A surprise breakfast ingredient pulls this quick taco meat recipe together
All Things We're Cooking is a series featuring family recipes from you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We'll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.
For as long as she can remember, from growing up in New Mexico to living in New York City today, Alexis Wold has made taco meat the same way — using the recipe from Odd's Sombrero, the restaurant her grandparents owned in Wickenburg, Ariz.
The restaurant was named after Wold's paternal grandfather, Odd, who moved out to Arizona with his wife in the 1940s from Chicago. The pair decided to open a restaurant that served diner food. It wasn't until Wold's grandmother hired a woman named Carmen Macias that the menu changed.
"She was a young lady and she suggested that they add Mexican food to the menu," Wold said. "And my grandmother being ... fairly new to the Southwest around that time, she said, 'I don't know anything about Mexican food. I can't make that.' And [Macias] said, 'Well, I can.'"
Macias went on to share her family recipes with the Wolds, who then served the recipes in the restaurant, Wold said. One of those is the taco meat recipe, which has just a handful of spices added to it but is delicious all the same.
"It's not too spicy, in my opinion. It's really easy to make ... so sometimes I'll make it for myself too, since from start to finish it takes maybe 20 minutes," Wold said.
There is one surprise ingredient, though.
"One unusual thing it has in it is oatmeal. I don't think you would normally see that in a taco meat recipe," Wold said. "I think that was probably sort of a carryover thing since it was kind of the postwar era. There were shortages of things during the war, so a lot of people did unusual things with food to sort of extend it."
The oatmeal gives the taco meat a nicer texture and it doesn't fall apart as much, Wold said.
As the taco meat cooks, Wold spends that time chopping tomatoes and some spinach to add to the tacos, along with cheddar cheese and salsa. She prefers flour tortillas but will serve hard shells (and lettuce) when she makes the tacos for others.
Odd's Sombrero was sold in 1965 and Wold's grandparents moved to Seattle. Wold said that her family isn't sure if Macias' family is still in Wickenburg, but it would be cool if they saw this and knew how beloved their taco meat recipe is today.
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1/2 cup dry quick oatmeal
- 2 cups water
Brown the ground beef, then add the garlic and spices and stir well.
Stir in the oatmeal and water, then transfer to a greased casserole dish. Cover and bake at 300 degrees for about one hour.
Optional: For faster preparation, cooking can be completed on the stove-top, simmering until the water is absorbed and the mixture is thickened.
Serves 6 to 8.
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