It was probably during my fifth or sixth month in my first job at a Mexican restaurant that a cook named Frankie beckoned me to the back of the kitchen. This was near closing time, and I was at the helm of the expeditor’s station. I didn’t know what Frankie — a big-shouldered guy with haphazard facial hair and a childlike chuckle — had up his sauce-spattered sleeve; but I was suspicious of the mischievous glint in my amigo’s eye.
“Frankie” was certainly not his real name, but it didn’t matter; like most of the cooks at this establishment (and countless others), “Frankie” was more than a fake-named cook, he was a friend. On a platter rested three steak tacos, topped with a mix of cilantro, onion and cradled in warm corn tortillas. “This is what they should be serving,” said Frankie, vaguely gesturing at the belly of the kitchen. He squeezed a bit of fresh lime on one of the tacos. “These are real tacos Mexicanos.”
I gained a great respect for Mexican cuisine—and I’m not talking about the ersatz variety suited to the palates of us gringos. In the months to come, the cooks (as part of their before- and after-hour rituals) shared with me traditional dishes like chilaquiles and menudo. So don’t thank me for this recipe. Thank “Frankie.”
Carne asada tacos
Yields six tacos
2 pounds flank or skirt steak, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh
½ red onion, minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Zest from 1
6 white or yellow corn tortillas
As needed, sliced
1. Dice steak into small, bite-sized cubes and place in non-reactive bowl. Add in oil and lime juice, coating steak thoroughly; allow meat to marinate in refrigerator for at least four hours.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine onion, cilantro, and lime zest along with a small pinch of kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Set aside.
3. Place a wide-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat; season steak with a small amount of salt and pepper before adding to hot pan. Sear meat thoroughly on all sides before removing from heat and allowing to rest (for about 7-8 minutes). Place a separate sauté pan over medium heat and lightly toast corn tortillas on both sides. Fill the tortillas with seared steak, top with cilantro along with a generous amount of fresh lime juice.
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