To learn more about this recipe, see our related story, Shoot Straight, in our D.C. edition.
Toasted-Chile Skirt-Steak Tacos with Avocado Crema
Recipe adapted from Mike Isabella, Bandolero, Washington, D.C.
Yield: Serves 4
Cook Time: 20 minutes (plus overnight marination)
4 dried guajillo chiles
4 dried pasilla chiles
12 whole black peppercorns
6 whole allspice berries
4 whole cloves
2½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1½ cinnamon sticks
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon water
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil, divided
Four 3½-ounce skirt steaks
8 corn tortillas, warmed
2 tablespoons cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
¼ cup fresh spinach leaves
⅓ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño, roughly chopped
2 large or 3 small avocados--halved, pitted and chopped
Juice of 1 lime
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1. Marinate the steak: Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the guajillo and pasilla chiles, peppercorns, allspice berries, cloves, cumin and cinnamon on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until aromatic, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the chiles and spices to a large plate to cool, then pulverize in a spice grinder until ground to a fine powder.
2. In a food processor or blender, add the spices, water and garlic and purée until well combined. With the motor running, add ¼ cup of the oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is thick.
3. Place the steaks on a cutting board and season liberally with salt. Transfer them to an airtight container or resealable gallon-size plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the steaks, turn to coat and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
4. Make the avocado crema: Place a small bowl of ice and water next to the stovetop. In a medium saucepan of simmering water, add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 5 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the spinach to the ice water to cool, then squeeze out as much water as possible. Add the blanched spinach to a blender or food processor along with the heavy cream, cilantro and jalapeño; purée until smooth. Add the avocados, lime juice and salt and purée until combined. Taste and adjust the flavor by adding more salt if needed.
5. Remove the steaks from the marinade, place on a plate and use paper towels to blot dry. Heat a large grill pan or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until smoking, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil and the steaks (in batches if necessary) and cook until nicely browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Use tongs to turn the steaks over and cook on the other side until the steaks are medium rare, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a cutting board and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
6. Slice the steaks crosswise (against the grain) into ½-inch-thick pieces. Place a few strips in each of the warm tortillas, top with avocado crema and cilantro (if using) and serve.