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In my mind, steak tacos equal summer vacation. When I see the juicy charred meat and flavorful toppings, I can't help unhinging my jaws and going for gargantuan bite, causing all the contents the spill out, the juices dripping down over my hands, only to be scooped back in and repeated. It's all part of the fun.
But despite their casual appearance, great tacos can be a pretty involved and messy affair to make. You've got to marinate and grill the meat. You've got to cook the toppings. You've even got to get a pan out to heat the tortillas before you can put it all together. It's enough to push tacos out of weeknight meal territory for me. I couldn't help but wonder if there was a way to pack all that flavor into a taco using only a single skillet.
I started by focusing on the meat. Of all of the inexpensive cuts of beef, skirt steak is the most meaty, buttery, and intensely flavored. Not only that, but its coarse grain makes it ideal for rapidly picking up the flavors of a good spice rub (I used a homemade mixture of cumin, coriander, chili powder, and oregano), and its thinness makes it quick and easy to cook. I didn't want fire up the grill, and found that getting a large, heavy-bottomed skillet ripping hot before adding the meat created the char I was after (make sure to switch off the smoke alarm and open a window before the steak goes on), while still maintaining a tender, medium-rare center.
I could have gone with a store-bought salsa, but with fresh corn in season, I figured its nutty sweetness would work well with the meat. To really maximize flavor, I cooked it in the same skillet while the steak rested, allowing the corn to sop up some of the steak's juices and spiced flavors. The trick with the corn is to let it sit in the skillet without moving for a few minutes to really let it char, adding a layer of caramelized, toasted flavors to the dish. Some onion, garlic, and diced jalapeños are the only seasoning the corn needs.
The last problem were the tortillas. Heating them individually in a skillet is a painstaking process, and heating them as a foil-wrapped stack in the oven takes too long. As I sat there trying to solve this issue, I noticed the steaming hot pan of corn and realized my solution was right in front of me: I fanned my tortillas out over the corn as it charred, letting them soften and warm up in the steam from the pan. By the time the corn was cooked, the tortillas were perfectly pliant and ready to be stuffed.
The final touches were a dollop of Greek yogurt (I prefer its bright tang to sour cream) and a squeeze lime juice and sriracha (which I put on everything). Rather than reaching for the cilantro, I added a bit of chopped mint for a unique, flavorful twist. The only other things on the table? Some ice cold beer and a killer margarita (freshly squeezed lime juice, please!)
About the Author: Yasmin Fahr is a food lover, writer, and cook. Follow her @yasminfahr for more updates on her eating adventures and discoveries, which will most likely include tomatoes. And probably feta. Happy eating!
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