With Halloween just around the corner, I had been percolating what I’m going to cook on the night in question. We usually invite a few families over for an early supper before heading out for the annual wonder of following children around to collect candy from neighbors and strangers. Usually I make a big pot of soup, chili, or the like. But I was looking for something different and found my inspiration at all places, the Texas State Fair.
We went to the fair on a mini-holiday a few weeks ago at the behest of our friend Kate, who grew up in Texas and has regaled us with stories of the fair for years. I’m frankly, a little surprised I walked out of there with a recipe idea adaptable for home use considering that Texas Fair food is notoriously unhealthy and outlandish. I’d venture to guess as much deep-fat frying goes on there as a chicken nugget factory, not that I’ve ever been to a chicken nugget factory. This year’s highlights included fried bubblegum (photo below), barbecue bologna on Wonder Bread, and the 2011 award winner: chicken on a stick, dipped in pancake batter and jalapeño breadcrumbs, fried, and served with pancake syrup. Amidst the carnival rides and fairground games stood a food purveyor hawking “Walking Tacos” whereby single-serving bags of Doritos are slit down the side and filled with all the ordinary fixings for a taco. They come accompanied by little packets of sour cream and salsa, as well as disposable forks so you can eat straight from the bag. Kinda junkie. Super tasty. It was a universal hit amongst the eight or so of us who plowed through a shared bag. With a little tweaking, I figured Walking Tacos could be the playful, Halloween “supper for a crowd” I was looking for.
The only real issue, as I saw it, was finding a substitute for the Doritos. I combed the aisles of the supermarket and found limited options for single-serving bags of tortillas chips that would make the cut. Ultimately, I settled on Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips which, while not exactly a health food, don’t have the artificial colors, flavors and fat grams of Doritos. Plus, they actually pack a couple grams of fiber in there. Taste-wise they work great. I swapped out the ground beef for a combination of ground turkey and pinto beans, and used taco seasoning mix for flavor, cutting the amount in half since those little bags have a hefty dose of sodium. I subbed out the iceberg for equally crunchy but altogether healthier Romaine.
If you can’t find single serving bags of chips, you can make these using ordinary salted tortilla chips in wax paper bags. Figure an adult-size handful of chips per bag.
- 3/4 pound ground turkey
- 1 cup cooked pinto beans
- 1/2 packet taco seasoning mix*
- 2/3 cup water
- 6 one-ounce bags Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips
- 3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 2 1/2 cups chopped Romaine lettuce (crunchiest leaves)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- Salsa and light sour cream for garnish
In a medium saute pan, brown the turkey meat over medium heat until cooked through. Add the pinto beans to the pan and sprinkle the 1/2 packet of taco seasoning mix over the top. Add the water and stir. Turn heat to low and simmer until the liquid absorbs into the mix and the flavors develop, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
While the meat is cooking, use scissors to open the Sun Chips along one side (as opposed to opening at the top). Crush the bags of chips to break them into bite size pieces.
To assemble, put a few generous spoonfuls of the turkey mixture on top of the chips in each bag. Divide the cheese between the 6 bags, followed by the lettuce and tomatoes. To eat, add salsa and/or sour cream, and use a dinner fork to give the contents of the bag a good stir. Eat right from the bag.
Makes 6 servings
* Read the ingredients on the label or buy at a natural foods market since some brands are made with MSG and other additives you and your five your old can’t pronounce and probably don’t want to eat