Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ancho and Cocoa-Rubbed Skirt Steak Tacos

 A long time ago I saw a recipe in Gourmet magazine for carne asada using ancho chili powder, cocoa and cinnamon.  It sounded interesting enough that it stuck with me.  And tonight when I was trying to come up with a spice rub for some tacos I hit up Epicurious (which is my go-to website for finding recipes) until I found the recipe from the May 2009 issue of Gourmet for Ancho and Cocoa Carne Asada.  Score!  I roughly stuck to the proportions of the chili powder-cocoa-cinnamon spice rub and then decided to play around with the toppings.  We pickled some jalapenos and shallots, chopped up some avocado and cilantro, and charred up some scallions.  I love being able to throw different toppings together with tacos to see what I like best.  My favorite topping here was the quick-pickled shallot and jalapeno mixture because it really brightened up the tacos and gave them a lot of flavor.  The shallots actually absorbed some of the heat from the jalapenos, which was new and interesting.  For my last taco I threw on all of the toppings for a super taco and I think that one might have been my favorite combination - a little bit of everything. 

As for the skirt steak itself, I'm not sure that I was a fan of the chili powder-cocoa-cinnamon spice rub.  It was kind of gummy and mushy; it just coated the outside of the steak in a really strange way (and then your tongue) that I didn't find particularly appetizing.  I think it was the cocoa powder.  The steak was fine when you had it with the toppings, but I would never eat it alone.  Beyond the strange mouthfeel, I'm just not sure that the flavor was all that great.  I much preferred the Beef Tacos with Radish and Avocado Salsa (where the steak is seasoned with cumin, s&p) and other tacos we have made where the skirt steak was seasoned simply with s&p and served with some sort of salsa, like the Skirt Steak Tacos with Roasted Tomato Salsa.  I thought that the flavor of the beef itself really shined in those recipes and was augmented by the seasonings, whereas I thought the flavor here was obscured by the overpowering (and almost cloying) flavor of the cocoa powder in this recipe. 

Recipe after the jump!

Ancho and Cocoa Skirt Steak Tacos

1 1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1 lb skirt steak
vegetable oil for greasing grill, plus 1 tsp
6 scallions, trimmed
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 flour tortillas (ours were labeled "fajita-size")
1 avocado, cut into slices
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
lime wedges

Stir together ancho powder, cocoa, cinnamon and salt.

Pat steak dry and coat with spice mixture. Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat.  Coat grill pan lightly with vegetable oil.  Cook 1-2 minutes per side, flipping once, for medium-rare.  Remove from heat, tent with tin foil and set aside.  Toss scallions in 1 tsp vegetable oil and season with s&p.  Grill until well-charred on all sides, about 3-5 minutes.  Chop scallions into 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile place shallots and jalapenos in a small non-reactive bowl.  Add white vinegar, sugar and salt.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.  After shallots and jalapenos have pickled for 5-7 minutes, dump vinegar.

Let steak rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain at an angle.

Char tortillas lightly on the grill pan until warm and pliable, about 5-10 seconds per side.

Serve steak with warm tortillas, scallions, pickled shallots and jalapenos, avocado slices, cilantro and lime wedges.

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