Well, Memorial Day is a week away, and the NHL is down to the Final Four (term stolen from the NCAA because basketball sucks). In a few minutes, the ECF kicks off with a @wonderful@ 1PM Eastern puck drop...hey at least the ONLY game being played today will be over in time for me to fire up the grill. In past years, it has been warm enough early enough (and the Wings have remained in the playoffs long enough) to enjoy evening barbecue dinners while listening to the games. Sadly, this is not the case this year; snow into April, the Wings early (face it, a 5 game series is woefully short) exit, and the horrendous weekend schedules have conspired it so that the grilling and hockey will not occur simultaneously. Oh well, I guess that's what the coolers full of beer are for?
Anyway, in previous game threads it seems that an idea was born to share grill/cookout/general food ideas. I already know I have a couple of new ideas that I want to try out posthaste from those threads. But I also thought I would kick things off with carne asada tacos (Tijuana style). Carne asada is a cool Mexican term with a dual meaning, it refers to both the style of preparing the meat, and also refers to the cookout party. Yes, carne asada actually can mean "cookout party" (and for those not familiar with Mexican culture, we are talking about a giant family and friend get together where pretty much anyone can bring anyone and strangers even show up). So you eat carne asada tacos at a carne asada. Anyway, here's how to make it, Tijuana style. Please note, I've been making these for so many years that I just know how they should taste. In other words I don't know exact measurements but hopefully I provide enough information to get you started.
For the meat/marinade:
Enough skirt steak (the really thin stuff) to feed an army (or your party guests)
Red Pepper (chili) Powder (don't use the stuff that has salt in it, i'm talking the pure stuff here).
The way I like to marinate sprinkle cumin, onion powder, garlic powder lightly over both sides of the steaks, then heavily cover both sides with chili powder. place the meat in a flat (like a 13x9) pan with high sides (lasagna pans and roasters work great). then juice limes over the meat. Let sit for a couple hours in the fridge, then juice some more lime over the meat (a good coating). After a couple more hours in the fridge, cover the meat with orange juice and sprinkle a heavy 4-5 tablespoons of chili powder and let marinate overnight. Note, you may want to create the marinade without the meat so you can get a gist of how hot it will be and how earthy it will be with the cumin. I like mine with a just a little zing and let the guacamole provide the heat, so I put more cumin in my marinade to get the earthy flavor in the meat. You may even want to experiment with the marinade. Just remember, the orange and lime juice is tenderizing the meat as well, so you need to do this step at least overnight.
For the Guacamole:
Avocados (duh!) - I really like guacamole so i generally get about 1 per every 2 people)
Jalapenos - minced (take the seeds out, all you want is the outer wall...unless you like spicy guacamole).
Limes - about 1 for every 2-3 avocados
Minced garlic (optional, I like the added zing)
Mexican Crema (sour cream works too)
This is one of those "you will be tasting a lot because you're using fresh items that vary wildly in flavor" deals. I mean taste as you go. You can always fix it by adding more of an item if you find the flavors off!
Mash (with a fork, not a mixer) the avocados in a bowl, and add enough crema to make a nice thick smooth texture (by the end, it should have a creamy cake mix consistency). Add lime juice (don't skimp on the lime juice - this is an important step for both flavor and to prevent your guacamole from browning!) and mix. Add salt to taste. You will find there is a fine line between not enough and too much salt, so be careful. But the salt really brings out the avocado flavor. I like kosher salt for this. Mix in jalapenos to desired heat, and enough onions so a couple minced pieces get in every spoonful. Chop a good handful of cilantro finely and mix in. Taste your final product, alone or as a dip for chips (but don't eat it all because you will need it for the tacos)!
Cooking the meat:
Fire up your grill (I use charcoal but I guess you can use gas). Get it up to temperature, I like mine at least 450 at the grate. There is a reason for this: remember how you are using skirt steak (really thin stuff)? Well, we are going to flash grill it. Yup you are going to keep the meat on the grill for 30-45 seconds per side. That's it. You'll overcook it otherwise. Once you get it off the grill, you are going to violate every meat preparing rule about cutting, because you are going to slice it RIGHT AWAY. (oh, forgot to mention have a bowl ready!). Cut it into 1 inch by half inch pieces (or whatever size, but that's a good one). Don't let the juices from cutting get away, put both the meat and the juices in the bowl...we are post cook marinating the meat. Also, now is a good time to sprinkle a little more cumin and lime juices over the meat in the bowl and toss.
Lay out some taco size tortillas (I prefer flour). Put a spoonful of meat, spoonful of guacamole, some pico de gallo (salsa fresca, the chopped tomato and onion stuff), a drizzle of some salsa verde or salsa casera (salsa verde is the green sauce, salsa casera is the red sauce), and sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top. Caution: provide napkins, these can be a bit messy!
Yes, it is a lot of prep work. However, I enjoy making this because they remind me of home. In addition, a good part is that you can lay out all the fixings while the only work you really have to do while your guests are around is to throw meat on the grill for a couple minutes as the bowl is emptied; your guests do all the other work to prepare their tacos how they want them. Oh and PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU, do not spoil these with cheese or lettuce or any other Taco Bell style condiments. These are tacos!