For anyone familiar with Tex Mex, Tacos Al Carbon will prolly induce a serious bout of mouth watering. Al Carbon literally means ‘the coal,’ the obvious implication being that the meat for this dish should rightfully be done over charcoal, and it should. Aficionados will also argue that the only correct cut for the dish is skirt steak; that can and should be argued, however. The dominant notes of lime, cumin and garlic used for this wonderful marinade lend themselves equally well to chicken, pork, lamb, goat, venison, buffalo, and even shrimp or snapper. In other words, just as fajitas have transmogrified from a particular cut of beef to a ubiquitous Tex Mex dish, it’s not entirely unreasonable to assign the term Al Carbon to the seasoning/marinating blend used on this wonderful dish. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Oh, and you can easily do a great job on this cooking it inside in a pan if you’re unable or unwilling to fire up the grill, so we’re gonna do that too.
Al Carbon Marinade
3 Limes for juicing
2 – 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 – 3 fresh Chiles, (Jalapeno is wonderful, but Serranos work great too)
Handful of fresh Cilantro, (About a 1/4 cup, chopped)
1 teaspoon Cumin
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
Juice your limes, of course, keeping the pesky seeds out.
I use whole Cumin seed and Pepper berries, so zap them up if you do too
Throw everybody into the blender and zap ’em until evenly blended and liquified
Cut your flesh into appropriately sized strips and arrange it in a glass pan. Note: If you are using skirt steak, DON’T slice it up first! It’ll need to marinate and cook and rest whole before being sliced or it will come out like shoe leather. I used cheap sirloin, because we had it and needed to use it, so I sliced it to allow the marinade to penetrate better…
Slather on your marinade and leave refrigerated for at least 2 hours and as long as overnight; as far as we’re concerned, the longer the better!
Pour off the majority of your marinade and saute in a hot pan until done to your liking.
Now, you simply must make a fresh salsa for something this good, so do so! When I was at the store I saw that the Tomatillos looked pretty good and managed to pick out about a pound that were indeed as you want ’em; that is, with skins intact and the flesh firm with no blemishes or soft spots. So Tomatillo Salsa it is!
If you’re not familiar with Tomatillos, then as a lover of Mexican and Tex Mex cuisine, you’ll want to be. Contrary to all too common belief, Tomatillos are not related to the Tomato very closely at all: They come from the Nightshade family and are closer to a Cape Gooseberry than they are to tomatoes.
You’re most likely to find green tomatillos in the market, but when ripe they can be yellow, red, green, or even purple. The ripened red and purple guys find their way into jams and jellies down south; like a Cape Gooseberry, they have a ton of pectin and therefore lend themselves well to such condiments.
If you choose carefully and don’t intend to cook with ’em right away, tomatillos wil keep refrigerated for a week at least; remove the papery husks, wash the sticky sap off the outsides and store them in a sealed container in your veggy drawer. You can also freeze them, either whole or processed and they’ll hold up for a few months.
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
1 Pound of fresh Tomatillos
1 – 2 Fresh red tomatoes of your choice
2 – 5 small cloves of Garlic
2 – 4 fresh Chiles, (Again, Jalapeno or Serrano are our go-to choices)
1/4 of a medium sweet Onion
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon of Salt
2 cups water
Wash and prep tomatillos by removing husks, stems and sticky sap. If you don’t want a hot salsa, field strip the seeds and membranes from your chiles, (And as always, follow our common sense rules for chile handling, please!)
Arrange tomatillos, tomatoes, chiles, garlic and onions on a pan suitable for broiling.
Roast or broil the gang until skins on tomatillos are browned to charred and tomatoes are soft.
Throw everybody into a pot with the water and bring to a low boil; allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until veggies are starting to come apart and the mixture has reduced a bit. If you like a thicker salsa, allow it to go a few minutes more.
Throw everybody into the blender and let ‘er rip until you reach your desired consistency, kinda like this here…
Et viola! Keep in a sealed glass container in your fridge, and the salsa will be good for about a week, (And it gets even better the day after you make it…)
We used local flour tortillas for our feast, since I was too lazy to make fresh. We garnished with fresh tomato, onion, coleslaw and aged pepper jack from WSU. And yeah, in fact, they tasted even better than they look!
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