Crispy Tacos Picadillo with Salsa Picante

[serves 10]

For the picadillo:

1 t vegetable oil

1/2 small white onion, finely chopped (3/4 c)

1/2 lb ground chuck (80 percent lean)

2 t minced garlic (1 small clove)

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped (1 1/4 c)

3/4 t paprika

1/2 t ancho chili powder (or sub 1/4 t cayenne + 1/4 t smoked paprika)

1/2 t dried oregano

1/2 t coarse salt

1/2 t freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 t ground cumin

3/4 c water

1 t white vinegar


For the tacos:

10 store-bought hardshell corn taco shells (or make your own)

shredded lettuce, such as iceberg or romaine

chopped white onion

salsa picante (recipe follows)

shredded mild cheddar cheese, preferably longhorn

sour cream, optional

To make the picadillo: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until just starting to turn translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add beef and cook, breaking up pieces with the back of a wooden spoon, until beef has browned, about 4 minutes. Spoon out excess fat so only 1 T remains. Stir in garlic, tomatoes, paprika, chili powder (or sub cayenne/paprika), oregano, salt, pepper and cumin. Add water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until thick and very little liquid remains, about 18 minutes. Stir in vinegar.

To assemble the tacos: Spoon picadillo into each taco shell, and garnish with lettuce, onion, salsa picante, shredded cheese and/or sour cream.

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Salsa Picante [makes about 3 cups]

3/4 lbs vine tomatoes (canned tomatoes work fine)

1 jalapeño, stems removed

1/4 large white onion, cut into small wedges

2 small garlic cloves, unpeeled

2 T water

2 t white vinegar

1/2 t coarse salt

Preheat broiler. Place tomatoes, jalapenos, onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning vegetables often and rotating baking sheet frequently, until tomatoes are blistered with dark spots and flesh is tender, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

When vegetables are cool enough to handle, peel garlic and remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeño. Puree garlic, tomatoes, jalapeño, onion, water, vinegar and salt in a blender until almost smooth. Serve warm or chilled. Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.