My travels have taken me to the warm climates of Lisbon, Madrid and Barcelona. Besides the sites, the shopping, the restaurants, the art and the local taverns, a favorite activity of mine is to wander the streets in search of fresh markets. There I can find new varieties of fresh fruits and veggies, spices, meats and cheese. Often you can find street foods prepared by vendors. My favorites were the Tortilla Espanola (a combination of scalloped potatoes and a frittata), Patatas Bravas, (a variation on French fried potatoes with a spicy sauce over the top) and Churros (a Spanish fried dough doused in sugar and dipped in chocolate). I loved these so much, I created the home cook’s version of these recipes in my new book, Canvas & Cuisine.
In seeking out recipes for Cinco de Mayo, I turned my attention to the street foods of Mexico. They are similar. They have tortas and churros, but there are also different offerings like quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos. I thought I might just try to elevate my Latin American repertoire, beyond what I’ve tasted in Spain. In doing so I looked at the famous street food that Mexico offers… tacos!
Here is an elevated version of a taco that features two sauces, one with dried ancho chilis as a base, and one with an avocado cream. I used marinated skirt steak for the meat, Monterey Jack for the cheese, and thin red onion slices and cilantro for the garnish. The end result was delish and reminded me of the fresh markets featured in my new book.
Oh to travel those streets, portrayed as paintings again…
I could smell the sidewalks with hot sizzling food, cooked right in front of me – when simple ingredients come together over sizzling griddles heated over open flames. It’s the sauces that make the dish. The ones in this steak taco recipe are made from dried chilis and fresh vegetables, harvested from the backyards of local farmers. Chili seasoned meat drizzled with spicy red and creamy green sauce, garnished with fresh herbs make this street food taco an elevated Cinco de Mayo treat. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
with Tomatillo-Ancho Chili Sauce and Avocado Cream
45 minute cuisine (plus marinating)
1 (12 to 16-ounce) skirt steak
2 tablespoons chili powder
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 6 small (6-inch) corn tortillas
4 to 6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ red onion peeled and thinly sliced
Chopped fresh cilantro
For Chili Sauce:
3 dried ancho chilis, seeded and stems removed
5 medium tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Juice of ½ lime, about 2 tablespoons
For Avocado Cream:
2 medium avocados, pitted and peeled
Juice of 2 limes, about ¼ cup
1/3 cup half and half
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Place the skirt steak into a large baking dish. Season both sides with chili powder and drizzle with lime juice. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and as much as overnight.
Place the chilis in a skillet over medium heat. Turn often and toast until the skin begins to puff (but not char), about 2 to 3 minutes. Place the toasted chilis, tomatillos and garlic cloves in a pot. Cover the veggies with water (about 1 ½ cup). Cover the pot and simmer until the tomatillos are soft and pale green, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Transfer the veggies to a blender or food processor. Add the tomatoes and lime juice. Add about 1 cup of the cooking liquid from the pot. Pulse to combine. Season with salt. You can add more cooking liquid to reach the consistency of a drizzling sauce.
Place the avocados into a blender or bowl of a food processor. Add the lime juice, half and half and cilantro. Season with salt. Pulse to combine. Add enough water to reach a thin, drizzling consistency.
Remove the skirt steak from the fridge and cut into very small cubes (about ¼ -inch squares). Season with salt. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil on a griddle in large sauté pan over medium heat. Place the steak into the hot oil and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Add additional oil to the pan to coat the bottom.
Lay 4 to 6 (depending on the size of your griddle) tortillas into the hot oil. Once the bottom begins to brown and the tortilla begins to puff, turn and flip over. (This happens quickly.) Top the tortilla with some of the cheese. Top the cheese with seasoned steak. Cook until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Drizzle the tacos with chili sauce and then with avocado cream. Garnish with thin slices of red onion and fresh cilantro. Serve with a fork as an open faced taco or fold over and eat with your hands!