What’s for Dinner?
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos
Chicago restaurateur, cookbook author, and host of PBS’s Mexico – One Plate at a Time shares a recipe that’s perfect for Cinco de Mayo.
Makes 12 tacos, serving 4 as a light meal
2 medium white onions, sliced into ½-inch rounds (keep the rounds intact for easy grilling)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon cumin, preferably freshly ground salt
1 pound skirt steak, trimmed of surface fat as well as the thin white membrane called “silver skin”
3 medium (about 9 ounces total) fresh poblano chiles
Vegetable or olive oil for brushing or spritzing the onions and meat
A small bowlful of lime wedges for serving
12 fresh, warm corn tortillas
1. Marinating the meat. In a food processor or blender, combine ¼ of the onion, the garlic, lime juice, cumin and ½ teaspoon salt. Process to a smooth puree. Place the skirt steak in a non-aluminum baking dish. Using a spoon, smear the marinade over both sides of the skirt steak. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
2. Making the grilled chile-and-onion rajas. Turn on the oven to its lowest setting. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash. Either turn the burner(s) in the center of the grill to medium-low or bank the coals to the sides of the grill for indirect cooking. Now, lay the chiles on the hottest part of the grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and blackened uniformly all over, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to char the flesh, only the skin. Remove the chiles from the grill and cover with a kitchen towel.
While the chiles are roasting, brush or spray the remaining onion slices with oil, and lay the whole rounds of onions on the grill in a cooler spot than you chose for the chiles. When they’re starting to soften and are browned, about 10 minutes, use a spatula to flip them and brown the other side. Transfer to an ovenproof serving dish and break the rings apart (if they haven’t started breaking apart during grilling).
Rub the blackened skin off the outside of the chiles, then pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse briefly to remove stray seeds and bits of skin. Slice into ¼-inch strips and stir into the onions. Taste the mixture and season it with salt, usually about ¼ teaspoon. Keep warm in the oven.
3. Grilling the meat. Remove the steak from the marinade and gently shake off the excess. Oil the steak well on both sides, and lay it over the hottest part of the grill. Grill, turning once, until richly browned and done to your liking, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side for medium-rare (which is the way I like skirt steak).
4. Serving the tacos. Cut the long piece of skirt steak into 3- to 4-inch sections, then cut each section into thin strips across the grain (that is, in line with the full length of the skirt steak). Mix with the chiles and onions, season with a little salt and set on the table, along with the lime wedges and hot tortillas, for your guests to make into soft tacos.
Working Ahead: Thin steaks like skirt, taste best with a shorter tour in the marinade-1 to 8 hours. Leave them longer and the marinade flavor overpowers and saps the rosy color of the meat. The poblano-and-onion rajas can be made several hours ahead and left at room temperature; rewarm before serving. The steak, of course, must be grilled when you’re ready to eat.
For a great Cinco de Mayo dessert, check out Rick’s recipe for flan.