Saturday, February 27, 2010

Not a fajita. Not a burrito...'s a farrito!
There are three markets within easy walking distance of my front door. All three reflect the different ethnic enclaves of the surrounding blocks. There's some overlap in all of them, but you get a good sense of who their customers might be by sleuthing through the produce and meat departments. Coming back from Manhattan last weekend, I ducked into Villa Juana (yeah, sometimes the name is a dead giveaway) at the Fordham Metro-North station looking for something for dinner. Villa Juana has a whole aisle dedicated to nothing but Mexican foods. It's always like a homecoming browsing through the Goya canned goods, dried beans and chilies. But I digress.
I found some fresh cut beef tenderloin strips and started thinking about a good marinade to flavor and tenderize the inexpensive cut. Food alchemists know the science behind a good marinade, the real trick is combining spices, oils and acids to create something flavorful and complimentary to the dish. The unimaginative will reach for the A-1 or Heinz 57. Their ilk should not be allowed in kitchens in my opinion.
Mexican Marinade - A Blog O. Food creation
  • ¼ cup beer
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 bay leaves
Add the first eight ingredients to a blender, cover and pulse to combine. With feed cap removed and the blender on a low speed, slowly pour in the olive oil, making an emulsion. Completely submerge beef in the marinade, making sure to reach all surface areas of the strips. Top with bay leaves, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour (I went for four).
Heat a cast iron grill over medium high heat. Once cooking surface comes to temperature, spray with cooking oil. Remove beef from marinade, discarding the excess sauce. Place strips on hot grill leaving some space between pieces. Cook 3-4 minutes on one side, turn and cook an additional two minutes or so. Remove beef to a warm platter, add a little more cooking spray to the still hot grill and sear whole green onions and soften flour tortillas. Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream.
Just look at the beautiful sear marks on the beef, onions and tortillas. One really does feast with the eyes, and that's a pretty picture right there.
Quick, painless, delicious. I used garlic and onion powder for a smooth marinade that would be fully infused with their flavors. Cumin is a Mexican staple, very subtle, but a dish wouldn't be the same without it. The marinade really saturated the beef. The finished meat had hints of spice and just enough heat to keep things interesting. Sour cream and grilled beef, well that's just a classic combo. Beer is the only acceptable accompaniment to Mexican-style dishes. In this case Presidente, a Dominican Republic brew, but close enough!
Thanks for taking the time - Blog O. Food

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