Taco Tuesday

Shredded Beef Tacos
This past weekend when my brother and I were emailing back and forth, the subject of food came up, specifically, I had asked him to give me some ideas of things I could cook and then write about on my blog. Thus began a long list and an extensive series of back and forth emails as we chronicled and reminisced about things my mother used to cook for us when we were growing up.

Somewhere in the volley of missives, my brother said that he'd like to see more budget-friendly ideas, after all, he reminded me, these days everyone is trying to stretch a buck.

That got me thinking about a lot of different things, but particularly about how my mother, as a single-parent, ever managed to feed two kids as well as she did on her sole income as a secretary, a job where she brought home just under $800 a month. She was definitely the sort of mother who cooked every night and baked at least once a week. I remember a childhood filled with good food--baked casseroles, chili and stews, homemade breads and dense chocolate cupcakes with thick chocolate buttercream. And since we all loved Mexican food, once a week she would make tacos for us.

My mother's tacos were the same tacos that were popular everywhere when I was growing up in the 1970s on the outskirts of Denver. She'd fry her own shells--thin corn tortillas slipped into a pan of hot grease until just crisp, and then quickly folded--then she'd cook ground beef  with chili and cumin and plenty of onions, chop tomatoes and then shred the lettuce and the cheese. I remember the cheese the most because she always bought Velveeta™ and would use the large holes on the box grater; the cheese melted flawlessly into the meat.

I can't tell you the last time I had a taco like that, but it's been decades. I still make some sort of Mexican dish one day a week and I definitely have a weak spot for tacos. This recipe for shredded beef tacos isn't just economical (the whole meal is less than $10 and you'll have enough leftover meat for burritos, a pan of enchiladas and will even be able to stretch it for a plate of huervos rancheros come Sunday) but this dish is delicious. Nowadays, I serve my tacos California-style--warmed corn tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro and jalapeño and I like a spoon of sour cream and a spoon of mashed avocado with lime and salt.

Shredded Beef with Chipotle Peppers

1 3-4 pound lean roast, trimmed of most of the fat
1 onion, diced
1 15 ounce can of stewed tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and dried
1 bunch of green onions, trimmed and washed
Wondra™ (this is a fine flour used for gravies; find it on the flour aisle in a blue cylindrical container)
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1. Rinse the roast and thoroughly dry. Sprinkle with salt and dredge in flour.
2. Heat vegetable oil until hot and sear roast on all sides until brown.
3. In the bottom of a crockpot, spread out the cilantro and green onions and when the roast is seared on all sides, set the roast on top of the bed of cilantro and green onions.
4. With the pan still hot, cook the onions until they soften, while scraping the pan.
5. Add the cumin. I like to add 3-4 tablespoons since the long cooking time of using the crockpot tends to cook the flavor down.
6. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them into small pieces.
7. Pour tomato and onion mixture over roast.
8. Cook on high for 6 hours, or until meat is easily shredded with two forks.
9. Remove meat to a large sheet pan and allow it to cool for 20 minutes.
10. Meanwhile, remove the cilantro and green onions from the broth.
11. Shake about 1/3 of a cup of the Wondra™ into the broth, slowly, whisking after each addition. You want to get the consistency of a semi-thick gravy or sauce, but still thin enough to create a sauce.
12. Open the can of chipotle peppers and using the back of a wooden spoon, break them up into small pieces; add the whole can into the gravy mixture and stir to combine.
13. Shred the roast by using 2 forks to pull the meat apart. Remove any visible fat.
14. Add the shredded meat to the gravy and adjust seasons; I like to add a little salt and depending on the heat of the chipotle peppers, I may add a pinch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce.
15. Cover the crockpot and cook on high for 20 minutes until the meat is warmed through and the sauce is hot.
16. Serve with warm corn tortillas, chopped onion, cilantro and jalapeño, sour cream and lime wedges.


  1. My Dad was an artist while my Mom worked her way up the corporate ladder - starting out as a secretary when we were 8 and then ended up being vice president of marketing!

    So it was feast or famine at our house. We had next door neighbors move in. The Mom was of Mexican heritage. One day I was standing in our kitchen, the back door open, when I smelled the most amazing thing.

    I walked out our back door, stood at the back door of our new neighbor and watched her roll out dough, fry it, fill it with something, and continued on.

    She saw me, I was about 8 or 9, and came to the door and handed me a taco. So simple. A fried crisp corn tortilla, seasoned meat, cheese and cilantro. I had never tasted anything so exotic in all my life!

    I asked her if she could show my Mom how to make them, and not only did we become lifelong friends of this family, but growing up, my Mom made Mrs. Fedor's tacos once a week - and to this day, if it wasn't for my husband, I would continue that tradition! I can get away with it maybe 2 times a month! :D

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. :D

  2. What's up with resistant men when it comes to taco time?

    Food is all memory; that's why I love writing about it the way I do. So many stories and lives are bound by the meals that we've cooked and shared and there is special significance in the meals that have been cooked for us. I'm glad my post could touch on something so memorable and profound from your own history.

    Happy eating.


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