Carne Asada Tacos – Pico de Gallo – Creamy Tomatillo Salsa

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” -Mark Twain (supposedly)

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a winter in Boston.” -William Sam

So we’re a good 4 weeks into spring here in frigid Boston and this past weekend gave us the first semblance of mild weather in what seems like years.  I have long forgotten what warmth feels like, and I’ve worn my winter boots for so long that wearing sneakers now just feels like I have a pair of heavy socks on.  Here’s to warmer days ahead and to the beginning of slowly repressing all bad winter memories.

To celebrate the first nice weekend of spring, we decided to have ourselves a cookout, Mexican style. And if you know anything about Mexican food in New England, then you probably know you’re better off cooking it yourself. So here it is, my carne asada taco recipe:

Normally I would use flank steak for this recipe but for some odd reason Stop and Shop didn’t have any, so I settled for some sirloin steak tips, which worked out nicely. Start off with your juices (OJ and lime juice), this is what really gives the carne asada that distinct, almost tangy flavor. I also add some soy sauce for a little savoriness.

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Then add your spices. That spice mix may look familiar.

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Smash some garlic cloves, mince, and chop some cilantro.

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Throw it all into your bag o’ meat, seal it, then refrigerate overnight. Here’s a tip: keep the bag in a bowl just in case there are any leaks in your zip-lock bag. I had to learn this the hard way. Meat juice all over my vegetables, never again.

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The next day, fire up the grill, and cook it all to a nice medium rare. I know there’s a lot of ash in that grill. I didn’t clean it out and guests were already arriving so I had to just make do. Turned out it was a bad idea because it was blocking the air vents on the bottom of the grill so the coals weren’t getting enough oxygen and cooled down a lot faster than normal.  The meat still cooked, only it was a lot slower, so there’s another lesson for you: clean out your grill!

BTW let’s hear it for natural lighting! I can finally take an overhead shot without my shadow covering everything.

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Here’s all you need for delicious tomatillo salsa:

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Tomatillos are weird. First of all, they have a husk. What’s up with that? Also when you remove the husk there’s this sticky film all over them and it’s a little unsettling. If they weren’t so darn good I would probably never eat them. Anyway, make sure you give them a good rinse to get all the sticky off.

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Cut them all in half, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and throw them under the broiler, along with the jalapeño and onion.

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After about 10 minutes you should have a nice char like so:

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Chop the stem off your jalapeño and throw everything in your food processor, including the fresh cilantro. If you’re not into spicy food you can remove the seeds and pith from the jalapeño before adding it. But just be a man and throw the whole thing in.

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Once it’s all pureed a bit, add your avocado and process for another 30 seconds or so, and there you have it:

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Pico de gallo is super easy and super delicious. Here’s everything you need:

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Chop it all up, throw it in a bowl, add your lime juice, and a little salt and pepper.

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Beautiful.

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Viva Mexico

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CARNE ASADA TACOS:

3-4 lbs skirt steak, flank steak, or sirloin steak tips
1 cup orange juice
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
corn tortillas

In a heavy duty zip-lock bag, combine all ingredients, seal it, then mix it all up with your hands. Put the bag in a large bowl and let marinate overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

The next day, take your meat out about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook to allow meat to come to room temperature. Heat your grill, then cook carne asada to a medium rare. Let meat rest 10 minutes before chopping it up for tacos.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet with a little oil and heat your tortillas on the skilled for about 30 seconds before assembling your tacos. This will make the tortilla more pliable and less likely to break apart when you’re eating.

 

CREAMY TOMATILLO SALSA:

1 1/4 lbs fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed clean
1 medium Spanish onion
1 jalapeño
1 large avocado
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about half a bunch, chopped)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Cut all the tomatillos in half and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet, along with the jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Drizzle with a little olive oil- you don’t have to coat everything completely, just as long as there’s a little oil on there. Turn on broiler to High and place the baking sheet with your ingredients under the flames, broiling for 8-10 minutes.  Make sure you check on them so they don’t burn TOO much. You do want SOME char but you definitely don’t want them decimated by the fire. Once they’re cooked, take the ingredients out and let cool. Peel the garlic, chop the stem off the jalapeño and do a rough chop to the garlic, jalapeño, and onion. 

Fit your food processor with a metal blade, then add the tomatillos, jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Process for about 30 seconds, then add the lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, and avocado. Process for another 30 seconds or until it is a smooth consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper to taste.

 

PICO DE GALLO:

4 Roma Tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Serve with tacos!

 

beer pairing suggestion: There’s a lot of citrus and spice going on in this meal, and we’re using a pretty lean cut of beef here, so a light IPA or a lager would go nicely with these tacos. Try Maine Beer Co Another One IPA or Brooklyn Lager or you can never go wrong with some Negra Modelo when eating Mexican!

 

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