Jack-in-the-Box Tacos

I came across this recipe recently on food.com.  The kiddo and I really like Jack-in-the-Box tacos – for reasons I don’t understand.  So we decided to give them a whirl.  I added more beans than the original recipe called for, as well as more taco sauce to the meat mixture.  The original recipe said it made 12 tacos.  I only got 8 out of mine, but I was heavier on the filling than those you get at Jack-in-the-Box.  The only draw back that I found was how much the grease splattered when the tacos were fried.  You’ll need plenty of paper towels handy to blot the oil from the tacos before serving.  These are NOT healthy tacos – it’s fast-food junk all the way.  Even so, they are really good.

In California, a popular fast-food taco joint is Jimboy’s Tacos.  What started out as a taco stand operating out of a trailer in Kings Beach on the north shore of Lake Tahoe in 1954 has grown into a state-wide franchise.  One of the “signatures” of Jimboy’s tacos is that the deep-fried tacos are dusted with Parmesan Cheese (yep – the stuff in the green can).  They are super greasy, oozing with a deep red “grease” from the meat (the seasonings give it that red color), and I think the Parmesan was a way of soaking up some of that grease.  These tacos reminded me more of Jimboy’s Tacos than Jack-in-the-Box. Only two things were missing – the Parmesan and the red oily dribble. (Wow, that doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?) Next time I make these, I’m going to add that dusting of Parmesan . . .

Jack-In-The-Box Tacos (2)Another reason I wanted to make these tacos is that I wanted to try out my new “toy”.  It’s made to break up ground beef.  Normally, I cook up my ground beef in a large cast iron skillet, using a heavy metal spatula with sharp edges designed to chop the meat into fine pieces.  During my last visit to the Biggest Little Kitchen Store in Jackson, California I bought a strange-looking hard plastic “thing” that is supposed to break up the meat easily.  It’s designed to use in non-stick pans. While it doesn’t work as well as my metal spatula, it was fun to use.  The kiddo and I actually took turns browning the ground beef.  (Chopping and smashing the meat always a nice, safe way to take out a few frustrations . . .)

Jack-in-the-Box Tacos
1 lb ground chuck
1 cup refried beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Mexican chili powder
1/4 cup mild smooth taco sauce
8 soft thin corn tortillas
Cooking spray
1 cup Crisco Cooking Oil
4 slices American cheese
1 head finely chopped Lettuce
Parmesan Cheese for dusting, optional

Slowly brown the ground beef over low heat, chop and smooch the meat, keep it very fine and smooth. When the beef is brown, drain the fat. Add the refried beans and use the rubber ricer or the back of a wooden spoon to smash the whole beans into the mixture, creating a smooth texture.

Add the seasonings, stir to blend.  Add the taco sauce a little at a time until the mixture is moist and paste-like; remove from the heat.

Spray a flat bottom skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat. Warm tortillas in flat skillet until soft and pliable. Stack warm tortillas on a plate until ready to fry.

In another skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot (test with a small piece of tortilla, it should bubble when dropped into the oil).

Divide the meat mixture between the tortillas. Spread the filling from the center outward to cover half of each tortilla almost to the edge. Lay half a slice of cheese on the center of the meat mixture.
Fold the tortillas over and press so that the beef filling acts as an adhesive and holds the sides together.

Drop each taco into the pan of hot oil and fry on both sides until crispy, about 1 minute. (It’s easier to turn the tacos with a long-handled spatula).

When cooked, remove the tacos from the oil and place them on some paper towels. Blot to absorb some of the excess grease. If desired, sprinkle lightly with Parmesan Cheese (the stuff in the green can). The cheese will add texture and soak up some of the grease in the process.

Pry open each taco slightly; add some shredded lettuce. Serve the tacos alone or with your favorite sides such as refried beans and Spanish or Mexican rice.

Disfrute!

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