My family is Midwestern, there is no doubt about that. We’re pretty friendly, play cornhole, love a good State Fair, we lack a certain amount of pretense and we know that soda is actually called “Pop.”
So here we are a Midwestern family of four living in the Front Range and it is showing up in our food. To wit, Mexican food. If you don’t already know, Mexican food is pretty much the state cuisine of Colorado. You can find “so called” Mexican food in every State now I am sure, but its prolific here in the birthplace of Chipotle (which some will argue is not really Mexican food at all but I don’t think they care as they run laughing to the bank with their bags of money–have you seen the lines there?) I have always enjoyed a taco (who doesn’t?) and Taco Night has long been in my repertoire of family dinners—quick, easy to make, a real crowd pleaser, not expensive and very versatile from an ingredients standpoint. But my tacos in Ohio went something like this: 1 lb. ground beef–brown in skillet, add packet of Taco Seasoning and 3/4 cup water. Simmer for a few minutes and spoon beef into shell and top with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream. Done. Everyone was happy. For a while. But then….we moved to Colorado and I started going to Mexico City on business trips. Now I am a taco snob and proud of it. Maybe not a snob, more of a Taco Elitist.
After sampling some delicious Mexican food in and around Denver (Lola–I love you, you too Tamale Truck guy in the parking lot, and my friend Marguerite who makes the best enchiladas ever) and eating street tacos for lunch in Mexico City I have taken Taco Night in my house to another level. Tonight’s taco menu includes Carne Asada tacos with fresh guacamole. Start with 2 lbs top sirloin marinated in Mojo Sauce ( which is actually cuban in origin but let’s not be picky here) and grilled to medium rare.
Mojo sauce for marinade: Mash together 4 cloves of garlic with a minced jalapeno and some fresh cilantro, salt and pepper to make a paste. Then add the juice of 2 limes, the juice of an orange, 2 T white vinegar and 1/2 cup olive oil. Pour over steak in a shallow dish and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours but not longer or the meat will start to break down. Credit on this recipe must go to Tyler Florence. Thanks Tyler!
Grill the sirloin 7-10 minutes each side until med-rare and remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing the steak across the grain on the diagonal. Meanwhile, warm each soft tortilla in a small dry skillet until toasted and pliable. Fill each tortilla with steak and toppings as desired and do not forget to include a small bowl of fresh cut limes. Mexicans use limes the way we use ketchup–you will receive a small dish of fresh limes in just about every restaurant you visit in Mexico. The last time I was there I swear the waiter brought me a dish of limes to go with my poached eggs and toast at breakfast!
Fresh Guacamole: Scoop out 3 ripe avocados into a bowl. Squeeze fresh lime juice over the pulp and mash with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Add finely chopped red onion (a little goes a long way so I use less than 1/2 of an onion), several cloves of finely chopped garlic, cilantro, more fresh lime juice, 1/2 t. of cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately for best flavor.
No one is ever going to mistake me for Mexican–the fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes likely give me away before I even open my mouth to speak in my flat, midwestern twang. But I know my way around a taco now and the days of buying little yellow packets of seasoning mix are banished forever. Ole!