When I can’t think of what to cook, my fallback position is tacos. That’s good, because today’s blog post feels like a fallback position. I just got back from vacation, and I’m hurrying to get a post finished. The pictures and recipe are from a month ago, sitting in my “to finish” pile, but this headnote is a rush job.
Skirt steak makes great tacos, as long as you slice it thin, on the bias, and against the grain. (Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense - I’ve got pictures below.)
Technically, these are fajitas - fajita means skirt steak in Spanish - but I’m so used to the Tex-Mex definition including grilled green and bell peppers that I can’t bring myself to call them that.
Tacos are best with fresh corn tortillas, from a local tortilleria or homemade. On a busy weeknights I cheat, and use store bought flour tortillas, wrapped in foil and warmed up on the grill.
Don’t buy corn tortillas at your grocery store unless there is a lot of turnover. Corn tortillas don’t age well, and get mealy if they’re not used the day they’re made.
Recipe: Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos with Jalapenos and Onions
Cooking time: 12 minutes
- Grill (I use a Weber Summit. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- Grilling skewer (for the onions)
- 2 (¾ pound) skirt steaks
- 6 jalapeno peppers (larger is better)
- 1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch rings
- 20 flour tortillas, wrapped in heavy duty aluminum foil
Marinade (really a brinerade)
- ¼ cup pineapple juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder (or a chili powder blend)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
1. Marinate (brinerate) the steaks
Put the steaks in a gallon zip-top bag. In a small bowl, stir the marinade ingredients until the salt dissolves, then pour over the steaks. Seal the bag most of the way closed, squeeze as much air out as possible, then finish sealing the bag. Squish the marinade around through the plastic to make sure it coats the beef. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Turn the bag occasionally to redistribute the marinade.
2. Prepare the grill
Set the grill up for cooking with direct medium heat. I preheat my Weber Summit with all the burners on high for 15 minutes, brush the grill grate clean, then turn the burners down to medium.
3. Skewer the onions
After the onions are cut into rings, run a skewer through the middle of the onions to hold them together on the grill.
4. Cook the steaks, peppers, and onions
Grill the steaks, peppers, onions, and foil wrapped package of tortillas over direct medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, flipping every three minutes, and rotating the steaks 90 degrees halfway through cooking to give them a diamond pattern of grill marks.
Remove the steaks from the marinade, letting the excess drip off, and put the steaks on the grill over direct medium heat. Put the peppers, onions, and foil wrapped tortillas on the grill over direct medium heat. Grill with the lid closed as much as possible.
Cook until the steaks have a browned sear marks on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then flip the steaks, the foil pack of tortillas, the onions, and rotate the jalapenos a quarter turn.
Cook the steaks on the second side until they have browned sear marks, another 3 minutes. Flip the steaks, rotating them 90 degrees, to start a diamond pattern; flip the pack of tortillas, the onions, and rotate the jalapenos another quarter turn.
Cook the steaks until they have a browned diamond pattern on the bottom, another three minutes. If you like your skirt steak rare, it should be finished, with an internal temperature of 115°F to 120°F - remove it from the grill. Otherwise, flip the steaks one last time, flip the tortillas, the onions, and turn the jalapenos to their last non-blackened side.
Cook the steaks for another minute (for medium-rare), to 3 minutes (for medium). Remove the steaks and jalapenos to a platter, and the tortillas to a separate plate.
5. Prep for serving
Unwrap the tortillas from the foil, and re-wrap them in a clean kitchen towel. Let everything rest for ten minutes, or until the jalapenos are cool enough to handle. Over the sink, pull the stem and seeds out of the jalapenos, then peel away the blackened skin. (It’s OK if some of the skin sticks; blackened bits of skin add character.) Chop the peeled jalapenos into thin strips.
Cut the skirt steaks into thin strips against the grain. Unfortunately, on skirt steaks, the grain runs across the width of the steak, so you can’t just start slicing on the end. I cut the steak crosswise into 3 or 4 pieces, turn the pieces 90 degrees, and slice them into thin strips. Serve, letting your diners make their own tacos.
- Skirt steak can be hard to find in my neck of the woods - flank steak is much more common in the grocery store. Both work for tacos. If you can’t find skirt steaks, here is my recipe for flank steak fajitas.
- Since the grill is already lit, I warm the tortillas on it - about 30 seconds a side, or until they start to puff up like balloons.
- Accompaniments: Shredded cabbage or lettuce, shredded or crumbled cheese, and salsa, of course.
- Fire roasting the jalapenos will cut their heat...but not all the way. Expect them to still have heat.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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