Originally created 11/05/03

Slow cooker makes tacos worth the wait



Most people would assume that my life of recipe development and testing means my family most often dines at home. That's true for the most part, but about once every other week or so Bond and the children have to satisfy their craving for Mexican food and we head up the street to our local Monterrey's.

My family has become hooked on tacos de carne asada, soft tacos with cubes of seasoned sauteed beef. Because heading out for a Mexican dinner is practically the only way I get to dine away from home, I wouldn't dare try to re-create their favorite dish in my kitchen. However, because they all love those beefy stuffed tacos, I've come up with a slow-cooker variation that satisfies their Mexican craving between visits.

There are two simple steps in preparing this delicious traditional Mexican taco filling. First, cubed stew beef is marinated overnight in spices and lime juice. The spices, a hefty dose of ground chili powder and a bit of ground cumin, and the lime juice are traditional Mexican flavorings.

This step of marinating the beef gives a wonderful depth of flavor to the dish. However, if you forget to throw this together before heading up to bed the evening before you plan to serve the dish, you can proceed with the recipe, adding all the ingredients to your crockpot in the morning.

The second step is cooking the beef in your slow cooker with chopped jalapenos, dried oregano and dark beer.

I recommend using fresh jalapenos in this recipe, because canned jalapenos have a strong vinegar taste that doesn't really complement the dish. Chopping a fresh jalapeno is simple - just don't chop the jalapenos and then rub your eyes. The capsaicin that makes jalapenos hot will sting and burn.

Some recommend chopping jalapenos with hands protected by plastic gloves, but this usually is too much trouble for me. Others say to handle the jalapeno only with your left hand, and do the chopping with your right. This works only if you remember not to take your contacts out with your left hand, another method that I'm usually too distracted to remember.

The best way to protect your eyes from a jalapeno burn is to sprinkle some baking soda in the palm of your hands after handling the jalapenos, then adding a bit of water to make a paste. Rub the paste into your fingers, then rinse. The baking soda helps neutralize the capsaicin, eliminating the burn.

Though the recipe calls for dark beer, canned reduced-sodium beef broth can be substituted, if you'd rather not cook with alcohol or don't wish to purchase a whole six-pack when you need only one beer.

When the beef has simmered all day in your slow cooker, shred it with two forks and serve on flour tortillas. Garnish each taco with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce or diced tomatoes. Add some heated, canned refried beans and Mexican rice from a mix to complete your Mexican meal.

CROCKPOT CARNE

2 1/2-pounds lean stew beef

2 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic, 2 to 3 large cloves

Juice of 1 fresh lime

12 ounces dark beer*

2 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

10 fajita-size flour tortillas

Optional garnishes: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce and diced tomato

Combine beef with chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic and lime juice in a zip-top plastic bag. Seal bag and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, place the marinated beef in the ceramic vessel of a slow cooker. Add the beer, chopped jalapenos and oregano, cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. Shred meat with two forks and serve in the flour tortillas with desired garnishes.

Makes 10 servings.

* Note: Canned reduced-sodium beef broth can be substituted for the beer.

Nutritional information per serving: 379 calories, 16 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 27 grams carbohydrate, 27 grams protein, 70 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber and 514 milligrams sodium

Nutrition analysis provided by Michelle Baglio, a licensed and registered dietitian of the Augusta District Dietetic Association. Send questions via e-mail to augustadietitian@yahoo.com.

COMING NOV. 12: Shrimp and Wild Rice Casserole

See Karin prepare the recipe at noon Tuesday on WJBF-TV (Channel 6). Also, Karin will sign copies of her book, Karin Calloway's Quick Cooking II: A Second Serving, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Merry Times, 395 Highland Ave., in Surrey Center.

Write to Karin Calloway in care of The Augusta Chronicle Newsroom, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903. Or send e-mail to karin.calloway@comcast.net. You can find previous Quick Cooking recipes through the online archive at augustachronicle.com/karin.