2 pounds flank steak, cut into 3- to 4-inch chunks
2 bay leaves
Half of a white onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
10 black peppercorns (optional)
1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, or to taste
1/3 cup coarsely chopped white onion
1 cup cilantro leaves and top part of stems
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt, or more to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound baby red potatoes (if they are not so small, halved or quartered to be bite size)
Place meat in a soup pot or large, heavy pot along with the bay leaves, half an onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon salt and black peppercorns. Cover with water up to 2 inches above top of the meat. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 50 minutes to an hour, until the meat is thoroughly cooked and soft. Strain, reserving 3 cups of the meat cooking liquid. Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, shred it into pieces.
Place the tomatillos, 1 garlic clove and chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until the tomatillos have changed their color from bright green to pale green and are soft and thoroughly cooked but not coming apart, about 10 minutes. Drain and place in a blender or food processor, adding only one chile to begin. Add the onion, cilantro and salt to the blender and puree until smooth. Taste for heat, adding more chile until you have the desired amount of heat.
Heat the oil in a large casserole pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, pour the salsa into the pan, along with the potatoes and cook, partially covered, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 to 6 minutes. Toss in the shredded meat and pour in 2 cups of the meat cooking liquid. Stir and cook uncovered for about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through and soft and the stew has thickened considerably. Add more cooking liquid if the sauce is thickening too much.
Serve with a side of warm corn tortillas.
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TAMPICO-STYLE STEAK COMBO
For the steak:
6 6 oz beef tenderloin slices, 2″ to 3″ thick
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
For the poblano strips or rajas:
6 poblano chiles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup white onion, thinly-sliced
Kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 thick slice white cheese, panela, asadero or blanco
1 ripe avocado, halved, scopped and sliced
To cut and prepare the meat:
On a large cutting board, hold one piece of beef upright and, with a sharp knife, make a vertical cut into the meat about 1/4″ deep.Continue slicing around the circumference of the piece, unrolling a thin layer of beef as you go, stopping to turn it when you need to, until you get a long strip 1/4″ thick and about 2″ wide. Continue with the rest of the pieces.
Season the meat on both sides with the lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
When the meat is ready, lightly coat a griddle or large 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; once it is very hot, cook the meat for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, depending on your desired done-ness level.
To prepare the poblano strips or rajas:
Place the poblano chiles on a tray under the broiler, directly on a grill or directly on an open flame. I prefer to broil them, it’s faster and easier. Whatever method you choose, turn them every 2 to 3 minutes for a total of 6 to 9 minutes. They’ll seem charred and blistered on the outside; the flesh must be cooked but not burnt — like roasting marshmallows over a fire.
Once charred and hot, place them in a plastic bag, close it tightly and let them sweat for 10 to 20 minutes. Then, and preferably under a thin stream of cold water, remove the charred skin, make a slit down one side of the pepper and remove the cluster of seeds and veins. Cut the stem off and make slices that are about a 1/2″ inch wide.
Heat the oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the rajas (the poblano pepper strips) and cook for a few more minutes. Add the vinegar, cook another minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the grilled cheese:
Heat a griddle, grill pan or nonstick or seasoned cast iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Place the cheese slice on the grill pan and cook until lightly browned. Cut the cheese into 6 slices.
Prepare each plate with one piece of steak, some poblano pepper strips, two enchiladas and a slice of the grilled cheese. The meal is traditionally served with a side of tortillas, refried beans sprinkled with cheese, a slice of avocado and the salsa of your choice.
PEPITO: STEAK & AVOCADO SANDWICH
Makes 4 to 6 generous tortas or sandwiches of about 4″ length
1 1/2 lbs flank steak
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp black pepper
Pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
4 teleras, bolillos, petite baguettes, or baguettes sliced into 3 to 4 inches and cut in half
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese, muenster or mild cheddar
1 cup gucamole (see below)
1 cup refried beans (store bought or homemade)
Marinate the flank steak with the soy sauce, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic, rosemary and black pepper. You may marinate it anywhere from 1/2 hour to overnight in the refrigerator. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and sprinkle with salt when you are ready to cook it.
Preheat the grill pan or grill at medium-high heat. Once it is hot, place the meat and let it cook anywhere from 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on how well done you want the meat. You can drizzle any extra marinade right over the top of the meat while it cooks. For medium, its closer to 4 minutes per side, for over medium, closer to 5 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the heat and place it on a cutting board. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, slightly covered. Thinly slice across the grain.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the baguettes, teleras or bolillos in half lengthwise and place in a baking sheet. Spread about 3 tablespoons of refried beans on the bottom half of each bread. Cover with about 3 to 4 tablespoons shredded cheese. Place in the oven and let the bread crisp and the cheese melt, for about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Top the pepitos with a generous amount of the thinly sliced meat and 3 to 4 tablespoons of the guacamole. Place the tops on top! Eat while hot.
Makes over a cup
2 ripe avocados, halved, pit removed, meat scooped out and mashed
3 scallions, about 2 tbsp, rinsed, tops removed, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, optional
3 tbsp jalapeno or serrano chile, more or less to taste, minced (seeding is optional)
2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
Salt to taste
Gently mix ingredients in a bowl or molcajete and serve. It can be prepared up to 12 hours in advance if covered and stored in the refrigerator.