Thursday, November 09, 2006

Turkey Taco Night ™

I although I know that Wednesday is supposed to be Prince Spaghetti Day, ever since we took the South Beach plunge pasta has become "a sometimes food", leaving us with a hole to fill in our formerly carbo-loaded diets. Besides, since our daughter has pasta almost every day anyway as part of her own low-protein diet, the festive nature of the evening is lost on her anyhow...

Fortunately we have found a winner in Turkey Taco Night, which like all of my dinner standards started out as an attempt to doctor up something from my childhood only to turn into a bonafide meal on its own. It all started when my mother put me in charge of making the tacos every week, browning the ground beef and adding the water and "taco mix" that came with the box full of hard taco shells. After who knows how many iterations of cooking it the way Mom did, I wondered how the beef would taste if I added some jarred salsa (which was just becoming popular in American supermarkets). It certainly smelled good when I dolloped a couple of spoonfuls into the still-sizzling ground meat.

But then, as luck would have it, my little brother had just wandered into the kitchen. Now being the proud owner of a 3-year-old daughter, I'm all too aware of the fact that most kids are finicky eaters, but my brother took this to a whole new level. He was the child that held up the line at the McDonald's for a "plain" hamburger back when they didn't assemble your food when ordered; he was also the kid who held up the line a second time when he discovered a tiny sliver of McD's already microscopic minced onions on his sandwich and flat-out refused to eat it unless it was replaced. While he has become slightly more adventurous of an eater as an adult, he's still a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but back then when he caught me stirring a foreign object into the skillet he totally flipped his lid.

"Mom! Tommy's putting something in the taco meat!"

Well, that was it for my experimental period in the Bruno household kitchen as far as family meals were concerned. But that evening the damage was done, and even though my brother declined to eat so much as one bite of the tainted beef, stuffing his tortilla boats with lettuce and shredded cheese instead, I distinctly remember how much better the tacos tasted that night. The seed was planted.

Turkey Tacos Not In The Style of My Punk Kid Brother

First, make the salsa. Chop into small dice:

4-5 medium vineripe tomatoes (or 10-12 plum tomatoes)
1/2 red onion
1-4 jalapenos chiles, depending on how much heat you can take
1 bunch fresh cilantro

Combine above ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Add:


Juice of two limes
Sea salt to taste

Mix well and chill in the fridge.

Now make the taco meat:

1.25 lb ground turkey (the fattier the better)
1 cup beef or chicken stock
3 Tb Emeril's "Essence" + 1 Tb garlic powder
1/4 cup Sriracha sauce, or your favorite bottled hot sauce
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Brown the turkey in a pan over medium heat, reserving the fat. Add stock, spices, salt, pepper, and hot sauce and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5-10 additional minutes, adding more stock and/or hot sauce as the sauce reduces.

When the ground turkey and salsa are ready, thinly slice:

1/2 head of cabbage (whichever variety you prefer)

Place cabbage in individual serving bowls and add a portion of the ground meat, followed by a generous spoonful of salsa. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese and serve with tortilla chips and extra hot sauce.

Serves 6. And goes great with a small bag of crushed Doritos for lunch the next day!

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