On top of roasted flank steak, all covered with cheese…August 11, 2006
I didn’t think it was possible that my husband would try to upstage taco night. But he went and did it. Sure, there’s no puffy, fluffy, crunchy and delicious homemade taco shell. But look at the messy layering of delicious food: We’ve got steak. We’ve got homemade guacamole. We’ve got roasted red bell pepper. And of course we have two, yes two, different kinds of cheese. It’s beef fajitas, people. It was damn good.
This is the kind of work I’m willing to do with my food. (Read: Pile it on.) Fussy presentation is pointless when you’re going to roll it up and gnaw on it, right? And while the food in the pic above may look abundant, trust me, it’s possible to stuff way more beef into a flour tortilla shell. I did it that very night. Sure, some dribbles out of the bottom, but that’s why God made forks.
Here’s my husband’s recipe. If you go with far fewer fixin’s it would be OK… because truly, the flank steak was the best part. (Well, and the cheese.)
Marinated Flank Steak Fajitas:
This is a fun recipe. It’s not hard. It’s not complicated. There’s not much technical whizbang. (It involves grilling, the essence of simple.) It’s a nice way to do something a bit more than the usual, but nothing so fancy that you’ll worry it’s going to take you forever.
A little backgrounder….
First, the cut of meat I use is flank steak. What is it? It’s a nice long, thin piece of meat, most often used for London broil. You could also use skirt steak — and it make actually be a better cut because it’s thinner and is more traditional for fajitas (Psst… it’s cheaper, too, when you can get it).
What both of these cuts have in common is that they are looooong (Psssssst… Don’t fear the skirt. And like I said, it’s cheaper). I mean, look at that cow. It’s huge. Hence, the long steaks. These cuts are from the sides of the animal, and both are good for quick cooking and thin slicing. Because there is so much surface area, they’re also great for marinating (Pssssst… That’s why skirt steak is better, because it’s great to hanging on to marinade…. So, er, why’d I use flank steak? I couldn’t find a nice skirt steak when I went to the grocery).
Finally, these types of meat take to quick cooking — like the grill — quicker than… well, Will Ferrell takes to comedy in his underwear. (That analogy comes from seeing too many movie trailers of Will Ferrell running around in his underwear screaming, “Help Me Tom Cruise!! Use your witchcraft to put the fire out!”) So these long, lean pieces of meat are great for quick cooking for the short-of-time, busy types.
Second, and the key to me, is fresh salsa. This is true of all my southwestern/Latin dishes. It really becomes the standard flavor. It’s like when fancy wine experts or gourmet chefs talk about repeating and accentuating flavors. This is what they’re talking about. For example, you’ll see a nice wine and you’ll use it both in the sauce and then serve it with the meal. The idea is to be versatile and intensify the flavor of the ingredient. You know, really showcase it Iron Chef style (but I’m not doing trout ice cream any time soon).
So, think of this as a nice introduction to flavor-building with an ingredient. You can use the salsa three ways here: in your guacamole, as an additional condiment on the fajita or with chips, and I add some of it to the rice when I make a batch to serve with the fajitas as a side.
The brass taxes…
1 skirt or flank steak (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
Tortillas (store-bought is great! We like flour.)
Chile Marinade (recipe follows)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp honey
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
1. Add chile marinade ingredients to a bowl. Whisk until fully integrated.
2. Take a one gallon, zip-top storage bag and place the entire flank steak and marinade inside. Squeeze all the air out, and put in a bowl or other dish (so if you missed a spot when closing it, or there’s a hole, you don’t end up wiping up a meaty fluid from your fridge).
3. Refrigerate for about 2 hours. You can leave it in longer, like before you go to work in the AM. But it doesn’t need a lot of time because of the surface area on the meat — it takes on the flavor right quick.
1. Heat your on medium high.
2. Place the steak across the grill. Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes per side, depending on thickness. (Flank might require closer to six, skirt is a bit thinner, so it might be closer to four.) You’re looking for medium doneness.
3. Take the steak off the grill and let the meat rest. Don’t poke it, don’t cut it, just let it be for about 5-10 minutes. Right now, the meat is full of energy and the yummy fluids inside are slowly mellowing out. If you cut too soon, you’ll lose them all over your cutting board.
4. After it’s rested, slice the meat thinly. You want to cut the meat so its fibers are short and easy to pull apart. How? Look at the grain and see the striations: Short fibers good; long fibers, chewy. (Your teeth will yank chewy meat right out of the tortilla — embarrassing if you’re on a date. So try to cut them thin and tender.)
5. Pile steak high with your favorite fixin’s on a tortilla. Consume. I prefer salsa, guacamole, queso fresco, and some grilled peppers.
Fresh Salsa (recipe follows):
1/2 an onion, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro, rough chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced up (or 1 large tomato, rough chopped)
1 jalapeno, diced very fine
1 clove garlic, diced fine
Combine these ingredients. Congrats! You’ve made salsa. (Not hot enough? You can add a splash of Tabasco to liven it.)
Guacamole (recipe follows):
1 avocado, sliced for easy smashing (see note)
1/2 cup fresh salsa
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup sour cream
Combine your sour cream and sliced avocado in a bowl. Using a fork, mash them together until you have integrated the two nicely. Stir in the salsa and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste.
Note: Picking an avocado can be tough. The easiest way is to squeeze them. Go ahead… go all Charmin on them. The ones that are soft and give to your pressure will serve you well. For more advice, check out the California Avocado Growers Association’s take on the matter.