Having grown up in an California, Mexican food is less exotic and more comfort for me. Since moving to NYC, I’ve been faced with a serious dearth of descent taco’s and come the 5th of May, I found myself missing my native state almost as much I missed having a BBQ on my porch.
I’m not even going to attempt to claim authenticity here, but this recipe is geared for speed (I didn’t start marinating till 2 hours before I wanted to eat), and the tastes that I remember. The carne asada is tender and comes out of the broiler lightly charred almost as if it came off a BBQ and is the perfect balance of spice, tang and salt.
The slightly tangy nopales with a texture somewhere between asparagus and okra plays nicely with the garlicky ramps, and while they’re delicious on their own, they’re a wonderful complement to the meat. If ramps aren’t in season (which is most of the year), you can substitute garlic chives, or a combination of leeks and garlic, but it just won’t be the same.
1 lb. hanger steak
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 serrano chilli peppers minced
2 cloves garlic minced
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 ripe kiwi mashed
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (or 1/2 Tbsp table salt)
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of ground coriander seed
Pinch of ground cumin seed
Fresh ground pepper
Nopales con Ramps
3 young prickly pears (nopales)
1/4 lbs. young ramps cleaned thoroughly
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pico de Gallo
2 vine ripened tomatoes diced small
1/4 sweet onion minced
1 serrano chili minced with seeds
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of salt
Soft corn tortillas
Stick all the ingredients for the Carne Asada marinade (everything except the meat) in a blender and blend, or you can hand chop stuff if you don’t feel like getting the blender dirty (I find washing a blender takes more time than chopping, and it’s definitely less soothing). The kiwi is an amazing natural meat tenderizer, but if you’re going to marinade for less than 2 hours, I recommend cutting 1/4 inch deep slits in the meat so the marinade does its thing faster. Pour the marinade over the meat, massage it in, and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it.
The nopales need to be cleaned well (nothing will ruin a cinqo de mayo celebration faster than a guest choking on a cactus spine). If they don’t come from the store cleaned, you’ll need to scrape all the brown buds and spines off each nopal. I use the back of a knife to do this (like scaling a fish), then get the remaining bits with a vegetable peeler (you don’t need to peel it). Then just cut the end off each one, cut it in half lengthwise and cut it into strips.
To prepare the ramps, make sure you wash them really well (they grow in sand and mud near rivers, so they’re usually really dirty). I usually use kitchen sheers to cut the leaves off from the stems and wash them separately. Then, just cut the ramps diagonally into 1″ wide strips.
Mix all the ingredients for the pico de gallo together, taste, adjust the seasoning and let the flavors meld.
Move the rack towards the top of your oven and turn it on to broil, line a pan with aluminum foil and place the hanger steak on it. Broil, turning once until the meat is as cooked as you like it. Personally I like it medium rare, so I’ll broil it on each side for about 6 minutes.
While the meat is in the broiler, heat a non-stick pan on high until hot and add the oil. Add the nopales and the stems from the ramps and cook for about a minute or until the nopales are translucent and taste cooked (hint: you can eat them raw). Add the ramps leaves and season to taste. As soon as the leaves wilt remove from heat and transfer to a serving platter.
Once the meat is cooked, remove from the broiler and let it rest for a few minutes. I know it smells damn good, but be patient, otherwise all the juices (moistness & flavor) will gush out onto your cutting board. Once the meat gets it’s beauty rest, chop it up, add some more chopped cilantro, and squeeze some more lime juice on it.
To serve, warm up the tortilla’s in a microwave for about 20 seconds between 4 sheets of moistened paper towel. Let your guests scoop mounds of delectable meat and veggies into a tortilla, add some pico de gallo, grab a Corona and enjoy!