There’s been talk of making tacos the state food for Texas. If this were to be on the next voting ballot, regardless of all political parties, I would vote FOR this. Tacos are one of the many foods of the gods. There’s no denying that food — meat, veggies, cheese (when applicable) — tucked into a heated tortilla is one of the signs that heaven could be on earth when we silly humans allow it to be. I’ve already posted about crunchy tacos with hamburger, and recently, it’s come to my attention that more people I know are falling in food lust with what’s generally called “street tacos.”
What are street tacos?
Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant’s website has a great definition:
“You may have gotten such fare from a taco street cart and been surprised about the differences from a traditional American burrito. Usually coming in groups of two or three crowded onto a plate, these soft corn tacos fit comfortably in a single hand. Street tacos are almost universally open faced, showing off their various contents, and are folded and consumed in a handful of bites. Many street tacos come with an extra soft taco stacked under the first, allowing some of the contents to be shifted to more manageable and cleaner bites.”
Places such as Taco Cabana offers street tacos called that, though at most Jalisco style restaurants, which are more prominent around Texas, and I’m sure around more states than here, they’re called carne asada tacos. At one restaurant here in Taylor, the tacos are offered with either lettuce, tomato, and cheese, which are the popular choices, or the way I prefer them, with cilantro and diced (raw) onion, served with lime wedges to squeeze over the meat. Nom nom.
A professor of mine asked about them on Facebook because he’d had them at Taco Cabana, and for a fast food restaurant, they’re pretty damned good. I told him about the carne asada tacos, and then I gave him the basic run-down of how to make them at home.
Now I’ll share it with the rest of you because if you can’t get to a good restaurant for them, there’s no reason you can’t make them at home.
MIS EN PLACE
2-3 lbs of quality steak, cut up into dime-sized pieces, all fat removed
2 limes, zested, juice squeezed into a medium-sized bowl
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced (set into the bowl with the lime juice/zest)
cilantro, chopped up into the bowl
1 tbsp vegetable oil
soft corn tortillas, however many needed per person
1/4 of an onion, diced small — set aside to top tacos at the end
cilantro — whole leaves set aside to top at the end
2 limes, cut into wedges to top at the end
salt to taste
Optional: 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, chopped fine and put in with the garlic, lime juice/zest
1. As always, get your mis on place prepared before you begin cooking. Zest your limes into the bowl, juice them, add in your minced garlic, and chopped cilantro. Dice your onions and set them aside for later along with extra cilantro leaves and the lime wedges that are separate from what you’ve zested and juiced for the marinade.
When you zest your limes, you can use either the small side of the cheese grater to do the job, but recently, I bought a microplane for zesting citrus and grating things like nutmeg or parmesan cheese over pasta. This tool is brilliant! You hardly need any push to get the job done, and I haven’t had any problems with accidentally grating my knuckles, which is a big owie. This also ensures that all you’re getting from your citrus is the zest and none of the pithy white bits that are bitter and ruin your flavors.
You’ll probably want more lime juice than what the two zested limes will yield. I keep bottled lime juice around to add to fresh lime juice so that the meat, after it’s cut, will have enough moisture to it. You don’t want too much or you won’t get a nice sear.
2. After you’ve prepped your marinade ingredients, take your steak and trim away all the fat then cut it into dime-sized pieces.
Place the meat into the bowl and thoroughly coat with the marinade. Add your salt for taste here and once again, mix around with the other ingredients.
3. Pour the vegetable oil into your pan and heat. Add in the meat and all the marinade and stir. This part won’t take very long at all because you don’t want to overcook the meat. No more than 2-4 minutes tops should be required for the meat to be done and perfectly tender. Taste a bite to make sure the flavor is what you want it to be. Add salt if necessary.
4. While you’re doing this, you’ll want to cook your tortillas. Now, we don’t double them up at home the way they do at restaurants where two makes it easier to hold (or that you can topple extra meat into the second one for more tacos). You can either cook your tortillas one at a time in a skillet with oil or if you have a griddle, spray with Pam and heat up the stove underneath. This makes it easier to cook 3-4 tortillas at once. You want them soft, so keep them in a tortilla warmer as you take them off the griddle.
5. The other thing you want to consider is whether or not you want sides with your tacos. Rice, Spanish rice, refried beans, charro beans. Tonight when I made the tacos, we chose to have charro beans, which was essentially a can of pinto beans to which I added a diced tomato, minced garlic, and a tablespoon and a half of the pinto bean mix of the Frank Felton Seasoning (Norma’s Kitchen Blends), made and sold at Thorndale Meat Market, where we buy all our beef and pork. You don’t even have to add salt with this seasoning! Start your beans when you begin your mis en place (you’ll need to because you’re chopping everything else, so it’s good to do your tomatoes and extra garlic then). Cook on high until the liquid in the beans starts to boil then cover and set on low heat until the rest of the food is finished cooking.
6. A photo of lime wedges just because they’re pretty!
7. At this point, everything should be complete. Assemble your tacos, plate up your beans (or whatever side you choose, if you choose one or more) and then end until you’ve got that wonderful flavor embedded into your tastebuds! Of course, if you’re not a cilantro or onion fan, you can choose other toppings for your tacos. Whatever your choice, they’re tacos, and they’re going to be life changing.