Monday, February 11, 2013

Homemade Taco Shells - Secret Family Recipe

By Vicky Nardone

Let me start off by saying that today was not a good day.  Without going into specifics work was just really hard.  The one thing that I do want to spend a few minutes on was that I found out that one of my co-workers, Mike, unexpectedly passed away this past Friday evening.  Mike was right around the same age as my parents.  When I first started my job 5 years ago, I got the cubicle right next to Mike.  It was my first job out of college and Mike really showed me the ropes even though we had two completely separate knowledge bases.  He was super Irish and he often spent his weekends at the Irish Center in Buffalo listening to Irish Bands and drinking beer.  I learned a lot about his life over the time I knew him and I have to say he really made me feel welcome and more at ease in my first job.  Even after I moved cubes to be closer to my team, I would still run into Mike usually heading out to lunch.  He'd always ask me if I was staying out of trouble, and I'd respond yes, and then he'd ask, "Why?" with a big grin.  He wasn't sick, at least that I knew of, so getting an e-mail today that he'd suddenly passed away this morning was a big shock.  It made me realize two things.  The first thing is that you don't realize what an impact people have on your life.  Mike and I weren't super close but he really made my work day better when I used to sit next to him.  I can't recall the exact last time I ran into him, but so many times today it crossed my mind how sad I was that the last time I ran into him was truly the last time I ran into him.  I hope that I have made that kind of difference in somebody's life.  Secondly (and people always say this) but it makes me appreciate that I still have time with my family and friends.  I know Mike had a wife and daughter who had two adopted kids and I can't even imagine how much they miss him.  I made Matt come into the kitchen and hang out with me while I was making dinner tonight because I was feeling a little sentimental and wanted to spend time with him.  Mike - just know what a difference you made in peoples lives and that you will be missed.

It's a bit hard to transition to a happier subject after that, but here goes.  Tonight I am sharing with you my all time favorite recipe.  Homemade taco shells.  My mom has been making these for me since I could eat solid food.  In fact, she shared with me that as a teenager, she would sleep in until 11:00 every Saturday and then get up and make herself a whole batch of these tacos and watch Saturday morning cartoons while she ate them.  One of my criteria in my potential future husband was that he had to like this taco recipe.  Luckily Matt passed, but he will tell you the story of when I got super mad at him because he came home from the store with a package of store bought taco shells and suggested we try those instead. So here's the recipe.  Super easy - from start to finish in like 15 minutes.

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups water
The recipe makes about 10-12 taco shells which Matt and I go through (5 or 6 each).  If we're having company, I usually at least double it depending on how many people we're having.

I also thought I'd post a picture of the cornmeal in case you weren't sure what it looks like.  This is one of the only recipes I ever use it in (besides maybe corn muffins or corn bread).  It can usually be found in the baking aisle of your local grocery store.
Mix all the above ingredients together in a bowl.  There's no need to use a mixer - I just usually use a whisk or you can use a spoon if you don't have a whisk.  If the mix seems really thick add a little water.  If it seems really watery add some flour.  You get a feel for the consistency after making them a few times.
After that you make them just like you would pancakes.  Ladle the batter onto a pan or griddle.  I do not use any sort of grease.  They generally do not stick to the pan.  Flip them after they start to bubble on the top.
Put them into some kind of container and cover them so they stay warm.

As far as toppings, I like mine plain with no meat.  Matt is a vegetarian so he uses "fake meat" (soy crumbles).  My mom always does ground beef with all kinds of spices - onion flakes, chili powder, garlic.  The first time Matt had my mom's she dressed up his soy crumbles with spices for him and he did not like it!  Since then we've always done his meat plain.  There's the handsome guy cooking the soy crumbles below.  Notice how his auxiliary work device (his words, not mine) is glued to his hand.
As far as other toppings, this has been the standard formula since I was a kid.  Lettuce, tomato, cheese and green olives.  Although, I have to admit that the tomato was a later add on for me because I didn't like tomatoes growing up.  I love things like sour cream, guacamole and salsa on tacos I get at restaurants, but when it comes to my mom's recipe I'm a purist with those four ingredients.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!  I've never come across it anywhere else and it's so good in my opinion.

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