Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mexican Fiesta

A few years ago I was dating a guy who only made one dish--mexican fiesta. I was all excited, expecting some carne asada and cotija, but it turned out to be bean burritos. With organic black beans. And jarred salsa.

Even that was a step up from the tacos we ate growing up. Hard taco shells, ground beef with taco spice mix, preshredded american cheese, iceberg lettuce and pace taco sauce.

They're not bad in their own right. Just a different food category.

These are a bit more fussy. A bit more mexican. I had to twist Cobe's arm to get him to stop by the mexican butcher shop.

"Can't we just go to Thriftway? It's already 6 oclock."

Pouting sad face. "But they have better meat at the mexican place."

He caved. A few minutes later we were in Carniceria el paisano. This place is amazing. Real mexican. Half of the cuts of meat I had never even heard of. Crazy bright red chorizo hanging from the ceiling. I picked out some skirt steak.

"You want it marinaded?" the guy behind the counter asked.

In a few minutes we had a big lump of meat layered with orange and onion, a block of cotija, some nopalito salsa, and some fresh tortillas. At home I decided to add some fresh ground ancho chili and cumin to the meat, as it seemed kind of bland. Then I threw it under the broiler for a few minutes on a side.

It came out great, but a bit salty. Next time I'll make my own spice mix as who knows what was in the mystery marinade. But mixed with the avocado, cotija and cilantro on the warm corn tortillas, it was pretty awesome.

We even pulled out all the stops and got the canned presliced olives for Chris. He probably would have preferred those crunchy tacos with spice mix ground beef, but he downed a few of these just fine. We cracked a few Negro Modelos and pretended it was August.

But I have to admit I pined a bit for the carne asada I made this summer on the grill. It was out of this world. I'll give you the recipe for that. Next time maybe I'll dodge the raindrops and fire that puppy up.

Carne Asada Tacos (from Bon Appetit July 2007)
20 servings

8 garlic cloves
2/3 cup ancho chili powder (grind 6-10 ancho chili's in a coffee grinder, it's amazing fresh. They're also called pasilla peppers.)
3T brown sugar
2T gr. black pepper
4 tsp. mexican oregano, dried
4 tsp ground cumin (grind fresh if you can)
4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
5# skirt steak, cut into 6" lengths

Put garlic through press. Mix with chile powder, brown sugar, pepper, oregano, cumin, salt and cinnamon. Spread over steaks. Let stand 1 hour. Grill to desired doneness (~4 minutes/side) then let rest 10 minutes. Cu into 1/2 inch wide strips.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, lime juice, avocado, chopped cilantro, chopped onion, cotija cheese, salsa and hotsauce.

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