Yay—taco night! It sounds so easy, so crowd pleasing, so autopilot for a busy weeknight. It is easy if you and your people prefer soft shell tacos. But let’s talk about hard shell tacos. The opening is too narrow and the shells are too brittle, so if you do end up creating your masterpiece in one piece, it explodes on the first bite. No bueno.
Even less bueno are the proposed solutions, helpful techniques like grabbing each taco with tongs and frying it in oil. Honestly, I’d rather sort rogue socks from the laundry than fry individual tacos. However you say “not happenin’” in Spanish is how I’m dealing with those tacos.
Bevin Wallace out in Colorado has solved this for us on her Real life Delicious blog. The key is filling the shells, standing them against each other in a baking dish, covering them with a loving sprinkle of cheese and then baking them. You get slightly softened hard shell tacos that are totally easy to eat without losing half the filling on the plate.
Bevin is super healthy and organic and fills her with elk meat or grass fed ground beef. The slacker (my) version is to take out the word organic everywhere, and use what you’ve got, which in my case most recently was ground turkey. Non meat eaters can use whatever non meat feels right. Other keys to the recipe are the veggies (they keep us honest on taco night) and the refried beans in the filling mixture that sort of hold it all together. And oh yeah, you can make them ahead and bring the dish over to pop in the oven. It’s all good stuff. Try these, and go sort socks with all your spare time.
à la Real Life Delicious
Makes 10-12 tacos
- 1 lb. lean ground meat (I use ground elk, but grass-fed beef, bison, or pasture-raised turkey are also good)
- 1 tbsp. taco seasoning (Slackers, open that yellow Ortega packet)
- 1 tsp. salt (omit if you are using the package)
- 1 13.5 box organic refried beans, or 1 can refried beans
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped (try to buy organic because peppers are on the Dirty Dozen)
- 1 package organic taco shells
- 1/2 cup shredded pepper Jack (or sharp cheddar) cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the meat in a large skillet, add the taco seasoning and salt, and brown over medium-high heat. When the meat is almost done, add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft. Stir in the beans and heat through. Make sure the meat, veggies, and beans are well incorporated. Bring a large rectangular baking dish and the taco shells over next to the stove and spoon the meat mixture into the taco shells (about 3/4 full). Stand the tacos in the baking dish as you fill them. They will want to fall over until they are all lined up in there fairly tightly. After you’ve filled the tacos, sprinkle the cheese over them and bake for 10 min.
Stack those bad boys, cover the dish with foil and proceed to the party where you will be greeted with mucho gusto.