I don’t think more than two weeks ever passes at our house without my husband asking me to make tacos for dinner. But he doesn’t mean authentic Mexican roadside tacos, or fish tacos with fresh guacamole, or even hipster tacos with kimchi or pork belly. He wants my “tacos,” which are really my mom’s tacos. This is weeknight, working mom, dinner on the table in 20 minutes food. It’s not pretty or trendy or sophisticated. It’s just damn good. No need to set the table or uncork the wine. These tacos are meant to be eaten in front of the TV with a big glass of milk. That’s how I did it when I was a kid, and that’s how I do it now.
It’s so simple I hesitate to even share it with you, except for the fact that this is literally the most eaten dinner in our house. My mom’s secret is a can of refried beans mixed into the meat. It bulks up the tacos in the best possible way. Tacos that are just ground beef are so boring. Why aren’t they doing this at every drive thru taco place on the planet? My mom was so clever.
She also fried the flour tortillas in a bit of hot oil. This is delicious, but I’m mostly too lazy, and trying to keep the calories down ever so slightly, to bother with this step. But by all means, if you want to make these extra ridiculous, slide your flour tortilla into about an eighth of an inch of hot oil. It only needs about 30 seconds a side. Just stand right there and turn it when it gets brown. Drain them briefly on a paper towel, then load up your taco meat and toppings. It’s 80’s suburban familial bliss.
My mom died in 2009, so I’m always looking for ways to keep her close by. Cooking the food she made when I was a child is one of my favorite ways to do that. Don’t tell anybody, but I still put ketchup on my tacos, just like when I was 10. I don’t recommend it to normal humans. I’m not normal.
Next time you’re exhausted on a Wednesday, make these tacos. They’re so simple you could make them in your sleep, and so freakin’ good you won’t be able to move afterward.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 packet hot taco seasoning (you should probably make your own, but I always forget)
- 3/4 cup water (or just refill the seasoning packet)
- 1 can spicy jalepeno refried beans
- whole wheat tortillas
- shredded cheese
- sour cream
- and all your other favorite taco toppings
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, break up your ground beef with a wooden spoon and season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Cook until browned, about 8 minutes.
- Drain the fat from the ground beef by pouring it into a colander. Return it to the pan.
- Sprinkle your seasoning packet over the cooked meat and add water. Stir to combine.
- Add refried beans and smoosh everything together. It will become easier to stir as it heats. Simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- For a softer tortilla, heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Spoon your taco meat onto your tortilla and add all your favorite toppings. You can even have ketchup. I won't tell.