Jan 262014

Spicy Carne Asada Tacos + Titanium Tequila

This is sort of a hybrid of carne asada (“broiled meat” in Spanish) and fajitas that will definitely warm you up on a wintery day. I like it on the grill for extra char, but if it’s just too darn cold for grilling where you are, the broiler will certainly work.

And be forewarned, this packs some heat. I like the level of spiciness here — particularly when the tangle of chile-spiced meat and onions are balanced against creamy avocado or guacamole and encased in a tortilla. (And cooled off with my tequila spritz!) But if that makes you wary, feel free to omit the red pepper flakes in the recipe. Trust me, you’ll still get plenty of spice and flavor from the two chile powders.

I marinated the beef and onions overnight and then toted it, along with the pico de gallo and tequilas, over to my friends’ house, where Kyle grilled it all up, and Joe put out an array of toppings — guacamole, grated cheese, sour cream and more tortilla choices. I sipped tequila, ate tacos, played with Max the dog (aka Maxie-pie) and watched them clean up the kitchen afterwards. All in all, a sweet deal for me — and a lovely Sunday afternoon-into-evening with good friends — and I highly recommend you arrange a similar situation!

Pairing: Titanium Tequila Spritz

I had the opportunity to taste two tequilas from Premium Spirits — Titanium and The Promise. Both 100% blue agave, both delicious and beautifully-packaged, and both pricey. We ended up polishing off the better part of the Titanium before, during and after our tacos by way of a spritz, of sorts. (The “before tacos” drinking part may explain my rather messy taco picture!)

This is mostly how I drink tequila these days; sugary margaritas play a real number on my head and sinuses — not to mention my morning-after. My tequila spritz is simple enough — glass of ice, add tequila and a generous amount of fresh lime juice, top with a splash of soda. It’s clean, refreshing, and tasty — and my head feels fine the next day.

Here are my notes on the two tequilas:

Titanium ($37, 750ml) – Powerful but smooth, with clean agave character accented with notes of orange zest and orchard fruit, with a fresh grassiness that lingers on the long finish. Appealing on its own, with a splash of soda and a squeeze of lime, but also makes an elegant cocktail.

The Promise ($175, 750ml) – Ultra-smooth and rounded, with pure agave flavors that linger and evolve through the complex finish, picking up peach skin, green banana, citrus notes and a subtle wet earth note. Almost a shame to mix this one — better to sip neat! (That’s The Promise in the hand-decorated ceramic bottle, pictured above. It’s really gorgeous — and apparently comes in an equally-impressive, hand-decorated wooden box. I think it would make a fantastic gift for tequila aficionados!)

Recipe: Spicy Carne Asada Tacos

2/3 cup olive oil
4 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 Tablespoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional – see headnote)
1 1/2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

Pico de Gallo:
3 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1/4 medium white onion, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 medium jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely-minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
pinch of ground cumin

1 1/2 red onions, cut into quarters and separated into pieces
1 1/2 pounds beef loin flap (fajita meat), thinly sliced with the grain into 3- to 5-inch pieces
8 whole wheat tortillas, heated on a dry skillet or in the microwave
guacamole or sliced avocados

The night before you plan to cook the beef, make the marinade by combining all marinade ingredients in a large glass bowl. Add beef slices and onion pieces and mix gently but well. Transfer contents of bowl — including as much marinade as you can scrape out! — to a large plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. (No more than 24 hours.)

Make the pico de gallo by combining all ingredients in a medium glass bowl. Stash in the fridge until ready to use. This is best the day that it’s made, but I do like to make it a few hours ahead of serving to let the flavors mingle.

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill (or your broiler) to medium-hot. If your grill grates are widely spaced, you might try crisscrossing them to prevent the meat and onions from falling through. Carefully place the meat and onions on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes on each side, turning just once. The meat will cook quickly — be careful not to overcook or it will dry out. (If using your broiler, cooking may take slightly longer.)

Make tacos by filling a tortilla with pieces of meat and onion, top with guacamole or avocado slices and spoonfuls of pico de gallo. Grated cheese and sour cream are also quite tasty here!

Recipe adapted from Cafe Pasqual’s Cookbook. Serves 4.

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