My family's favorite at-home meal is definitely tacos. Yesterday Knucklehead almost hurt himself jumping up and down when my answer to the age-old-question 'whats for dinner?' was "TACOS".
The secret to making yummy tacos is definitely all in the shells. We fry them fresh, from corn tortillas. It helps if you can get FRESH corn tortillas, but even if they are weeks old (which was all I could find when we stayed in Virginia for a summer - whats up with that???) they still come out yummy after you fry them.
Frying corn tortillas can be difficult at first, but once you master it, it is ridiculously easy. Here are some tips that I have learned along the way:
1. Don't get the oil TOO hot - it should be hot enough that it pops right away when you put the tortilla in, but not so hot that it actually pops/spits AT you.
2. Use room-temp tortillas if you can - cold ones mess with the oil temperature, and you will have to adjust it after cooking the first few.
3. Make sure your oil is deep enough in your pan - I usually fill the pan to at least 1/2 inch deep. Don't go TOO deep, though - more oil makes it harder to maintain an even temperature, which means you are more likely to burn the shell - or yourself!
4. Don't use your favorite pan! I have one that is now my OIL PAN, that I only use when I am frying tortillas, or tortilla strips (to garnish tortilla soup)
5. When you put the tortilla into the hot oil, you need to 'fold' it pretty quickly, before it hardens as a flat tostada shell - but you can't fold it ALL THE WAY, or it will stick together. Long handled tongs help with this part, so you can hold up the top part of the taco shell while the bottom part cooks, then turn it over. If your oil is the right temperature, it should take 15-20 seconds to cook each side.
6. When the shell is done cooking, take a second to hold it up over the pan to let excess grease drip off before you move it to your paper-towels to drain.
Of course you also want your taco meat and fillings to be ready BEFORE you cook the shells, because these shells just aren't yummy when they get cold - fry them immediately before serving. For fillings, I use taco meat made from fresh ground turkey, with Schilling or Lawry's taco seasoning mix. The other fillings I like are grated cheese, shredded lettuce, Knudsen fat free sour cream, and Pace Picante Sauce.
Last night hubby had 7 of these babies! Bonehead and Knucklehead each had four, and I had five. YUM.