1/05/2006

Taco Night

I have this great recipe for a chile verde sauce. It calls lots of tomatillos, pipitas (pumpkin seeds) and jalapeños, requires some nice, long simmering, and tastes so authentic you’d swear you were in Mexico—or at least in California. I make that about once a year, maybe less. Taco Night, however, happens much, much more often than that.

Taco Night is one of those meals that starts out with a box. I know that’s never a good sign of a home-cooked meal, and I’m sure you could make Taco Night from scratch, but that would take away from the whole concept. The point of Taco Night isn’t that you’re having Mexican food; it’s a kind of throw-back to the days when dinner involved boiling water and tearing through some cardboard (think Rice-a-Roni, Hamburger Helper, and Noodles Romanoff). To truly enjoy Taco Night you have to let go of your pretentions and be ready to embrace a little nostalgia.

We’re a crunchy taco family, so I carefully cut the plastic off of the nest of taco shells and lay them on the baking sheet. Experimentation has taught me that it’s best to have the opening of each shell resting on the edge of the back of the next shell—this keeps the shells from crisping up closed. You also want to make sure to bake the shells for at least the full 6 minutes. I hate to tell you this, but I think there is some kind of gum in these taco shells (probably keeps them from breaking in the package), and if you don’t crisp them up enough their texture is off. While they’re toasting, just follow the package directions. (i.e., brown the meat (we use ground turkey), add the taco seasoning and water, and prepare the condiments.

The condiments elevate this meal from something sad and a little dreary. More is more here. I use black beans (canned), grated cheese (organic—pre-grated from a package), some lime, avocado, chopped romaine lettuce, chopped grape tomatoes, and some salsa. Once I went for the high calorie route and added some leftover sour cream. If I have some fresh cilantro in the house I’ll put some of that out too.

Taco Night makes for an interactive meal. Each of us has our own way of constructing our tacos. The Husband goes for the basic model, but then insists on a particular kind of Salsa made by Coyote Cafe. I still don’t know which one that is, but I just put out whatever bottles we have. I prefer to make mine like a salad, crumbling taco shells on top of my toppings. The Girl is much more experimental. Last night she decided that her tortilla needed a good dousing of lime juice before anything else could go in it. Then she made big heaps of beans and cheese on her plate, keeping her interest in the lime and talking about her day.

It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s a good meal to have when other kids are coming over for dinner because it’s fun too. Yes, it did mostly come from a box, but it’s really kind of yummy too.

2 comments:

SF Mom of One said...

Whew! I feel much better now. The Dinner Queen makes tacos from a box. There's hope for me. How about frozen palaak paneer? Is that going too far?

Aspiring Chef said...

I love taco night. I prefer to line my shell with a piece of lettuce-that way if my shell breaks all the good stuff still stays inside. Maybe I should try wrapping myself in lettuce when I have a bad day at work.