I will admit that I picked this recipe solely because it had cactus in it. Though I'd never eaten the spiny plant, I remembered seeing it at my local Mexican market, and now I actually had an excuse to buy it. It wasn't until I got home and delicately removed the cactus from the plastic bag that I wondered why I wanted to eat this thing. What, honestly, does cactus taste like? Would it sting my tongue or have an unmentionable funky aroma?
Well, not exactly. To me, it kind of tasted like eggplant, in that it has a firm, meaty texture that's also a little squishy. The aroma is slight and pleasant. I can't say it's the most delectable thing in the world, but what cactus does do is provide a contrasting texture to the crisp bits of steak in the taco. If you're bored with your steak tacos, here's one way to shake things up.
I was led to this treacherous dish by Rick Bayless. I'm not sure if most grocery stores sell cactus, but your local Mexican market should.
Seared Steak Tacos with Cactus Paddles
- 2 cactus paddles
- 1 tablespoon lard, bacon drippings, or other oil
- 1/2 pound thinly cut beef (sirloin, chuck, or skirt steak)
- 6 corn tortillas
- 2 limes
Remove the spines from the cactus and cut a 1/4 inch from the edges. Add the 1/2 tablespoon of the lard to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the cactus paddles for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove and slice into 1/4 inch strips.
Wipe out the large skillet, and then add the rest of the lard and turn the heat to high. Season the steak with salt and then sear the meat in a single layer for about 1 1/2 minutes per side. The meat should be cooked until done. You might need to cook the meat in batches.
Transfer the steak to a cutting board, and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
Serve the steak and cactus with warm tortillas, salsa, and lime wedges.