Fresh From Texas: San Antonio Puffy Tacos

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Fourth-generation Texan Jessica Dupuy penned a culinary ode to her home state's many food cultures, all alive and well. Whether it's schnitzel, barbecue or something with a little more Mexican heritage, like this awesome San Antonio–style taco recipe, you can be sure you're eating authentic heritage Texas chow.  

Original tacos were a little different than the stale, fried corn tortillas machine-pressed into a U-shaped envelope — an invention of fast-food entrepreneur Glen Bell of the famed Taco Bell. The real deal begins with a ball of masa flattened into a thin round that is fried to a golden crispness. The masa puffs up a bit, which is how the moniker "puffy taco" came into play. Stuff with ground taco meat, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheese.

Note: If you can't find fresh masa, whisk together 3 cups masa harina (corn flour), 1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk in 2 1/4 cups very hot water until dry ingredients are moistened. (Add more hot water 1 tsp. at a time.) Knead 3 to 4 times to make a smooth dough.

Reprinted with permission from United Tastes of Texas

Fresh From Texas: San Antonio Puffy Tacos
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  • 1/4 pound pork lard (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 1/2 pounds freshly ground masa
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups warm pork broth
  • Wax paper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup Mexican beer
  • Toppings: shredded cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, fresh salsa, guacamole
  1. :::masa:::
  2. Beat lard at medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir together masa and next 2 ingredients in a bowl until well blended. Gradually add masa mixture to lard, beating at medium speed just until blended after each addition. Cover until ready to use.
  4. :::tacos:::
  5. Shape masa dough into 18 golf-ball-sized (about 2 Tbsp.) portions. Cut sides off a zip-top plastic freezer bag. Line top and bottom of a tortilla press with freezer bag. Place masa rounds in freezer bag within tortilla press, and close, forming round tortillas. (If you don’t have a tortilla press, use a flat plate, skillet, or flat-bottomed bowl, and press masa balls into flat rounds against countertop between sheets of wax paper. To ensure even thickness, press dough rounds once, rotate 180°, and press again.) Gently stack uncooked masa rounds between layers of wax paper.
  6. Pour oil to depth of 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 375°F.
  7. Gently lower 1 uncooked tortilla into hot oil. Once tortilla rises to surface and begins to bubble, cook 10 seconds. Gently flip tortilla, and lightly press center of tortilla, using a metal spatula, to create a U shape. Cook 30 seconds or until golden brown. Carefully remove from oil, sprinkle with salt and drain upside down on a paper-towel-lined wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Keep tortillas warm until ready to serve.
  8. Cook onion and next 2 ingredients in 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes or until softened. Add beef and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until meat crumbles and is no longer pink; drain.
  9. Return beef mixture to skillet; add tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and salt, and cook over medium heat, 4 minutes. Add beer and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover, and cook 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  10. Serve beef in warm tortillas with desired toppings.
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