Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta - Tacos Carne Asada

Cinco de Mayo is upon us again, and you don't have to tell me twice to revel with Margarita in hand. Each year, we look forward to celebrating the richness of Mexican culture, and naturally, enjoying the food and drink of the people is our first priority. 

Tacos Carne Asada with Tomatillo Pico de Gallo and Queso Blanco, Photo: NK

In case you've ever wondered, the historical importance of the 5th of May is that on that day in 1862, the Battle of Puebla was fought during the Franco-Mexican War. In it, the Mexicans emerged victorious against the French. Cinco de Mayo is such a hit in the States, you may be surprised to learn that it's actually comparatively minor in Mexico itself. This year, we've decided to cook up some Carne Asada for our at home fiesta.  
Mixing up our Tomatillo Pico de Gallo, NK

Carne Asada is basically grilled Steak - Mexican Barbecue, if you will. You can serve it Tacos or on its own. The traditional method of preparation includes marinating the Steak in a Lime/Citrus marinade, then grilling it on very high heat before slicing it up thin. 

For today's meal, we've adapted Tyler Florence's tasty Carne Asada recipe by creating an extra garlicky Mojo marinade and incorporating Tomatillos in our Pico de Gallo for a twist on the traditional Tomato base. To finish, we'll sprinkle these hearty Tacos with a mellow, salty Mexican Cheese (Queso Blanco), and very likely wash them down with an ice cold Tecate. If you enjoy this recipe as much as we do, it'll be back on your plate well before next year. 

Enjoy and happy Cinco de Mayo! 

What you need: A ridged Grill Pan or Outdoor Barbecue Grill 
What to know: The prepping and chopping for all three components of this recipe  (Mojo, Pico de Gallo, and Steak) will only take about 25 minutes but the marinating required to make the most flavorful Carne Asada will take between 1 to 7 hours. 
*Do not marinate Steak in the Mojo for more than 7 hours. The acids in the Mojo will break down the Steak and make the texture unappealing. We split the difference and let our Steak sit for 3 hours and it was just delicious. 

Also - don't even think of touching your eyes or face after you slice Jalapenos. No matter how much you wash your hands, you can cause your eyes to burn. If you have plastic gloves or can avoid directly touching the Pepper when slicing, all the better.  Be safe and enjoy! 

Tacos Carne Asada
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Serves 4 (2 Tacos Per Person)

2 Pounds Skirt Steak 
1 recipe Easy Blender Mojo (recipe follows below)
Olive Oil for greasing the Outdoor Grill or Grill Pan 
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper

~8 or 16 small Corn Tortillas (7 inches) - choose 16 if you would like to "double wrap" your Tacos - this makes them heartier and is your best bet if you are serving 4 hungry people. Doubling the Tacos also prevents the juices from dripping as much. Up to you and your appetite. Truth be told, my husband and I ate all 4 servings of this ourselves... 

1/4 White Onion, chopped, for serving (optional) 
1/2 a Heart of Romaine Lettuce, cut into think ribbons
1 Cup Tomatillo Pico de Gallo (recipe follows) 
1/3 Cup Shredded Queso Blanco or Cotija Cheese (or sub in any other Mexican Cheese)
4 Limes Cut into Wedges for serving 
Extra Hot Sauces of your choice for serving - we love El Yucateco and Cholula 

Prepare your Blender Mojo

Lay the Skirt Steak in a large tupperware container or covered tray. Alternately, you can place in a gallon sized ZipLoc. Pour Mojo Sauce over Steak and cover tightly and allow to Marinate between 1 and 7 hours. Do not marinate more than 7 hours as acids will break down the meat and make the texture mushy. 

Prepare your Tomatillo Pico de Gallo. You'll want it to sit at least 30 minutes before using so flavors can blend. 

Preheat an Outdoor Grill or Grill Pan Over medium high heat. Brush Pan or Grill with a small amount of Oil to prevent sticking. 

Remove Steak from Mojo Marinade and season with Salt and Pepper on both sides. Cook for 5-6 minutes per side for Medium Rare. Check meat for doneness and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing into very thin strips diagonally against the grain of the meat
Slice strips in half again if you choose (about 3 inches long each). 

Warm Tortillas about 30 seconds on each side on the grill or a dry skillet. They should be toasty but also still bendable. 

To assemble your Tacos, lay about 4 ounces of Steak down the middle of the Taco center (whether you are using double or single Taco wrappers) and sprinkle with some Romaine Lettuce, White Onion, and Cheese. Top each Taco with a spoonful of the Tomatillo Pico de Gallo. Serve with Lime Wedges for squeezing and Cilantro Garnish. Don't forget the extra Hot Sauce! Enjoy!! 

Easy Blender Mojo
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Yields about 1 1/4 Cup

Marinating the Skirt Steak in Mojo, Photo: NK
5 Garlic Cloves
1 JalapeƱo
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro 
1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 Cup Orange Juice 
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

~To Prepare: Simply blend all ingredients in a blender or mini food processor! Quick and easy. Note: To prepare without a blender, finely mince all the dry ingredients and mash them with a mortar and pestle before adding the liquid ingredients. 

Tomatillo Pico De Gallo 
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Serves 4-6

3 Medium Sized or 6-7 Small Tomatillos (Mediums will be about the size of a plum tomato), chopped
1/2 Medium Red Onion, chopped
3 Scallions, White and Green Parts thinly sliced
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced 
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro Leaves, Chopped 
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2-3 Drops of your favorite Hot Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Honey or Agave Syrup

~To Prepare: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for a half hour to 3 hours to allow flavors to mingle. 
Tomatillo Pico de Gallo, Shredded Romaine, and Queso Blanco, Photo: NK

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