want to talk a little more about Sandra Lee and some of the reasons why she drives me bonkers.

Like most people, I do use convenience products in some of my recipes and even have some frozen rising crust pizza in my freezer right now. *the horror!* Does that make me a hypocrite? I don't think so because:

A) I never pretend that I made something from scratch when it's not. I'll tell you straight up that it's frozen pizza, I used store bought bread, etc... In other words, I don't try to "take all the credit" if I didn't do the work.

B) When I use a convenience product, I always try to use it in a logical manner. For instance I have a very simple beef brisket recipe from Mama Hairball where you sprinkle some powdered onion soup mix over the brisket, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven. I don't buy apple pies,
cheesecakes or canned frosting and then try to turn them into something else.

C)When Sandra Lee spouts off about how buying all those seasoning packets and mixes saves you money, I really see red. ( I'm not talking to those of you who live in double or triple coupon land and are skilled couponers/sale shoppers who routinely get stuff for free or almost free.) The average shopper is going to spend more money over time if they rely heavily on the boxes, mixes, and pouches versus learning to make their own. Sandra uses math that focuses exclusively on what she spends today instead of overall spending to make her point. Yes, a five pound bag of flour (when it's not a loss leader item) at the grocery store *will* cost more than a box of cake mix but, you can make a lot more than one cake with that five pounds of flour. One seasoning packet does cost less than five or six bottles of spices but, how many meals can you get out of those five or six bottles versus the seasoning packet??

How the food looks and tastes is much more important to me than "tablescapes" and redecorating my kitchen and myself to coordinate with the food. I think some fresh flowers and pretty plates are a lovely accent to a good meal but, "tablescapes" can never make up for a substandard meal.

My "tablescapes" are more on the order of asking Mr. Hairball to please take the mail off the table and scoot the lamp down to the end so we have room to eat. In other words no chairs on the table!

Lastly, her unrestrained glee over her cocktails is just disturbing to me. She never thinks that some of her adult guests might want an nonalcoholic beverage instead of her drunken delights.

Mama's Enchiladas

No pics yet for the following recipes.

Mama's Red Enchiladas

2 lbs hamburger
2 19oz cans mild red enchilada sauce or the homemade equivalent
1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
6-8 tortillas
garlic powder
onion powder

Brown hamburger and garlic and season as desired with onion powder and garlic powder. ( Feel free to use real garlic and onion here. Mama Hairball was feeding some picky folks who didn't like the texture of onion and garlic in their food!) Drain hamburger and set aside. In a large baking dish,(9x13 or so) tear up the corn tortillas into quarters and put half in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the tortillas with 1/2 the hamburger and 1/2 the cheese. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and hamburger but not the cheese. Pour the enchilada sauce over the layers in the bakng pan and top with the remaining cheese. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Mama's Green Enchiladas

This is comfort food for me so no cracks about the Velveeta and canned soup please!

2 lbs hamburger
2 lbs Velveeta
1 lb grated sharp cheddar
1 10.75 oz can of cream of mushroom soup
1 5 oz can of evaporated milk
1 4 oz jar of pimentos
2 4.5 oz cans of green chiles
6-8 corn tortillas
Garlic powder and onion* See above recipe

Brown hamburger and season as desired with onion powder and garlic powder. Drain hamburger and set aside. Cut up 2/3rds of the Velveeta into cubes and place in top of a double boiler with the cream of mushroom soup and evaporated milk and stir and let melt until smooth. Then add pimentos and green chiles and stir well.(This was written before microwaves were common so you could do this part in the microwave just watch it carefully.)In a large baking dish (9x13 or so) tear up the corn tortillas into quarters and put half in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the tortillas with 1/2 the hamburger and 1/2 the sharp cheese. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, hamburger and the sharp cheese. Carefully pour the melted cheese mixture on top of the layers in the baking pan. Cover baking pan with aluminum foil and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.