In keeping with the Gastronomer's smoky-foods theme (see his June 24 column and related recipes), here's a good example of the kind of flavor that can be achieved without an outdoor grill.
Skirt steak is treated to a dry rub that combines the earthiness of dried porcini mushrooms, the heat of dried chili peppers and the small punch of smoked sea salt.
Dried porcinis are a little pricey, but they store well and provide the best result for this dish. Smoked, dried morita chili peppers are available at Latin markets; they are quite potent. An equal portion of dried chili peppers labeled simply as "chipotle" may be substituted. (They may, in fact, be the same thing, but to my palate the moritas are much hotter.)
To amplify the porcini taste, we used a frozen Italian mushroom mix that contains porcinis, available at Balducci's. But feel free to substitute your favorite fresh mushrooms, cut into bite-size pieces and sauteed until tender. Recipe author Mark Miller prefers using Taco Bell brand crisp corn taco shells for this dish.
Serve with salsa and a bean salad.
Yield: Makes 8 tacos
- 1 pound skirt steak
- 3 or 4 dried porcini mushrooms (see headnote)
- 1/2 dried morita chili pepper, seeded (may substitute 1/2 dried chipotle pepper; see headnote)
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt
- 2 ears corn
- 1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the grill pan
- 6 ounces (half a bag) frozen mixed mushrooms, preferably containing porcinis (see headnote; may substitute fresh mixed mushrooms)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 corn tortilla taco shells
- Leaves from 1/2 bunch cilantro or 1/4 head cabbage, for serving
If necessary, trim fat from the skirt steak so that no more than one-quarter of the meat is covered with a thin layer of fat. Pound the meat to a thickness of about 1/3 inch.
Combine the dried porcini mushrooms, the 1/2 dried morita chili pepper and the smoked salt to taste in a dedicated spice grinder; pulse until finely ground.
Rub the mixture all over the meat; let it rest while you preheat the grill pan and prep the corn and mushrooms.
Heat a large, dry grill pan over high heat. Strip the kernels from the ears of corn to yield at least 1 1/2 cups.
Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mixed mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste; reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
Make a small wad of paper towel and dip it into some oil; grip it with tongs and use it to grease the grill pan. Place the meat on (or in) the grill pan; cook for about 2 minutes, then turn it and cook for 2 minutes on the second side until nicely browned and medium-rare (cook longer for the desired degree of doneness, but be careful not to make the meat too tough). Transfer to a cutting board and let it rest; reduce the heat under the grill pan to medium.
Sprinkle the corn evenly over the grill pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, using a spatula to move the corn around constantly so that it browns but does not burn. (A few kernels might jump out during cooking, so be careful.) Transfer to a bowl. Turn off the heat. If desired, lay the taco shells on (or in) the grill pan to crisp them up (or follow package directions for warming them in the oven).
Cut the skirt steak against the grain into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
To serve, place a bed of cilantro leaves or cabbage (that has been cut into thin slices or shredded) inside each taco shell; that will help keep the meat's juices from softening the bottom of the shell. Divide the steak evenly among the taco shells, then top with some of the warm mushroom mixture and grilled corn.
Serve with your favorite salsa at the table.
Adapted from "Tacos," by Mark Miller (Ten Speed Press, 2009).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.