For starters, today is my one year of living in Paris. I came here 365 days ago, to a country I’ve never been to, where there was a language I did not understand one bit. To say it has been easy would be a lie. I thought that moving away would be an escape, a great adventure and a big vacation, and did not consider one bit that everything would in fact become much more difficult. Despite that, it has been an incredible experience filled with adventure, travel, life lessons and good fun. Most of which I owe to my boyfriend, Anthony, who has been beyond patient with my immigrant self. At the moment, he is on vacation in the Pyrenees mountains in the south of France–where he is from–while I hang back and blog. I wish I could have gone, as it’s serious hiking territory:
MORE TACO RECIPES:
Secondly, this post is about tacos, my other favorite thing in the world.
I really admire the simplicity of a carne asada taco. Though not the true original taco, carne asada tacos–or tacos with grilled steak, most commonly skirt steak–are one of the most popular varieties of tacos eaten today. The first tacos were fish tacos, which was the way they were enjoyed in the Aztec empire, before Tenochtitlan fell to Spanish conquest, and became Mexico City.
It was at this point that steak was introduced to tacos, when Cortes brought cattle with him from Spain. An interesting side note is that around the same time–the early 1500’s–tomatoes were brought from South America to Europe, including Italy and Spain. It’s hard to imagine Italian cuisine without tomatoes, but the pomodoro (“apple of gold”) is actually a bambino in Italian cuisine.
Isn’t it amazing how history shapes the food we eat? Now throughout Mexico you can find carne asada tacos in every taqueria. For a while, Mexican cuisine was popularized in America in the form of tex-mex, an Americanized version of itself. While tex-mex is a peculiar thing of beauty all its own, it’s hardly accurate to call it Mexican food. It would be like calling a buffalo pizza slice Italian. Yes, it’s strange and delicious, but hardly Italian. Now, authentic Mexican food has flooded the American food scene, and it’s just starting to break through the ice here in Paris.
By this I mean, I’ve heard people use the word “guacamole,” but only to describe something that comes in a jar and looks like green-grey spread with the same consistency as ketchup. Baby steps. As of now, I have found just two places serving the real deal of Mexican cuisine here in the city of lights, and there’s only one worth going to. It’s called El Nopal, and it’s my little piece of home. I felt an actual sense of relief upon finding it one year ago. That’s right, in perfect depiction of a caricature of myself, the thing I found most uplifting in my attempt to get my foothold here in Paris, was in fact a taco stand.
Authentic Carne Asada Tacos with Adobo Marinade & Salsa Verde
A good, authentic taco is not hard to come by. It’s made up only of a few ingredients, but for that very reason, it’s so necessary to get everything right. The proper ingredients have proven difficult to find here in Paris, but the more I learn about food, the more I’m able to improvise and work around it. At home, I would have bought a can of La Costeña chipotles in adobo, but here I have to get creative and make my own.
Good carne asada tacos are made up of this: a quality corn tortilla, skirt steak marinated in adobo sauce, fresh chopped white onion, cilantro, and lime. Sometimes it is common to find a salsa verde available as well. I have this one cookbook, called Truly Mexican, by Roberto Santibañez, who owns Fonda restaurants in NYC and La Botaneria in Brooklyn. While I prefer to get my stateside tacos out of a hole cut in the side of a truck, this book has proven to be a real gem.
I read up on all of my recipes for this project today; how to make a good adobo sauce, and all the right ingredients for a salsa verde. But when I went to the market, I couldn’t find half of the ingredients. Such was not a surprise to me, having attempted many a Mexican recipe here in La France. I can’t find tomatillos, chipotles, black beans are a miracle to find and real corn tortillas are 9 euros for a pack that normally costs less than $2 in Brooklyn. Having successfully adapted my own versions of recipes from this book before, particularly in the form of my Kabocha & Guajillo Chintextle de Oaxaca sauce, I set out on my own to make my own versions using everyday ingredients you can find almost anywhere.
So here it is, my own authentic carne asada tacos recipe, complete with an adobo marinade and a salsa verde, using ingredients you’ll surely be able to locate. To further assist you, here is a super-definitive guide to the many types of peppers, I use it as a resource often. What better way to celebrate one year of living in Paris than with some quality Mexican fare.
- skirt steak
- corn tortillas
- white onion, chopped
- fresh cilantro, chopped
- lime wedges
- 1-2 large (4 oz), fresh hot red pepper, seeded and deveined. You can use any hot pepper you can find, such as a proper Mexican pepper like guajillo or pasilla, or a simple paprika pepper or Aleppo pepper would do fine as well.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon white onion
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- olive oil
- pinch of salt
- black pepper
- 2 tomatillos (or 2 green tomatoes + 1 tablespoon lime juice)
- 2 tablespoons hot green pepper, such as jalapeño, sonora chili or Italian long hots
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup cilantro
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Open the peppers up and place skin side down in a hot, dry skillet. Press down with a spatula, you will hear a loud cracking and popping sound from the peppers skin. Once done popping, turn and repeat on the other side. This side will not make a sound. Cook until thoroughly blistered and toasted, about one minute or two.
- Then add the peppers along with all adobo ingredients into a food processor and blend well. Add salt and olive oil as needed.
- Slice the skirt steak against the grain into thin pieces. Toss well in the adobo marinade and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Do not refrigerate, as it is better to cook a steak at room temperature.
- Blister the skins of the tomatillos or green tomatoes in the same way that you did the peppers. Once blistered and hot, add to the blender and blend all salsa verde ingredients together. Since there are so many fresh ingredients, a lot of variation can occur. Season with salt, olive oil and / or lime until there is a bold yet balanced flavor.
- On high heat in either a skillet or on a griddle / plancha, cook the steak pieces over a teaspoon of olive oil. You want to char in a few places on the meat without totally overcooking it, so high heat is better.
- Heat the tortillas, and add the steak, chopped white onion and fresh cilantro into each taco. Serve with the salsa verde and lime wedges on the side.