Now on to the important topic, the big tent event, the main course...
the tacos. I present Grilled Flank Steak Tacos and Black Bean and Kale Tacos. Both recipes were well received by all... although I did not manage to convince our culinarily deprived friend Charity to try the kale! Ah well, she doesn't eat bacon either... so I'm definitely not taking it personally!
Grilled Flank Steak Tacos
adapted from Rick Bayless's FronteraKitchens.com
Makes about 20 tacos
4 medium white onions, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds (keep the rounds intact for easy grilling)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin, preferably freshly ground
1.75 pound flank steak*
6 medium fresh poblano chiles
Vegetable or olive oil for brushing or spritzing the onions and meat
A small bowlful of lime wedges for serving
20 fresh, warm corn tortillas
*My grocery store seems to have decided that you should buy slightly over 1 lb or slightly under 2 lbs of steak. Usually the packages are 1.05 lbs and 1.75 lbs. Go figure. Anyway, as the original recipe called for 1 lb of skirt steak, I adjusted quantities accordingly.
Marinating the meat: In a food processor or blender (or using an immersion blender carefully), combine 1/4 of the onion, the garlic, lime juice, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process to a smooth puree. Place the skirt steak in a non-aluminum baking dish. Using a spoon, smear the marinade over both sides of the skirt steak. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Make the grilled chile-and-onion rajas. (Recipe says the rajas can be made several hours ahead and left at room temperature... but why fire up the grill just for that?) Turn on the oven to its lowest setting. Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire and let it burn just until the coals are covered with gray ash. Either turn the burner(s) in the center of the grill to medium-low or bank the coals to the sides of the grill for indirect cooking. (Since it was a typical Northwest Memorial Day--cold and rainy--we had a hard time getting the grill up to temperature. We still had tacos, but cook times were way off. I have reported the cook times from the original recipe).
Lay the chiles on the hottest part of the grill, and cook, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and blackened uniformly all over, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to char the flesh, only the skin. Remove the chiles from the grill and cover with a kitchen towel.
While the chiles are roasting, brush or spray the remaining onion slices with oil, and lay the whole rounds of onions on the grill in a cooler spot than you chose for the chiles. When they’re starting to soften and are browned, about 10 minutes, use a spatula to flip them and brown the other side. Transfer to an ovenproof serving dish and break the rings apart (if they haven’t started breaking apart during grilling).
Rub the blackened skin off the outside of the chiles, then pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse briefly to remove stray seeds and bits of skin. Slice into 1/4-inch strips and stir into the onions. Taste the mixture and season it with salt, usually about 1/4 teaspoon. Keep warm in the oven.
Before you go back out to grill the steak, begin the warming process for your tortillas. My preferred method is to wrap them in a moist cloth napkin and throw them in the slow cooker. They will stay fresh for at least an hour and a half that way.
Grilling the meat. Remove the steak from the marinade and gently scrape off the excess. Oil the steak well on both sides, and lay it over the hottest part of the grill. Grill, turning once, until richly browned and done to your liking, about 4-6 minutes per side for medium-rare.
Serving the tacos. Cut the long piece of steak into 3- to 4-inch sections, then cut each section into thin strips across the grain (that is, in line with the full length of the skirt steak). Mix with the chiles and onions, season with a little salt and set on the table, along with the lime wedges and hot tortillas, for your guests to make into soft tacos.
Black Bean and Kale Tacos
adapted from seriouseats.com
Makes 2-3 servings
2 tablespoons lard*
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 head kale, washed, and tough stems removed, and roughly chopped
15 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces queso cotija/crumbly Mexican cheese or 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
2 to 3 pickled jalapenos, chopped**
8 to 10 corn tortillas
Salt and pepper
*I used vegetable oil, as sadly I could not find non-hydrogenated lard at our grocery store. How disappointing! I'd happily keep some in the fridge if I could find some that wasn't shelf stable, but this recipe was very satisfying even without the lard. If you have it though, USE IT.
**I totally forgot to use the jalapeños and hot sauce, and our avocado that was called for in the original recipe wasn't ready... so I ate the mixture plain with cotija. It was delicious and simple! I'm not sure I would have wanted the texture of avocado along with the cheese (maybe either/or), but next time I will definitely go for the hot stuff.
Melt the lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent and tender. Add the garlic and cumin, and cook for another minute.
Add the kale to the skillet. Toss the kale to coat in the fat, and then cover the skillet and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove the top, stir, and check a bit of kale to see if it is done. If it is still tough, add a tablespoon of water, recover, and cook for another 2 minutes (ours definitely needed it).
Dump in the beans, and cook until they are warm. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, warm the tortillas on another skillet set over medium-high heat, about 5-10 minutes a side.
Spoon some of the kale and bean mixture onto a tortilla. Top with a sprinkling of cheese, pickled jalapeños, and a dash of hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.