I will admit, although living in Mexico, I don’t often make Mexican food. Why should I, when the abuela’s (grand-mother’s) down the street who have been doing it for 70 years can do it better than me at crazy cheap prices? (When I see what some of you ‘up north’ pay for tacos, it makes me cry). Interestingly, we live in one of THE most expensive parts of the country. When you visit Mexico City and it’s suburbs, the tacos are better, fresher, and even cheaper than they are here. Every corner has another mom and pop establishment in which the smells wafting through the air will transform any ‘I don’t eat street food’ critic into a believer. I’m sure they’re even cheaper in other parts of the country.
I will also admit that I find it kind of annoying when I see Mexican versions of dishes that claim to be ‘authentic’ that actually aren’t very Mexican. For example, they don’t use cheddar cheese here people. So when you see a “Mexican” dish that has cheddar, it’s the furthest thing from authentic. Sour cream? Nope. Here we buy something called ‘crema’ in little boxes. It’s much thinner than sour cream when at room temperature, but quite similar after the box is opened and is has to be refrigerated. It’s less sour than sour cream also. It’s very popular here and can be found even at the local corner stores. Hard shell tacos? You do know that I’ve never seen one in 9 years of eating here. This country is all about it’s soft corn hand-made tortillas. And the one that surprises people most: taco seasoning. They don’t sell it here. It’s a treat from home when it shows up. Here they use good old fashioned spices.
When I was playing around with fusing Italian with Mexican, I just went to the grocery store and bought what is cheap, local, and popular. That meant white onions, cilantro, corn, Manchego cheese, and jalapeno. I played around with all these ingredients and added them to gnocchi that someone had given me. I don’t eat a lot of gnocchi, but what I do like about it is that you don’t need a lot and it seems to go far.
Of course, what’s local to me, may not be local to you. I am in no way recommending that you go and spend more money on ingredients than you have to. If you can’t find Manchego, use mozzarella, if you like your pasta stringy. If not, use another cheese (gasp, yes, even cheddar), it’s your meal, do what you want! I won’t fight you on this because it’s obvious this isn’t ‘authentic’ anything; it’s a fusion of countries and flavors and cultures. But sometimes, that’s the best!
This is a fast and easy meal that you can easily change up and I promise won’t disappoint.
- 2 TAB vegetable oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 jalapeno, diced
- 1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup corn (optional)
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- 1 1/2 lbs gnocchi
- 1 cup Manchego cheese (or mozzarella if you want stringy, cheddar if not)
- cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- 1 package taco seasoning OR 1 TAB chili powder, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, and salt
Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add ground beef, in batches if necessary so it browns properly, and cook until no red is left. Add spices, tomatoes, and beef broth and cook for a few minutes until simmering. Add corn, beans, jalapeno and simmer another 10 minutes or so.
In the meantime, put a pot of water to boil. Cook gnocchi until they float, drain. Toss with sauce and add cheese. Add salt to taste if necessary, garnish with cilantro, and serve immediately.