I had a craving for el cheapo style tacos last night. You know the ones – crunchy yellow tortilla shells, spiced ground meat mix, grated yellow cheese, diced white onion, shredded lettuce and maybe some chopped tomatoes on top if you’re feeling fancy. With “taco sauce” of course! No, not salsa, not guacamole and don’t even think about sour cream. Just your basic trashy taco, nothing complicated. I love tacos in general, fancy types too, but sometimes nothing satisfies like the kind I grew up eating way back when. Nostalgia eating I guess.
The meat mix is really the only moving part here that requires any real “cooking”. The other stuff just needs cleaning and prepping. You can use any type of ground meat or meat-like item here, or even beans. Beef, chicken, turkey, veggie meat crumbles or chopped up burger patties, tofu, lentils all would work. I used some TVP I had in the pantry. For those not in the know, TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein – sounds like a lab experiment and conjures images of soylent green wafers for me, but I digress) is a dried, crumbly substance made from soybeans. When you add water, it fluffs up and behaves like ground meat. It is highly processed though, so I personally don’t eat it a lot. But when making Trashy Tacos and avoiding real meat, it is just the ticket!
I dislike prepackaged spice mixes, so I make my own. Oh come on, its not that hard! I keep a well-stocked spice cabinet though and that makes it easy. And fun. So back to the meat – in a skillet I browned up some onion in oil and then added cumin, chili powder, garlic pepper, allspice (optional but awesome), a pinch of oregano and celery seed (also optional, but yum). Toasted the spices for a little and then added the dry TVP right to the pan and got it all coated in the oily spices. Then I added a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste (I get it in the tube so is easy to use small amounts here and there), some V8 juice and water. Let it all simmer to get the flavors melding. In the meantime, I prepped the cold stuff and toasted the shells.
Proper assembly in my book: Warm shell (don’t skimp on warming it up), meat, cheese, onion, lettuce and then taco sauce. Have a fork handy to scoop up all of the inevitable but delicious taco detritus. My kids mock me (about this and many other things), but this is a great meal to put to use all of the leftover Taco Bell sauce packets you have stored in a baggie in the pantry. What? You don’t have one of those?? Well you should start, because it is ridiculous when you order one taco and they give you 10 sauce packets, but that shit is gold and should not be left to waste! Also perfect to have a condiment baggie when travelling to combat the perfect storm of bland while far away from your well-stocked home fridge condiment selection. What? You don’t have one of those either?? Tsk…