When I was growing up in San Diego, skirt steak was as easy to find in the meat section of a grocery store as hamburger. This is likely true because, for many San Diegans, skirt steak was and is the cut of choice when it comes to making steak tacos or burritos.
Although my mom was a fine cook who was completely capable of making steak tacos at home, she usually preferred to let Rudy, the owner of our favorite taco shop, do the cooking honors. Like most good taco shops, Rudy’s Tacos would marinate the long, flat piece of meat in a heady mixture of lime juice, garlic, oil and salt before tossing it onto a searing hot griddle.
The cooking process didn’t take long, just enough time to char the outside properly, while leaving the inside tender and juicy. Once cooked, the skirt steak was moved over to a large, stump-like cutting board where it was thinly sliced before being placed on a warm corn tortilla with a wedge of avocado and a couple of slices of white onion. Then the tacos were nestled in a piece of paper with a couple of fresh lime wedges and handed over to the hungry customer. The whole thing could be eaten in a few heavenly bites, which is why only the foolish ordered just one.
While skirt steak wasn’t widely available when I first moved to Minneapolis more than 10 years ago, it can now be found in most local grocery stores. It’s often mistaken for flank steak, which isn’t nearly as interesting in flavor or texture. The long, thin, strongly grained skirt steak is prized for its intensely rich, beefy flavor. Because it has a strong grain running all the way along it, it’s critical that you slice the steak across the grain to ensure a tender bite.
For today’s recipe, I’m taking my cues from Rudy and bathing my skirt steak in a powerful citrus-garlic marinade. Unlike Rudy, I add a couple of canned chipotle chiles to the mix. Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapeños. They often come in cans, rehydrated in a vinegary adobo sauce. They are a staple in my pantry, and if you like your food hot and smoky, they should be in your pantry, too.
Once the beef has marinated, it’s quickly sautéed in a hot skillet. The natural sugar in the citrus juices helps the outside form a dark crust quickly enough to leave a rosy pink on the inside. Like all steak, once it’s cooked, it benefits greatly from a chance to rest before cutting.
The thinly sliced meat is tucked inside a warm corn tortilla. Yes, you can warm your tortillas in the microwave or in the oven, but my favorite way is directly over a gas burner on the stove. Just hold the tortilla, with a pair of tongs, over the flame for a few seconds on each side. The tortilla will brown in spots along the edges, giving it extra flavor and a slightly chewier texture.
Quick pickled red onions are scattered over the top, adding a pleasant, vinegary foil to the richness of the meat.
All it needs now is a slice of creamy avocado, a few cilantro leaves, a sprinkling of crumbled Cotija (a firm, salty Mexican cheese) and a lime wedge. The result is a taco that would make even Rudy happy.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.