I have a soft spot in my heart for hard-shell tacos. It’s partly thanks to joyful childhood memories of meals whipped up from those boxed kits, but it’s also because they taste lip-smackingly good with their warm, spiced meat; crisp, cool vegetables and crunchy, fried shells.
These days, taco night at home takes as many forms as there are Tuesdays in a year, from fish with slaw on soft whole-wheat tortillas to sliced steak with charred poblano peppers on fresh corn tortillas. When I hanker for the crunch of those retro ground-beef tacos, I make them, but I ditch the box and give mine a healthy update by turning them inside out. I make lettuce leaves the shells to be piled with fillings and use crunchy tortilla chips as one of the toppings. This essentially flips the ratio of vegetables to fried tortillas from the original and makes the whole meal lighter and more healthful while keeping all the right textures and flavors in place.
I also stir black beans into the spiced meat to introduce some plant protein. (You could use ground turkey or another can of beans instead of the beef, if you prefer.) Fill the lettuce cups with the fragrant meat and beans, top with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheddar, pickled jalapeños, a fresh spray of cilantro and a sprinkle of crunchy chips for a meal that will take you back to you childhood but also make you glad you’re all grown up.