Hye Thyme Cafe: Taco "Shells" Two Ways

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taco "Shells" Two Ways

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Are you a pasta lover? If so, have you ever had it fried? Fried ravioli have become more and more common over the years, but before I first encountered those, I was presented a platter of deep fried farfalle pasta with spinach and artichoke dip. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was love at first bite! Every once in a while, I'll fry up a batch with some marinara or spinach dip. It's everything you already love about pasta, but slightly crispy and chewy and mmmmmmm drool. Where was I???

This is not a new concept either, but I have been wanting to make a version of Taco Stuffed Shells for a while now. I have seen others that use crumbled corn chips on top as a garnish, which made me think of using cornmeal or corn chips for dredging and frying. I thought the cornmeal might be too coarse, so I went with the corn chips. 

As much fun as I had playing, and as good as it was, I probably won't bother taking the extra time to fry these in the future. If I want fried pasta, I'll take the quick route and stick with the farfalle. It mainly comes down to size here. If you want to use a medium shell, that would work better but be more work. You don't want to pick up and bite into a large shell, but when cutting them, because of the sturdy "shell" around the filling, I found the filling trying to escape. The frying itself worked fine - I was worried that I might burn the house down or something, having never fried anything not completely closed, like an eggroll or ravioli.

I only fried three of the shells to see how it worked. I baked off another eight, but I would say there was enough filling for 20 - I froze the rest of the filling for another time - maybe to stuff baked potatoes, or scoop up with corn chips.

20-25 jumbo pasta shells (boil a few extras in case of breaks)
1 lb ground beef
1 lg onion, chopped
1.25 oz packet taco seasoning
   (I used the Ortega 40% less sodium)
2.25 oz can sliced black olives, drained
3 oz can nacho style sliced jalapeños, drained
1/2 c Mexican blend shredded cheese
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced - divided
1 can refried beans  (I prefer vegetarian)
Taco sauce
Egg(s), Corn Chips (I used Tostitos), and oil (I used canola) if frying
Optional - scallions, sour cream, cilantro, olives, etc. for garnish

  • Cook the pasta shells in salted water to al dente, then drain and set aside (If you are working slowly, you might want to separate them or toss them with a bit of oil so they don't stick together while you prep your filling)
  • Sauté the ground beef and onion until the beef is browned (If you are using beef with a high fat content, you might want to drain off the grease before proceeding)
  • Add the taco seasoning and water as indicated on the package
  • Stir in the cheese until fully melted, then add the olives and jalapenos
  • Remove from heat and stir in one of the diced tomatoes
If frying:
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg(s)
  • Crush enough corn chips to serve as your dredging flour (Amount will vary depending on brand, size, etc. I pulsed them in a food processor, but you could crush them with a rolling pin, etc. if necessary) and place in a second small bowl
  • Spread the inside of each shell with approximately 1t of the refried beans, then fill with the beef mixture and set aside
  • Dip each filled shell in egg, then in the crushed corn chips
  • Deep fry the shells until lightly golden
  • Transfer to paper towels to absorb any excess oil, then plate and garnish as desired
If baking:
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Line a casserole dish with some of the taco sauce, to prevent sticking
  • Spread the inside of each shell with approximately 1t of the refried beans, then fill with the beef mixture
  • As you fill the shells, transfer them to the lined baking dish
  • Drizzle the top of each with additional taco sauce and sprinkle with cheese
  • Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has melted
  • Plate and garnish as desired

Saute the ground beef with the onion until browned

Add the taco seasoning and water until thickened
Stir in the cheese until melted

Stir in the olives
Stir in the jalapenos

Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes
Line each shell with refried beans, then fill with beef mixture

Stuffed shells dredged and staged for frying
Stage bowl of beaten egg and bowl of crushed nachos for dredging

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe
Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe
Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

Taco "Shells" Two Ways : Hye Thyme Cafe

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