Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chili-Marinated Skirt Steak Tacos and Green Salsa with Avocado

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut.  Sometimes we try to mix it up.  This dish came about when I was trying to use one of our cookbooks that we never use - Rosa's New Mexican Table.  I bought the cookbook ages ago at Costco or Sam's Club when I saw that they had the recipe for their homemade guacamole and salsas, plus several other interesting recipes in there.  And then it proceeded to sit on the bookshelf.  For years.  We have our go to cookbooks and the rest tend to get lost in the fray.  In case you were wondering, our go to cookbooks are probably Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients, Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, our two Fuchsia Dunlop cookbooks and Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavor.  Runners up probably include The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens and Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans.  We really need to branch out into our other cookbooks more often.  I periodically page through all of the cookbooks that we don't regularly use and pick out recipes that I want to make.  We have tons of recipes on deck from those other books and yet they still don't get made.  Perhaps making at least one recipe from each of our cookbooks should be my goal for this year.  In case you're wondering, we probably have about 30 cookbooks, so that should keep us busy for awhile...

This salsa recipe came straight out of the cookbook and the taco recipe was inspired by a recipe in the cookbook.  We rarely marinate our skirt steak when we make tacos because it has so much flavor on its own, but every once in awhile I like to mix it up.  Plus we had all of these dried chilis in our pantry that I wanted to use - cascabels, ancho chilis, chipotle chilis, chilis de arbol, etc.  So I got out my blender and decided to whip up some marinade.  In the end, I thought the tacos were good, but not amazing.  The steak by itself was almost overwhelmingly smoky/aggressively flavored with the dried chilis. It wasn't exactly spicy, but it was heavily spiced (if you get what I am saying).  But the coolness and brightness of the salsa went really well with the marinated steak and gave it some much needed acidity (as did the squeeze of fresh lime juice at the end).  And I really thought the creaminess that the avocado gave the salsa was an interesting touch.  Altogether it worked, but it wasn't my favorite skirt steak taco recipe.  I  will probably make the salsa again in the future, but I think the tacos themselves are doomed to be a one time experiment.  It's not the type of salsa that I think would work well as just chips and salsas, but I think it would work well as an accompaniment to any meat dish.  I think the cookbook actually says to serve it with empanadas and other fried food, which sounds like a brilliant pairing.
Recipes after the jump!

Chili-Marinated Skirt Steak Tacos

3 dried cascabel chilis
1 dried ancho chili
1 dried chipotle chili
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch ground clove
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground black pepper
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 lb skirt steak
flour tortillas
minced onions, for garnish
finely chopped cilantro, for garnish
lime wedges, for garnish
Green Salsa with Avocado

Wipe chilis clean, remove stems and seeds, and toast in a small clean skillet over medium-low heat until lightly charred and blistered in spots, about 1-2 minutes.

Put all ingredients except steak in a blender and blend at low speed until fairly smooth.

Place steak in a resealable plastic bag and add the marinade.  Massage the meat until the marinade evenly coats the steak.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight (flipping the steak over once to ensure that it marinates evenly).  Thirty minutes prior to cooking, remove the steak from the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature.  Remove steak from the marinade and discard excess marinade. 

Heat a grill pan (or grill) over medium-high heat.  Grill steak, turning once, until well-marked and medium-rare, about 3 minutes per side (if your steak is thick cook it longer).  Remove steak to a cutting board, cover with tin foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Slice steak thinly on the bias against the grain.  Serve with warm tortillas, minced onions, cilantro, lime wedges and Green Salsa with Avocado.

Green Salsa with Avocado
Rosa's New Mexican Table
By Roberto Santibanez

1 lb tomatillos, husked, washed, and coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno or 2 small serranos, sliced
2 small garlic cloves
2 tbsp chopped white onion
10 fresh cilantro springs, torn into rough pieces
2 tsp salt
1 avocado

Put the tomatillos in a blender and add the remaining ingredients, except the avocado into a blender.  Blend until mostly smooth.  Add the avocado.  Blend until smooth.

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