When I crave Tex-Mex food, usually my craving is for a taco salad filled with beans (no meat) and taco toppings in a crispy, flaky fried tortilla shell. The best purveyor of this guilty pleasure is Jalisco, a hole-in-the-wall in Campbell, California, that is run by a friendly native of Jalisco, Mexico, who sports a black handlebar mustache. He charges me a different (cheap) price for my taco salad every time I go. (I’m not sure how I qualified for this reduced, off-the-menu pricing, but I take it, say thank you and tip well!) If you’re craving Tex-Mex like big plates of refried pinto beans, red rice, enchiladas, etc., then this is your place.
Unfortunately (thankfully?), I don’t have a deep fryer in my home. I had Jaslico taco salads on my mind all week, and I decided to find a way to replicate the dish at home, but in a healthier way. (Read: no deep-fried tortilla.) I checked the interwebs for tips on making baked tortilla “bowls,” and this is the recipe and method that I came up with:
(healthier) taco salad
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas (This size makes small, just-the-right-size bowls. I believe that 12-inch tortillas would make the larger restaurant-size bowls.)
canola cooking spray
1 lb. ground turkey
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 jalepeño, seeded and finely diced
3 tablespoons cumin, or more, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
lettuce (any variety), shredded
1 ear of sweet corn, raw kernels cut from the cob
diced tomatoes or pico de gallo
guacamole (recipe coming soon)
Mexican crema, sour cream, or plain yogurt
Mexican cotija cheese, crumbled (I love to practice my Spanish and purchase Mexican dairy products at the dairy counter at the Mi Pueblo supermarket down the street.)
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spray both sides of each tortilla with canola cooking spray (or lightly brush it with oil). Press each tortilla into an oven-safe bowl (I used our Fiesta brand cereal bowls), and put the bowls on a baking sheet, like this:
Bake the tortillas for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. If the center of the bowls are not yet browned, re-set the oven to broil and broil for about 5 minutes. (Keep a close eye on the tortillas so that they don’t burn!) The final product will be non-greasy, crunchy taco bowls:
Meanwhile, prepare the taco meat. (A tasty vegetarian alternative is to prepare pinto beans with the same seasonings.) Heat a small amount of canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and jalepeño and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Then, add the ground turkey, cumin, red pepper flakes, a good pinch of salt and a few cranks of black pepper. Break up the turkey into pieces, combine it with the onions and other ingredients and cook until the meat is done and no longer pink. Taste the meat and adjust the seasonings, if desired.
Prepare your own guacamole and/or tomato salsa.
Set out a buffet of serving bowls of the taco meat, shredded lettuce, corn kernels, tomatoes/salsa, guacamole, crema/sour cream/plain yogurt and cotija cheese. Place the tortilla shells on plates and serve; let each person assemble his or her taco salad to taste. Here’s what mine looked like after I first cut into it:
*Nom nom nom.* And do make sure to enjoy every bite of the crispy, baked tortilla bowl! No guilt here! (But, seriously, I will need to go get my fix of Jalisco’s deep-fried version the next time my sister’s in town . . .)