If winter is bringing you down, whip up this easy weeknight meal that celebrates the flavors of Mexico. I made it on the Charlotte Today show this morning and had everyone smiling after their first bite (even musician Teddy Geiger who dropped in for a quick taste). Tangy tomatillos and bright limes make this dish jump with flavor and freshness meaning that even the dreariest winter day is sure to look a little sunnier with a plate of these in front of you.
Skirt steak (you can also use flank stank for this recipe) is an economical cut of beef. It’s also tough, because it comes from the part of the cow that gets a lot of exercise so the muscle is very developed. It’s a far cry from the tenderloin, but this shouldn’t dissuade you from buying it as I think this cut has more flavor and personality than its more tender and pricier counterparts. You just need to remember one thing when it comes to these tougher cuts of meat: go against the grain.
What’s the grain? The grain refers to the muscle fibers that make up a piece of meat. The parts of a cow that don’t get a lot of exercise (the tenderloin for example) have fibers that are harder to discern and that are naturally more tender. In the case of skirt steak, which comes from an area between the chest and abdomen, it gets a lot of use and thus has very obvious fibers that make for a tough and chewy bite if cut the wrong way.
Ever taken a bite of a fajita and found yourself having to go into T-Rex mode to rip through that tiny piece of meat. The meat gets pulled out of the tortilla and hangs out of your mouth as you gnash and gnaw to the horror of your dinner companions. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Your fault? Not at all. Well, not your fault unless you’re the one that cut the meat with the grain.
See the picture above. At the end of the meat, you can see the grain going crosswise from left to right. You’d probably be tempted to start slicing the meat from that end. After all, it’s just the right size and makes more sense then cutting it lengthwise into long strips. But cutting it that way turns your guests into animals at the dinner table.
For the most tender slices, I cut the large piece of skirt steak into smaller sections and then cut each of these sections against the grain to give tender and dainty bites. Bites that you wouldn’t be afraid to serve, if given the opportunity, to Mrs. Manners or even the Dowager Countess. Easy right? And in this case going against the grain doesn’t even require piercings or tattoos.
While the tomatillo sauce may sound intimidating, it couldn’t be easier. Most grocery stores sell fresh tomatillos. Look for tomatillos that are firm to the touch and have husks that are starting to pull away from the fruit. Always remove the husk before cooking the tomatillo and don’t be alarmed if the fruit itself feels a little sticky. That sap-like substance is normal and just means it is a little under-ripe.
I recommend serving these with a steaming bowl of beans. My favorite beans recipe is this one for black beans with orange and chipotle. The smokiness of the chipotle and bacon provide the perfect contrast to the lime-infused skirt steak. Buen provecho!
Lime & Jalapeno-marinated Skirt Steak with Tomatillo Sauce – Printer Friendly Recipe
For the meat:
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 large jalapeño, stemmed and sliced into rings
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ¼ lbs skirt or flank steak, trimmed
Vegetable oil, for brushing grill pan
For the sauce:
4 medium tomatillos
¼ cup chopped white onion
Salt, to taste
Serve with: flour tortillas
In a large bowl, stir together the lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, jalapeño slices, salt and pepper. Place the skirt steak in a casserole dish or re-sealable bag and cover with the lime marinade. Marinate for at least 20 minutes.
In a small saucepan, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the tomatillos and boil for 15 minutes or until soft. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatillos to a food processor or blender. Add the onion and purée the mixture until smooth. Season to taste with the salt and set aside.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Remove the steak from its marinade and discard the marinade. Add the steak, presentation side down, to the grill and grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove the meat from the grill and set it on a cutting board. Cover with foil and let rest for ten minutes. When ready to serve, slice the meat against the grain as thinly as possible. Serve with flour tortillas and the tomatillo sauce.