Crispy Ground Beef Tacos

Tuesday: not as good as Friday, but definitely better than Monday. What better way to celebrate this better-than-worst day of the week than with great tacos?

I grew up eating my mom's hard-shelled tacos filled with seasoned ground beef, and wanted to come up with my own version, one that doesn't rely on store-bought taco shells and packaged taco-meat seasoning. This recipe yields crisp and chewy corn tortilla shells, with a beef filling that has lots of flavor. I adapted the seasoning mix from the Food Network's Alton Brown.

Crispy Ground Beef Tacos
Makes 8 loaded-up tacos or 12 lightly filled ones

For the taco seasoning:
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon mild smoked paprika
1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon habanero powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the tacos:
3/4 cup grapeseed or peanut oil
8 to 12 soft corn tortillas
1 large red onion, medium dice
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup water

For assembling the tacos:
Shredded lettuce
Grated cheese
Hot sauce (optional)

Step 1: Make the taco seasoning by combining the spices, cornstarch, and salt. Mix well to make sure the cornstarch is fully incorporated and there are no lumps.

Step 2: Fry the taco shells. Heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and place it in the warm oven. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet until it registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry one tortilla at a time, using tongs so you don't get burned: Carefully lay a tortilla in the hot oil—try not to submerge it. Fry flat for about 15 seconds, then use your tongs to fold it in half; fry an additional 30 seconds. Flip over and fry for a final 30 seconds.

At this point the tortilla should be browned lightly in spots but still flexible. Remove it from the oil and drain on your towel-lined baking sheet (try to stand the shells up if you can—it doesn't always work). Return the baking sheet to the oven to keep warm. Continue until all the shells are fried. When finished, pour off most of the frying oil, but leave about 1 tablespoon behind in the skillet.

Step 3: Set the skillet with the tablespoon of oil back over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

Step 4: Add the ground beef to the skillet. Break it up with a spatula and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Add the taco seasoning and stir it into the beef until combined. Add the water and cook, uncovered, for a few minutes until the mixture is bubbling and has thickened.

Step 6: Make tacos!

Photos, styling, and animated GIF by Chris Rochelle