I love tacos, and since I was born, raised, and stayed in Texas, I’ve had access to a huge variety of different kinds, but the ones from my childhood are the most memorable.
Growing up, my parents made taco meat from ground beef and a packaged spice mix. Taco night was always served family-style with all the toppings on the table and soft corn tortillas to wrap them up. I cooked tacos using my family’s method for a long time, and it wasn’t until I stopped eating beef –over ten years ago– that I started experimenting with recipes using ground turkey. (There was no way I was going to give up taco night.)
The inspiration for my Turkey Street Tacos is a combination of wanting a taco that was similar to the one from my childhood, Mexican restaurant’s beef tacos (especially Pappasito’s Cantina), and searching for fresher & healthier food alternatives for my family.
When my main character, Texan Neal Parker, (The Trouble with Scarecrows) needed to prepare a Tex-Mex meal, I thought it would be fun to have him make my tacos. Below is more or less the recipe that I used in the novel. And if you fix’em, I’d love to know how they turn out.
Love and Laughter (and yummy tacos),
Tex-Mex Turkey Street Tacos
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
3 Tbsps. Olive Oil
¼ cup diced Red Onions
¼ cup diced White Onions
½ cup Cilantro Leaves, roughly chopped (divided into two ¼ cup portions)
½ of a Bell Pepper, chopped
1 lb. lean Ground Turkey Breast (but not ultra-lean)
1 large Lemon, outside washed, cut in half
2 Tbsps. Butter, plus more to butter tortilla shells
A dozen Soft Corn Tortilla Shells
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Cayenne pepper
½ tsp Paprika
½ tsp Ground Chipotle Pepper
Heat olive oil in a stainless steel pan for 15 seconds and then add red onions, white onions, half of the cilantro leaves, bell pepper, ground turkey, and all of the spices. Cook over med-high to high heat (adjusting to your stove), stirring frequently to break up the meat and to get all the ingredients mixed together. If it starts to stick, add a little more olive oil.
When the meat is about half-way browned, add the juice from ½ the lemon. Continue stirring. (You don’t want to add the lemon juice too early or it will keep the meat from browning – but you want to add it soon enough to where it will get distributed all through the ground turkey. I find that ground turkey really needs an acid to enhance the flavor.)
When the turkey meat is completely cooked and the bottom of the pan starts to brown, add the butter, the rest of the cilantro, and the juice from the other half of the lemon. Stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan. Toss one of the squeezed lemon halves in there, seeds removed, and then cover. Turn the burner off, letting it sit until tortillas are ready. Before serving, remove lemon and stir.
While the meat is resting, lightly butter a dozen corn tortillas. Heat for 7 seconds on each side in a non-stick pan. Placed warmed shells on a paper towel lined plate – using a paper towel between every four tortillas.
Chunky Avocado Guacamole/Pico (recipe follows)
Shredded Sharp Cheddar (I really recommend you grate your own – it is so worth it)
Chunky Avocado Pico
(Make this before cooking the meat and store in the refrigerator – Just don’t forget to add the lime juice or it will look ugly.)
Prep time 15 minutes
2 small-medium diced Tomatoes
¼ cup Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup diced Red Onion
3 Avocados, cut into bite-sized pieces
Optional heat addition: 1/2 fresh Jalapeño – (seeds removed) diced
The juice from one large Lime
Salt to taste
Gently mix ingredients together, careful not to mash the avocados. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Best if used the same day.)
Pour the meat into a serving bowl. Place everything on the table and have a nice family-style dinner. Dig in. Oh wait, don’t forget the margaritas!