Tuesday, February 9, 2016

46. Chili Con Carne Tacos


I think I must have been feeling nostalgic when I came up with these.  I was also in the mood for something easy and straightforward.  It had been a busy week and comfort food was definitely on the menu.

Several years ago, my mom almost threw away her old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  I was horrified, because I pretty much learned how to cook from that thing.  It's a 1970s edition - it may have been a wedding present for my parents!  I have wonderful memories of flipping through the pages and teaching myself how to make raisin bread, English muffins, angel food cake, and many other delicious things.  I offered to give it a new home.  Here's what it looks like now:

It makes me laugh sometimes.  What are those, hamburger muffins?  O.O  And who does that with cucumber peel?

Anyway, my mom used to make a recipe out of that book called "Chili Con Carne" (chili with an "i" at the end, as chile with an "e" refers to an actual pepper or powder).  Interestingly, it was in the casserole chapter.  Yes.  Apparently, in the 70s, chili qualified as a casserole.


It was good.  We would throw some cheese on top (if we had any) and eat it with cornbread.  It was also the most gringo-friendly chili I have ever had!  The original recipe calls for 1 to 2 teaspoons of chile powder.  Ha ha.  Ha ha ha.  That cracks me up almost as much as recipes that call for a teaspoon of cilantro.  There's no such thing as too much cilantro.  Unless you think it tastes like soap and you hate it.  I get it - that's a real thing.

I digress . . . back to tacos!  I modified the recipe to work as a taco filling.  I used less liquid and more chile heat.  I resisted the temptation to add more seasoning.  I was sooooo tempted to throw in some garlic or cumin, but I decided to embrace simplicity.

It was everything I hoped it would be.  Delicious.  Easy.  Comforting.  Nostalgic.  (Wait, can a recipe be nostalgic?)  :)

Here it is:

Chili Con Carne Tacos

Serves 4 to 6 (about 8 to 12 tacos)


For the filling:

2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 Fresno pepper, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
One 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (including the liquid)
One 14 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp. chile powder of your choice (I used 1 tbsp. New Mexico mild and 1 tbsp. ancho.)
1 bay leaf

8-12 thick flour tortillas

I had never tried these before, but they were perfect for the saucy filling!
4 to 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese

3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced


1.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.  Add the onions, red pepper, and Fresno pepper.  Lower the heat a bit and cook until the vegetables are soft and somewhat browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.

2.  Add the ground beef and salt.  Cook and stir until slightly browned.

3.  Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently, partially covered, for about 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Keep warm.

4.  Prepare the tortillas to your liking:  I prefer to heat mine in a dry cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to a minute on each side.  After each one is done, I place it a sheet of aluminum foil and immediately start the next one.  I stack them on top of one another as I work.  When I'm done with the whole batch, I wrap them completely in the foil.  You can keep them warm in a 250 degree oven if you wish, but I didn't bother as this was my last step!

5.  Assemble the tacos:  For each taco, place a tortilla on a plate.  Spoon some of the chili con carne mixture down the center of the tortillas.  Sprinkle on some of the grated cheese.  Finish with the sliced scallions.  Enjoy!

I would definitely make these again.  It was kind of like having a bowl of chili, but without the bowl!  The filling was a great consistency - saucy, but not so much that it soaked through the tortilla.  I did use rather thick flour tortillas, and I think that was a good call!

One nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn't have very many steps.  If you are tired and don't want to deal with crazy hipster tacos, this is your jam.  Ha ha.

These got two thumbs way up!

Feel free to comment on this recipe!  Did you try them?  What did you think?  What other "casseroles" from the 1970s could be taquified?

I want to try making a Chicken Cordon Bleu taco next time.  Stay tuned!  :)

Thanks for reading!

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