One of my favorite things about being part of the SundaySupper bloggers is how the weekly themes make me think beyond what I might normally do as a home cook. This week was definitely one of those times as I had to consider what would I make from my Recipe Bucket List. Problem was I don’t have a Recipe Bucket List. So, I thought what to do? I’ve made fresh ravioli, homemade oxtail gnocchi, stuffed chicken, and a few other things came to mind, but all things I’ve done. Then it hit me. Puffy Tacos.
When I was in San Antonio doing training for a potential wireline union strike at the phone company I had a chance to stop at Los Barrios, a well-known Mexican restaurant famous for their puffy tacos. At first, I wasn’t impressed with the place. It looked like a local Chi-Chi’s with tile tabletops, typical Mexican-American menu combo plates, and a focus on margaritas. I was ready to be unimpressed and back to my true South of the Border love – street tacos (I have another blog where I review ‘street tacos’ found at Gas Stations.)
I ordered what I came for: Puffy Tacos. They were great and the margarita was pretty good too. They’re definitely different from the typical street taco I love and still prefer over a puffy taco, but the tacos at Los Barrios were pretty darn good and I left pleased with my evening out in San Antonio.
With a Recipe Bucket List decision to be made and my now living in Los Angeles, not Dallas, it was going to be some time before I returned to San Antonio so why not try doing this dish at home. Well that is just what I did and while they were not as perfect as Los Barrios; they were pretty good and a solid 4 out of 5 rating from this taco reviewer.
What might of helped is having a deep fryer and some additional experimentation. Plus I had trouble finding fresh masa corn flour. There was some at a local natural food market last week, but when I returned this week they said they only carried it during the holidays. Too bad. So I went to the market and found some masa harina from Bob’s Red Mill that worked nicely, better than I thought it would. So if you can’t find fresh masa, don’t worry just use a good quality masa harina and carry-on.
Puffy Taco Tortillas
Makes 6-10 shells
2 cups fresh masa or good quality masa harina
1 cup warm water (if using masa harina)
1 tablespoon lard or butter
2 Tablespoons baking powder
Vegetable oil for frying
You’ll need a tortilla press to make this recipe. I recommend finding an authentic Mexican market and find a press that is entirely flat, no lip or shallow cutout as some have. Also the heavier feeling the press the better – cast iron is preferred.
Mix the masa and baking powder together if using masa harina. If using fresh masa, just put into a bowl. Slowly add the warm water to your flour constantly combining with your hands and finally add the lard or butter (I microwaved butter for 5 seconds, soft not melted.)
Continue kneading together and add a little more water if it is too dry and crumbly. Add a little more masa if it is too wet. You want it to feel smooth and not sticky.
Combine into a large ball and put into a Ziploc bag for 20 minutes.
Open the tortilla press and place a sheet of parchment paper on each side of the press. Take out about 1 ½” inches of tortilla dough and roll into a smooth ball. Press in the center of the press.
Put the tortilla on a hot griddle or heavy non-stick pan. Let it cook for 20-30 seconds on each side. With a spatula remove it and place it into another pan with about a 1” of hot oil.
Let the tortilla fry for about 20 seconds it will begin to puff. With a spatula and some tongs navigate the frying tortilla to give it a center, “V” like form. Continue frying for about 1 minute working to maximize the puffiness of the tortilla. Remove from oil and place on a plate lined with paper towel.
Continue with remaining dough then fill with your favorite filling.
Puffy Taco Filling
Makes 6-8 tacos
1 lb ground beef
½ small red onion, minced
½ green pepper, minced
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp tomato paste
1 ripe tomato, diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped lettuce
Mix beef with cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat ground beef in a pan over medium-high heat. Break up the meat and cook for about 6-8 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper and tomato paste. Mix in pan and cook for about another 2-3 minutes.
Put cooked beef mixture into a puffy taco then top with tomato, cheese and lettuce. Serve with some hot sauce like Tapatio and a couple cut limes.