HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Question about home fried taco shells...

I'm going to be doing a taco bar for a big but casual party and don't want to use yucky boxed shells. But, making them one at a time per person won't work either.

Is there a happy medium wherein I can make several dozen ahead of time and have them not get gross as they sit? I could do it morning of...

I read one recipe that oven baked them using the oven rack itself as a shaper, ie, draping the tortillas over the individual rods so it'll form shells. Not sure if the oven racks are spotless enough for that!

I just really don't want to go with the boxed things.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
    1. re: TroyTempest

      I want to provide options. There will be regular tortillas for soft tacos, too. As well as chips if anyone wants to make a plate of nachos.

      1. re: TroyTempest

        Soft tacos are just that, soft tacos. They are not delicious crispy tacos. IMO they are not at all interchangeable.

        1. re: laliz

          No one said they were interchangeable. I just posed it as another option since the crispy tacos were going to be problematic.
          Personally, i prefer soft, with good tortillas (which are easily kept warm and fresh tasting)

      2. Do you have a Mexican market or restaurant close by where you could buy the shells in bulk? I would exhaust every avenue possible before I attempted to make my own taco shells for a large crowd.

        6 Replies
        1. re: miss_belle

          Hmm. Lots! I've never seen good fried taco shells sold in bulk, tostada bases and chips, yes, shells, no. But no harm in finding out.

          1. re: Violatp

            You have not seen taco shells in your Mexican market becaus the crispy taco shell that is just a giant corn tortilla is in no way Mexican. A Mexican taco shell is just a softened corn tortilla. It may be fried enough to get some crispyness to it but it does not resemble the American hard taco shell.

            1. re: jpc8015

              According a couple of taco history books, the folded taco shell was inspired by the taco dorado. That version, common in 1950s was a soft tortilla, folded around a filling, closed with something like a toothpick, and then fried.

              But that one at time frying was a bottleneck during busy times. Prefrying the shell was an attempted to ease that bottleneck.

              http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=taco%...

              A flauta or taquito is similar, but rolled around the filling.

              1. re: paulj

                Even the shell of the taco dorado does not fully resemble a giant corn tortilla chip like the shells that we see in the grocery stores today.

                I am not saying that the crispy shells aren't good, they just aren't Mexican. That is why you typically will not find them in a Mexican gocery.

                1. re: paulj

                  Just FWIW, "taco dorado" literally means "golden taco" and it can refer to any type of taco where the tortilla ends up fried, folded over or rolled over.

                  1. re: Soul Vole

                    Oops, badly punctuated. That should have been "...where the tortilla ends up fried -- whether folded over or rolled over".

          2. In pre Taco Bell days, soft tortillas were filled, and then fried. But this was hot, dangerous work during peak ordering times. That's what gave rise to Bell's invention of a contraption to prefry a bunch of shells, and then just fill them at order time.

            Another advantage of prefried shells was they have a longer shelf life than fresh tortillas. Fresh soft ones are best the day they are made, and are best made by skilled cooks.

            I haven't touched a fold fried shell in years. However I do occasionally buy 'tostadas', flat fried tortillas. Guerro and los Periquitos are two brands that I like.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              +1 on the Guerro "tostada shells' they are very good.

            2. I think I'd do a test run. Fry a few, let sit for a half day, reheat in the oven. Maybe even see if you can leave overnight refrigerated.

              1 Reply
              1. re: firecooked

                Oh, that's a good idea! Reheating, sure. :-)

              2. I make home fried corn tortillas (the tortillas are not home made, they are my favorite yellow packaged tortillas), all the time, and always have leftovers, so I have them a day or two after first frying them. They can be reheated in the oven as mentioned by firecooked.
                As for variety, some soft, some hard (in both flour and corn) is a great selection! I like a fried flour shell, too.

                7 Replies
                1. re: wyogal

                  I'm looking forward to seeing everything spread out on the table. So fun!

                  1. re: wyogal

                    I have a Q for those of you who fry up corn tortillas for taco shells, flautas, chips etc. I did the same thing years ago but they turned out tough and chewy every time so I finally gave up and went to flour tortillas. The corn tortillas I buy nowadays to simply fry in a little butter and fold into quarters for my husband seem to be the same type. Guess I was always looking for a thin crispness like restaurant taco shells. Was I doing anything wrong or do we just have different tastes in types of tortillas?

