Hard-shell tacos should need no defense from those who denounce the golden fried vessels classically filled with seasoned ground beef, yellow cheddar cheese, white sour cream, green iceberg lettuce and diced red tomato.
But hard-shell tacos are not authentic, they say. And messy, they cry.
And we know who they are: taco intolerants.
Keeping in mind cultural identity and concerns of cultural appropriation, let us clarify that these tacos are as much of a food evolution as hot dogs and pizza.
The problem that taco intolerants have may be the execution and not the concept. Here they’ll cite Taco Bell, whose founder, Glen Bell, popularized crispy-shell tacos.
The original taco is the taco dorado, literally translated from Spanish as “golden taco.” Typically corn tortillas that are filled then fried, they are like the French toast of the taco world, transforming stale tortillas with culinary innovation and reducing food waste at the same time. You can find fast-food versions of this style at Jack in the Box and Burger King.
And then there’s the taco kit. One of the original meal kits, it brought a taste of international flavor into home kitchens easily and economically with far less infuriating packaging waste.
To celebrate the hard-shell taco, we cooked up a batch from a kit, which most of us hadn’t tried in decades. They were even better than we remembered.
Plus, inspired by the tacos dorados de papa, golden fried tacos simply stuffed with fluffy potatoes at Carnicerias Jimenez in Chicago, I created a spring hard-shell taco recipe. We do prefer the La Preferida brand, whose name translates as “the preferred.”
Chorizo would be a lovely and fitting substitution for the seasoned ground beef in an American melting pot hard-taco meal.
Prep: 20 minutes. Cook: 15 minutes
This fresh, homemade, seasonal spring take does use taco shells, but you can substitute store-bought tostada shells (we like El Milagro’s hard corn crunch and flavor), fry your own or use soft corn tortillas if you insist. Again, the fillings are suggested but optional.
1 pound red new potatoes, skin-on, scrubbed
1 box taco shells, such as La Preferida (12 shells)
Tajin seasoning (or substitute with chili powder, lime zest and salt)
Avocado, peeled, pitted, chopped
Spring lettuce mix
Spring onions, chopped
1. Boil potatoes in a saucepan of salted water to cover, until soft; drain. Mash roughly with a fork.
2. Warm taco shells per heating directions.
3. Fill each shell with potatoes. Add Tajin, avocado, lettuce, cotija cheese, salsa verde, crema, spring onions and cilantro.
Makes: 4 servings