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Old 08-03-2009, 05:52 PM   #1
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Please help me make my beef tacos beefier

Hi everybody!
I'd love some opinions and advice on a recipe I'm working on. I'm striving for a great-tasting taco filling made from lean ground beef, spices, and aromatics. I do like the americanized highly spiced ground beef like you'd get from a packet of ortega seasoning or the like, but I want to make it myself with quality spices, less salt, onion, and tomato sauce.
Here's where I'm at right now:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped small
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried mexican oregano
teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt
1 lb. 90% lean ground beef (or leaner)
cup tomato sauce
cup water
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
ground black pepper

I started with the Cooks Illustrated beef taco recipe and have made many modifications, but the method I use is still theirs, so I can't post it here. Basically it goes like this: cook the onion until translucent, add the spices and cook briefly until fragrant, add the beef and cook until browned, add the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, around 10 minutes. Adjust salt, assemble tacos, grab cold beer, enjoy.

I feel like the recipe is really close, but it's missing a bottom note, if that makes any sense. It doesn't have a deep beefy flavor and I'm not sure how to get it. I want a recipe that works with lean ground beef, so a fattier cut isn't an option. I also don't want to use bullion or anything with tons of salt or artificial ingredients.

What do you think? Any ideas or suggestions? Your help is greatly appreciated.

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Old 08-03-2009, 06:28 PM   #2
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I know what you mean by a bottom note.

I'd brown the beef separately over high heat until it's a rich dark brown, not just gray. Then combine it with the separately cooked onions and spices. A higher fat content beef would help as well (say 80%-85%)

Also, you could try beef broth in place of water.
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Old 08-03-2009, 07:16 PM   #3
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It sounds great! When I make a beef dish and want a deeper beef flavor, I use beef broth and reduce it. I do that especially when making a bolognese sauce. Get a reduced sodium version if you are going to further reduce it.
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Old 08-03-2009, 10:57 PM   #4
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Add a teaspoon of beef base, or beef bullion powder or a bullion cube. I think you are looking for the umami... the savory.
Personally, I would add more chili powder too.

The vinegar is an interesting ingredient. I might have to give that a try next time
it is Taco Time here!
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Old 08-04-2009, 06:09 AM   #5
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Looks very similar to what I use, except I would add a organic stock cube (beef) or homemade stock, and I use balsamic vinigar in mine. I use the same spices, but in different proportions (more chili powder, less cumin).

I also cook mine in my slow cooker for hours, and hours, and ..... well, you get the picture.

I have to use regular oregano, as I can't find a supplier of mexican oregano in the UK. I wanted to get hold of some seeds and grow it myself, but they just don't appear to be available here in the UK
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:51 AM   #6
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This is very unorthodox (particularly for a Mexican-style dish) but I recommend browning the meat with about a tablespoon per pound of Worcestershire sauce. That sauce just has a knack for bringing out the "meaty" flavor of ground beef and ground pork.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMetalChef View Post
That sauce just has a knack for bringing out the "meaty" flavor of ground beef and ground pork.
Because of the glutimates (sorry MC, I couldn't resist ).

Seriously though, MC is onto something here. while it is not traditional, it will certainly bring out the meatiness.

I also like GF's idea of using a little beef base. Just be careful of that though, because while a little would be good, too much would make the dish too salty.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB View Post
Because of the glutimates (sorry MC, I couldn't resist ).

Seriously though, MC is onto something here. while it is not traditional, it will certainly bring out the meatiness.

...as will Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:56 AM   #9
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Quote:
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...as will Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce.
The quote was about Worcestershire sauce, but yes soy sauce would do the same thing. Good call Andy.
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Old 08-04-2009, 10:59 AM   #10
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Ooops. Time to brush up on my reading comprehension. Sorry guys.
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