Building a Better Burrito: Taco Potion #19

Empires have been built on packaged seasoning mixes. There are packets for everything from chili to spaghetti sauce to tacos to meatloaf. I grew up on those packets! Steadily over time, I’ve learned to make those dishes from scratch, but there’s been a hold out, one last packet standing in my pantry — Lawry’s Hot Taco.

Building a better burrito, even a gringo one, starts with the meat and its seasoning. I tried but just could not come up with the right combination of spices to duplicate or surpass the Hot Taco packet (and eliminate all the ingredients I couldn’t pronounce). More salt? Was it the chili powder? Is it cocoa that’s missing? What about garlic powder? Oregano? I looked it up on copycat recipe sites, I tried the taco mix from Marketspice, a great spice and tea shop in Seattle. No joy. So we just kept on with the packet for our everyday tacos and burritos. Until…

Good Eats. American Classics VIII: Tacos.

These aren’t “authentic” tacos, well, I guess you could call them authentically Americanized. Either way, I think I can safely say Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19 may be the last taco seasoning recipe you will ever need. Whatever the formulations in the previous 18, number 19 hits it on the nose. I generally halve it for 1 lb. of ground beef and mix it up just before I start browning the meat. The beef broth is key. I’ve made it with water, a la the packet instructions, and it’s ok, but get a box of beef broth. Maybe I’m overselling this, but after you’ve had this Taco Potion, there’s no lookin’ back. It’s buh-bye, packet.

No Lookin’ Back Burritos
Serves 3-4

1 lb. ground beef
Half a batch of Alton Brown’s Taco Potion #19
2/3 c. beef broth
2 t. olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into 1/4 in. slices
1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/2 in. disks
1/2 medium red onion, cut into 1/8 in. slices
1 c. (or more) shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg. burrito-size tortillas
Salt & pepper

Toppings
Salsa
Yogurt/Sour Cream
Avocado
Romaine lettuce

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat. Strain off any excess fat. Add the Taco Potion and beef broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce thickens.

Heat another skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the peppers, onions and zucchini and saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Warm the tortillas, sweeping them over a gas flame until charred to your liking. Add ~1/4 c. of meat to the center of the tortilla and top with cheese, vegetables, and other toppings. Fold and you’re ready to go.

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3 comments

  1. Laurie says:

    I really enjoy most of Alton Brown’s recipes, but I don’t often find myself watching TV or remembering to look up AB’s recipes when I have a specific need. What lead me to open your post from Tastespotting was the tortilla, though. Is that homemade? It looks fantastic – as if it would be perfectly thin, stretchy and chewy.

    • Michelle says:

      You know, Laurie, I haven’t actually tried tortillas at home yet. Wish I could take credit, but believe it or not, those are just the regular flour tortillas from Trader Joe’s! They are thin and chewy, and the shelf life is only a few days, so you know they’re pretty clean as far as ingredients go. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Peggy says:

    Don’t you love it when you find that key spice mixture? This sounds like a winner to me, and can’t wait to have these burritos =)

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