Growing up in San Diego, I didn’t know soft tacos existed until I was an adult. Not because my family didn’t eat Mexican food — we ate it all the time — but because back then, typically, the tacos you were served at a restaurant and at my house came with a crispy shell.
When I say crispy shell, I don’t mean the boxed version you can buy at the store along with a packet of taco seasoning and a pouch of taco sauce. My mother always fried her own, and so did most of the local Mexican restaurants we frequented.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that soft tacos, made with warm corn tortillas, are not only more authentic, but also delicious.
Still, I sometimes find myself craving those tacos of my youth, and when that happens, I break out the slow cooker, because while the shell needs to be crisp, the filling needs to be ultra-tender, and the easiest way to achieve that effect is with a slow cooker. I simply place a chuck roast in the cooker, top with onions and a mixture of beef broth and seasonings and hit “Start.” Hours later, I have a meltingly tender, flavorful roast that I can shred, combine with just enough of the cooking liquid to moisten slightly.
The filling is placed in a corn tortilla, sealed with a toothpick and the whole thing is fried to a light golden brown. The result is a crispy, slightly chewy taco that is topped with lettuce, shredded Cheddar and a dollop of pico de gallo, the fresh salsa made with diced tomatoes, onions and jalapeño peppers. My mom always spooned on a bit of sour cream, but they were often served without in restaurants.
This recipe is sufficient for a lot of tacos, but you can make as many as you like and save any extra filling and salsa for burritos, nacho topping or taco salads. Make more than you think you’ll need. At least in my family, they tend to disappear quickly.