Today is a special day – not just Taco Day, but Soft Taco Day. While those hard shells do bring a crunch to the table, in our house soft shell tacos rule.
Years ago, we came across an awesome cast iron tortilla press. I will admit, for years that press was nothing more than a giant paperweight. Then one day I pulled it out, dusted it off and tried my hand at pressing tortillas. The first few efforts were disasters. It was more an issue of technique rather than recipes. When you press the tortilla, if you don’t properly prepare your press, it’s going to stick and make a mess. If you spray the press with cooking spray, that helps but there are times when the spray will build up and the tortillas become too oily.
Texture is another issue. Too dry and the tortillas won’t hold together. Too wet and they become mush. Tortillas are a lot like crepes. You can pretty much guarantee that the first one you make is a test tortilla, and take it from there. Now whenever I’m not feeling too lazy, I make ours from scratch. It’s just better. The nice thing about tortilla shells from scratch is that you can also add flavoring. Taco Seasoning, fresh peppers, a blend of flours. Have fun. This time around I’m making pure corn with the heat of a pepper from our garden.
Spicy Soft Mexican Tacos
Soft Corn Tortillas
1 Jalapeno Pepper
2 cups Masa Harina
2/3 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 cups Hot Water, divided
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 (1 gallon) Ziploc bags
Wax Paper Sheets
Note: If you don’t own a heavy tortilla press, tortillas can be made by hand much like a pie crust. The press simply makes quick work of it.
Stem jalapeno, finely mince using a small food processor. Place minced jalapeno in a large mixing bowl.
Add the masa harina and salt into the bowl with the jalapeno. Mix together with a spoon.
Pour 1-1/2 cups of hot water and olive oil into the bowl and mix together until all the water is absorbed. Using your hands, form the dough into a big ball. The dough should be firm yet springy when touched. If it is too dry, add remaining hot water a few tablespoons at a time until the dough holds together without becoming too sticky.
Place the dough ball in the bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball with the palms of your hands and return to the bowl, cover again with the towel or plastic wrap to prevent tortilla balls from drying out.
Open one of the gallon-size Ziplock bags, cut the seams so that the bag will open completely. Set aside. Cut parchment paper or waxed paper into 12 squares that will fit onto the press, set aside.
Open the tortilla press and lay the plastic bag liner inside so that it covers the upper and bottom parts of the tortilla press. Center 1 paper square on the bottom press.
Place one dough ball in the middle of the tortilla press on the paper square, fold the plastic liner over the ball, then close the top and gently press to flatten it out. Open the tortilla press and peel back the top of the Ziploc bag. Remove the tortilla on its paper and set in the remaining gallon bag. Repeat until all the tortillas have been pressed and stacked in the bag. Seal bag to keep tortillas fresh. Make the filling.
1 Yellow Onion, dived
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 lb Bulk Chorizo
1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning
1 (8 oz) can Goya Seasoned Tomato Sauce
Peel and dice onion, divide in two and set aside. Stem jalapeno, seed if desired. Dice and set aside.
In a heavy skillet, break up the ground beef and chorizo over high heat, then allow it to cook through and brown. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of grease.
Reduce heat to medium. Half of the diced onions, and cook until onions soften. Add the diced jalapeno, taco seasoning and seasoned tomato sauce. Stir to combine.
Lower heat and allow the meat to simmer until thick, moist and fully flavored. While the filling simmers, prepare the tacos.
12 Corn Tortillas (recipe above)
1 cup Pepper Jack Cheese
4 Roma Tomatoes
2 cups Green Leaf Lettuce
Set oven to about 250 degrees.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Peel the tortilla from the paper sheet and place on the hot skillet. Cook tortilla for about 15 to 20 seconds. Flip and cook for 20 more seconds to seal in the heat. Flip it over again and cook for about 40 seconds or so, until the tortilla starts to bubble or puff up and is cooked through, Flip one last time to get brown marks on the other side. Fold cooked tortillas over the oven rack to help form their shape. Keep warm until ready to fill.
Shred jack cheese, set aside. Dice tomatoes, set aside. Shred lettuce, set aside. Cut limes into quarters, slice avocados. Squeeze the juice of one lime quarter over the avocado slices, set aside.
Remove tortilla shells from the oven to a large baking sheet. Divide filling between soft shells. Top with cheese, tomatoes and shredded lettuce.
Serve with lemon wedges and avocado slices as desired.