When I say tacos, do you think crunchy yellow shells, shredded lettuce, and cheddar cheese? Not me.
Honestly, I was never a big fan of tacos as a kid because that was the stuff I grew up on–The #7 Combo Tex-Mex style tacos, or home-prepared out-of-the-box shells with ground beef cooked in “taco seasoning” (whatever that stuff is).
Then I went to my first taqueria and had Mexican-style tacos. Now I am a changed man.
We are a soft taco household now. If we want crunchy tortillas, we’ll make tostadas. But if it’s tacos, it’s gotta be soft. And corn. I am super-simple in my tastes too–just cilantro, onion, a squeeze of lime, and a squirt of salsa picante. Josh dresses things up a bit more with a little queso fresco, crema, and maybe even some diced tomato.
Tacos are in a fairly heavy rotation in our household because it’s (yet another) great way to use up leftovers. More often than not I’m doing carne asada, but I have also improvised tacos al pastor with leftover pork chops.
- 2 fresh limes, cut in 6 slices each
1 small onion, diced
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
1/2 cup Mexican crema
1 bottle (OK, maybe not the whole bottle) salsa picante–or, if you prefer, salsa verde
Place each of the fixings into its own bowl or container and bring it to the table. Now you’re ready to get started on the tortillas and the meat.
- 3/4 lb leftover steak, cut into thin, bite-size morsels
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon salsa picante
1 lime, cut in half
11-16 white corn torillas (see note below)
Get a cast iron pan good and hot. I have a little flapjack griddle that I inherited from my wife’s grandmother that’s perfect for this. When your iron is hot, start warming the tortillas one at a time. You want to heat each side for a couple of minutes, but not much longer (you don’t want any browning). Transfer the tortilla to a tea towel, and then fold the towel around it. Keep warming your tortillas one at a time as you work on your meat, stacking them and wrapping them inside the tea towel.
Now about the meat: just like what I’ve said about meatballs–there’s a certain charm and pleasure to be had in foods of poverty and scarcity. You probably could find a better use for leftover filet mignon. For us, it’s usually a flatiron or a skirt steak. And 3/4 of a lb is plenty for this family. A good taco, in my reckoning, is a well-balanced taco.
In a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the chopped steak, salsa picante, and adobo seasoning. cook for several minutes until most of your liquid has reduced. Now squeeze the lime juice over the meat, mix, and cook for another minute or two. Remove the meat to a serving dish and bring it to the table.
Now construct your tacos as you see fit. NOTE: I usually prepare 16 torillas, but that doesn’t yield 16 tacos. My preference is to double up on the tortillas–two per taco. As seems to be the case with most things in the house, we’re about equally divided on the single vs. double tortilla controversy.
In our household, 16 tortillas will end up making 11 tacos, which is enough for this family of five.