From Carla Hall: I love tacos, and when we were kids, we would have taco night from a kit from the store. It’s reminiscent of my childhood, but I wanted to put a southern spin on it with the Johnnycakes and the idea of a soft taco shell.
Recipe by Carla Hall || Food Photography by Kristen Hartke || Portrait by Melissa Hom
How are you dealing with these strange times?
I am being very present. I am using the time to be creative, whether it’s in cooking or crafting at home. It’s been a time to get to know my neighborhood and my neighbors, which I have enjoyed.
How important has cooking been for you?
Very. Not only to try new things but also as a way to share with people from a distance, which I am lucky enough to do with online demos and videos, and with my neighbors and friends who sometimes get to enjoy the results of the work I am doing remotely.
Any tips for the rest of us?
I find it helpful to spend 10 minutes every day to get out of my head and build a new community by going outside and playing. I call it recess, because if I call it exercise I won’t be so enthusiastic about it. Anyone can join me. I usually stream it every day around 11 a.m. on Instagram.
1 pound Taco Meat (see recipe)
12 Johnnycakes (see recipe)
1 cup pepper jack or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups iceberg lettuce, finely shredded (1/4 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed, root removed)
1 cup salsa
1 cup sour cream
hot sauce (optional, to taste)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 pound ground beef (80/20), or chicken, turkey, pork, meat substitute
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
Johnnycakes MAKES 12:
1 cup fine yellow stone-ground cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (substitute: half milk and half sour cream)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for cooking
- For the taco meat: In a small bowl, add chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and onion powder. Stir to combine and set aside.
- Warm the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add ground beef, chili powder mixture, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just cooked through and still slightly soupy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside; warm before serving.
- For the Johnnycakes: Heat a griddle or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
- Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, and oil in a medium bowl until smooth.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold until evenly moistened. You don’t want lumps, but you don’t want to overmix either.
- Pour a thin sheen of oil onto the griddle or skillet. Drop a scant 1/4 cup batter onto the hot surface and spread into a 4-inch round. Working in batches if necessary, repeat with the remaining batter, spacing the rounds an inch apart. Cook until the undersides are golden brown and the tops lightly bubbling, about 2 minutes. Flip carefully and cook until the other sides are brown, about 1 minute longer.
- Transfer to a wire rack and keep warm until ready to serve.
- To assemble the tacos, place three warm Johnnycakes on a plate and top each with a heaping tablespoonful of the Taco Meat.
- Garnish each with grated cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and hot sauce. Serve immediately.
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