                    1. re: miss_belle

                      If you have a Tortillaria close to you see if the make tortillas for frying. They are dryer, thinner, and made from coarser Masa.
                      They fry up crisp tender and absorb less oil.

                      1. re: miss_belle

                        I fry my own chips all the time. It sounds like you might not have fried them long enough, so they were chewy instead of crispy.

                        Frying at home on the stove is a bit of a learned science and depends so much on the pot and burner power. So if a recipe says to fry for "4 minutes" that depends entirely on how quickly your oil comes back to temp.

                        I just did a bunch on my parents 8 burner Wolf stove and they fried in about 1/2 the time that it takes me to do them on my home stove.

                        They are worth trying again.

                        1. re: miss_belle

                          Use good tortillas, the freshest you can get. Fry in canola or similar oil. Be sure the temp is 370F or 375F. If the oil is too cool or the tortillas are old, they'll be tough and chewy -- been there, done that.

                          1. re: miss_belle

                            Personally, we like the chewy part of the "crispy" shells. It depends on the shells. Experiment with different types, brands. I fry them so they have a crispiness to them, but are still somewhat pliable.
                            For chips, I like a little more crunch, so a bit more.
                            Hot oil.
                            I saw the oven rack baked ones online, haven't tried that.

                            1. re: wyogal

                              It looks like freshness was a factor along with thickness as well. I always just picked the bag of tortillas off the top and tossed them in my shopping cart never noticing the best use by date. The one on top was dated 7/18 so I pulled out the one at the bottom of the stack dated 7/29. I could feel the difference right there. (The only reason I'm admitting to this is because maybe some others do the same thing:-) Fried them whole in hot oil and they turned out nice & crispy with a crackly crunch. Very good. I used Mission yellow corn tortillas - Extra Thin. Thank you all for the help. I really appreciate it.

                        2. You can fry them ahead. Just, Use very clean oil, make sure they are fried fully and keep them in a dry environment. An oven with a pilot light is perfect.Do not refrigerate them.

                          If you want to freshen them up a bit a quick toast in a moderate oven will do it. But if cooked the same day they will be fine.

                          1. There's no problem with frying them ahead of time.

                            Use a muffin pan and make mini-tostada shells.

                            1. There are special oven forms for making them. I've never used one.
                              There are tools for frying them. I have one and have never used it.
                              If I make taco shells I do it "by hand" in a pan of hot oil -- if it is too cool, the shells will be soggy. It takes some practice.
                              You can do the muffin tin compuestas ("mini todtadas" as noted below). I do those in a deep fryer -- put the corn tortilla in and use a metal ladle to hold it to the fry basket. It is easier than taco shells by far. Use smaller tortillas for smaller portions.

                              1. We just fry a whole batch before serving. Alternatively you can do the soft corn tortilla method of brushing a little oil on the tortilla and then heating in a dry pan. They can then be stacked and kept warm.

                                1. Blurgh. The guest list has swelled ( this is an outdoor block party, hence the numbers) to over 100.

                                  Crud. I can't hand fry 200 tortillas! Maybe I'll just get purchased tostada shells/tortillas, and the rest can be soft tacos and chips.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Violatp

                                    yes, ready to eat, soft, maybe held under wraps, not sure how to keep them soft, but easier, the better. and it sound like a fun party!

                                  2. You can easily fry them up to a week in advance. Just put them in a container with a paper towel and seal it well with plastic wrap. We do them a lot, but I have a commercial food business and we can fry them quickly and we have taco shell baskets for the fryers.

                                    Another viewpoint. Why not buy them already made? IMHO, anyone who eats them already has a preconceived notion of what they are going to eat. Sometimes it's the nostalgia factor. I am a professional chef and a taco fanatic, but sometimes I just crave those Old El Paso taco shells with ground beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa, like I used to eat when I was a kid.

                                    The purists will eat the soft corn tortillas. So don't stress about the fried shells. 100 people is a lot of food to produce from a home kitchen. Don't sweat the small stuff.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: UptownKevin

                                      That reminds me of my very first "taco." It was at a neighbor's house, it was a boxed shell with a piece of American cheese and baloney (sp) in it. ha! and yes, sometimes, I crave that very first taste of a boxed corn tortilla!
                                      I know what you mean, though. For that reason, I love just a plain crispy taco from Taco John's, with the super hot sauce (purreed jalapenos).

                                      1. re: UptownKevin

                                        Good points. I love the fried from scratch kind, but I should remember my audience, so to speak! I won't kill myself over it (and maybe fry up a couple just for ME)