The Kitchen Magician's Easy Taco Shells

Everyone knows the familiar yellow box that most people reach for when a taco craving strikes. But why, when homemade taco shells are almost as easy, a fraction of the cost, and SO much more delicious!?

A quick online price comparison tells me that has a 12-pack of Old El Paso taco shells for $2.85, and a 90-pack of Ole-brand corn tortillas for $5.75. That's $0.24 per store-bought hard shell vs. $0.06 per homemade tortilla-turned-taco. Not that you can put a price tag on DELICIOUS, but in this economy, every little bit helps.

This is more of a method than a recipe, so feel free to tinker around with it to suit your own methods and kitchen setup.

Preheat oven to 375F. You'll need to warm up the corn tortillas before you bake them, since they're brittle when they're cold. You can either wrap them in a damp towel and microwave them for 20-30 seconds, or else just throw them one at a time into a (dry) hot skillet for a few seconds on each side. Once they're warm, spray them on both sides with cooking spray and drape them over the bars on your oven rack.

The draping is an art in itself, so again, feel free to add your own twist (and if you come up with a better method, by all means let us know in the comments!) To reduce the risk of doing something stupid, take the rack out of the oven first. You need clearance underneath it for the tortillas to hang down, so either prop it up on 4 cans or (genius!) just set it over the kitchen sink.

Drape each tortilla over two oven rack bars so that they'll be held open for easy filling later. And if you're a huge nerd (like me), you can make re-usable molds so that your shells won't close up around the bars, which they tend to do. I cut up a disposable roasting pan (the rigid aluminum type) and fashioned 6 book-shaped molds. Trashy? Definitely. Effective? Absolutely!

Carefully slide the tortilla-laden rack into the oven, in the center position. Keep a close eye on them – they go from underdone to perfect to charcoal pretty quickly. It should take about 6-7 minutes depending on your oven.

When they're golden brown, pull out the entire rack and set it over the sink again. Let the shells cool off for a minute or two, then slip them off the rack, onto plates, and stuff with your favorite taco fillings. They'll be crunchy, but still slightly and deliciously chewy. And the bonus is that they stand up for easy filling. Now put down that yellow box!
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