Since I work on Saturdays (yes, it stinks), my husband is home with free time on his hands. I often get text messages saying, “Puffy Tacos” or “Sonoran Hot Dogs,” which is his way of telling me he watched an extreme food show showcasing crazy foods from different places. Recently I got a text that said, “Chico’s Tacos in El Paso.” It didn’t take long for me to figure out what he was talking about.
So I Googled it and came across some copycat recipes and also a video of Aaron Sanchez on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and he was talking about these tacos. Apparently this restaurant sells like 1,200 to 1,300 DOZEN of these tacos a day. Can you believe that number? That’s 15,600 tacos per day. That’s insane. But what is even more insane is how these tacos look. They are rolled tacos, not folded ones. And, if you look at an order from Chico’s Tacos, they are the ugliest tacos I’ve ever seen. They serve them in a cardboard boat and then pour this tomato soup looking stuff over it. I was very skeptical. VERY SKEPTICAL. Why would a chef, restaurant owner, and Food Network personality endorse these ugly tacos? Well, I had to find out.
I found some copycat recipes online for the sauce, and I took what I thought was the best of them. Now, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the tacos I made. I can’t even give you a copycat recipe for the meat, but I gave you a pretty good one. But I can tell you this…these tacos were FREAKING AWESOME! The sauce absolutely made this dish! I think I could eat these twice a week if they weren’t so fattening. If you are a resident from El Paso and you try these, please just take this as my version. But, if not, you are going to love these tacos!
FOR THE MEAT:
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 T masa harina (corn flour)
2 teaspoons beef bouillon paste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 C water
FOR THE RED SAUCE:
Two 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
FOR THE SALSA VERDE:
3 cloves garlic
1/4 C chopped red onion
2 T chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper
1/2 to 1 C water
FOR THE TACOS:
About 20 corn tortillas
8 ounces very finely shredded Cheddar cheese (or Colby Jack)
Peanut oil, for frying
For the meat filling, brown the ground beef in a skillet. Add in the spices and seasonings, masa harina, and the water. Simmer until the liquid is mostly cooked out. Soften the corn tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave. Place about 1 1/2 T of the meat filling down the center of the tortillas. Roll them up and place them seam-side down on a sheet pan. Freeze for about 30 minutes to hold them in place.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For the salsa verde, peel the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut them in half and place them on a sheet pan. Place the poblanos, garlic cloves and jalapeno on the sheet pan. Roast the veggies, turning occasionally, until the peppers are soft and look charred. Remove from the oven. When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off of the poblanos as you can. Remove the stem and the seeds from the poblanos and the jalapeno. Remove the skins from the garlic. Place the peppers, garlic, juice of the lime, cilantro, tomatillos, red onion, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 C water in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the additional water if you want a thinner consistency. Chill until ready to use.
For the red sauce, place all of the ingredients into a blender. Add a can of water from the canned tomatoes. Pulse until smooth. Put the red sauce into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer about 15 minutes. Keep warm.
Preheat about an inch of the peanut oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees. Turn the oven to about 200 degrees. Fry the tacos (seam-side down first and then turn) for a few minutes on each side until they are browned and crispy. Drain them and place them on a sheet pan. Put the sheet pan in the oven to keep the tacos warm until they are all done. Serve the tacos with a generous amount of sauce, a generous amount of the cheese, and some salsa verde.