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~Eat Some, Freeze Some, Big Batch Beef Taco Filling~

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd3cdf39970b-1If you are raising kids, you know all about taco night.  You also know that having a few cups of a great, kid-friendly ground-beef taco filling already prepared and on-hand in your freezer is a great weeknight time-saver.  After a brief thaw-and-heat in the microwave, a busy mom or dad can have dinner on the table in about 30 minutes.  Having raised three boys, for decades, I was never without it.  In fact, I liked to make a big batch of the meat mixture in a large wide-bottomed, 8-quart chef's pan, then portion it into user-friendly-sized 2-cup containers (each enough to fill 8-10 taco shells), to keep in the freezer.  It was always on-hand for quick weeknight meals and snacks. Yes, just like pizza, tacos make a great evening movie-night snack for kids (and adults too).

6a0120a8551282970b01a511ec8bc5970c 2Eat some, then freeze some, &, always make a big batch. 

IMG_40656  tablespoons corn oil

6  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

1  pound diced yellow or sweet onion

1  each:  1 large diced green, red, orange and yellow bell pepper (about 6-7 ounces each after dicing)

3  packets (12 tablespoons) McCormick original taco seasoning

1/2  teaspoon ground cloves

3  tablespoons ground cumin

2  tablespoons garlic powder

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1  teaspoon sea salt

2-3  14 1/2-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, undrained (Note:  Tomatoes are a necessary ingredient in ground-beef taco filling because their acid adds a lot of flavor.  I use three cans because I love lots of chunks of tomato in my taco filling.  Not a fan?  Cut back to two cans.)

1/2  cup sofrito (Note:  Soffrito is a purée of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic, culantro and EVOO.  It's the foundation of many Latin American, Portuguese and Spanish dishes.  While not authentic Tex-Mex, it does contain the same basic veggies and flavors common to Tex-Mex.  I keep a bottled stashed in my refrigerator at all times.  It is NOT the same as Italian soffritto.

IMG_4069 IMG_4069 IMG_4069 IMG_4069 IMG_4069~Step 1.  In a 14" chef's pan w/straight deep sides place the corn oil, then the ground beef.  Prep the onion, and bell peppers as directed, placing them in the pan as you work.  Add the taco seasoning, followed by the rest of the dry spices:  the ground cloves, cumin, garlic powder, red pepper flakes and salt.  Over no heat, take a minute or two to give the ingredients a thorough stir, meaning, get the meat, veggies and spices thoroughly combined.  

IMG_4082 IMG_4082 IMG_4082 IMG_4082 IMG_4082 IMG_4082~Step 2.  Over medium- medium-high heat, cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat with a large spatula or spoon, until meat has lost all its color and is steamed through, about 35-45 minutes.  There should be almost no liquid remaining in the bottom of the pan -- what it looks like is more important than the time this takes.

IMG_4099 IMG_4099 IMG_4099 IMG_4099 IMG_4099~Step 3. Stir in the stewed tomatoes, followed by the sofrito.  Adjust heat to a steady but gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring frequently, once again until almost all liquid has evaporated from the pan, 35-45 more minutes.  The taco filling is now technically ready to serve, however, I recommend removing it from the heat, covering the pan and allowing it to steep for about 2-4 hours, to marry the flavors, prior to serving warm.

IMG_4114 IMG_4114~ Step 4.  To freeze the taco filling, portion it into 2-cup freezer-safe containers with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, then, freeze.  Tip from Mel:  Refrigeration prior to freezing prevents/eliminates freezer burn.

Spoon about 6 tablespoons warmed ground-beef filling into each deep-fried, lightly-salted fresh corn tortilla, then garnish w/shreds of crispy lettuce, a spoonful of spicy salsa & shredded cheddar.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd3cdf39970b-1Eat Some, Freeze Some, Big Batch Beef Taco Filling:  Recipe yields 16 cups of filling/enough for six meals of 6-8 tacos each.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon and/or spatula; 2-cup size freezer-safe containers w/tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeee6d36200cCook's Note: If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for:  the pots are big, the load is heavy.  There's more.  As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you.  Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next, so, be sure to schedule enough time.  Past that, it's also necessary to invest in some big-batch restaurant-sized equipment.  When armed with the right recipe, the right mindset, and the right equipment, the big batch reward is great. That said, preparing a big batch of almost anything is a bit different from regular cooking.  To learn why it's different, read my post ~ What to Consider Before Cooking in Big Batches ~.

"We are all in the food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)


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