Turok’s Carne Asada

Badassity is my new favorite word. My favorite definition of said word is “of or relating to being badass”. For example, you can rate something on a 1-10 scale of badassity. It’s a great word. I would rate this carne asada recipe a 9 on the badassity scale.

I’ve been searching for a delicious carne asada recipe for more than 5 years. Imagine something like Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You, but about meat instead of a woman. I’ve eaten many less-than-acceptable marianted skirt steaks because of others’ poor recipe writing. I stumbled onto this recipe from Saveur Magazine, effectively ending my carne asada search. I added salt to the recipe, because salt is necessarily delicious and functions well in the marinade.

My journey was so difficult because I realized that “carne asada” refers to steak, not a specific way of flavoring meat. In some carnicerias, carne ranchero is found instead of what I think of as carne asada. Now, I’m white, and I have no culture. I’m missing a critical piece of information. Real or not, carne asada’s ambiguity made my recipe search annoyingly lengthy.

Big surprise: I didn’t make up the word badassity. I borrowed it from Mr. Money Moustache, one of my favorite financial blogs.

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotles con adobo
  • 1 large white or brown onion, roughly chopped
  • Juice of two limes or one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

Meat

  • 2 pounds beef flap meat or skirt steak, grass-fed preferable

To serve

  • Corn tortillas
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Salsa

Directions

Add all marinade ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until uniformly processed. Mix the marinade and steaks in a plastic resealable bag until the marinade is distributed across all surfaces of the meat. Refrigerate overnight or longer for most flavor. You can shortcut the overnight wait, but the carne will lack my preferred flavor.

When you’re ready to cook, fire up the grill to maximum heat, around 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the meat from the marinade, brushing off some of the excess sauce that clings to the meat. Why brush off the marinade? Excess liquid prevents the meat’s outer layer from searing well and developing intense meaty flavor. Place on the grill for 3 minutes on each side. Test the meat with an instant-read thermometer of badassity (I use this one). When the internal temperature reaches 125 badass degrees Fahrenheit, remove the meat from the grill. Skirt steak requires slightly more cook time than flap because of extra thickness. If you like well-done meat, which I don’t, leave the meat on for longer.

Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board before slicing. Cut against the grain into cubes for serving in tacos. Spoon the meat into warmed corn tortillas and top with cilantro, onions, and salsa. Congratulate yourself (and me) for acquiring a quality recipe.

Serves 4-6.

Carne Asada

Categories: Latin American, Meats | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barbacoa

Originating in Mexico and Central America, Barbacoa is more a cooking style than a dish. Some definitions argue that barbacoa is beef, sheep, or goat meat cooked in a hole the ground; some argue that the meat must be cooked over an open fire. My version has neither. I’ll summarize my adaptation as follows: super-flavorful slow-braised meat.

“Barbacoa” sounds like “barbecue”, right? The cooking style known as barbacoa traveled to the US via Texas, and the word and method etymologically and culinarily changed to what we know in the US as “barbecue”. Now you know.

In terms of cooking style, my version of barbacoa is similar to carnitas but with a different flavor profile. The canned chipotle peppers, which are smoked red jalapeños, bring non-overwhelming spiciness, the chicken broth and seared beef contribute savory flavors, and apple cider vinegar, known to me as ACV, balances all with tanginess.

Notes:

  • Frustratingly, the Trader Joe’s across the street does not stock canned chipotle peppers. Get on it, Trader Joe!
  • You should use grass-fed beef for sustainability purposes.
  • For everyone’s reference, stove does not equal oven. Backstory: the gas leaks in my apartment when the oven is on. I placed a maintenance request to fix this, and the staff fixed the stove burners. Next day, I call again about the oven, they visit, and leave a note saying they already fixed the stove. Stove ≠ oven.

Adapted from Food People Want. Props to them for a good recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons rendered animal fat or use an oil with a high smoke point
  • 4-5 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 canned chipotle peppers with adobo sauce
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3 whole dried cloves
  • 2 teaspoons freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 4 cups chicken or beef broth, preferably homemade
  • 5 bay leaves
  • Onion, cilantro, salsa, limes, and tortillas for serving

Directions

In a dutch oven or stockpot with bottom barely wide enough to fit the beef roast and for which you have a well-fitting cover, heat the rendered fat over a high flame. Pat the chuck roast dry with paper towels, then sear the roast until brown on all sides. This will take about 2 minutes per surface.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the remaining ingredients, except the ones for serving, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Turn off the stove, cover the pot, and place in the preheated oven. Walk away and return in 5 hours.

Remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and using tongs, pull the meat out of the broth to a cutting board. The meat should easily shred when force is applied with a fork. Allow the meat to cool before cutting or shredding it into pieces that will fit into tacos. For extra flavor, dip the shredded barbacoa into the cooking liquid, making sure to dunk the meat in the oil on the surface for the maximal flavor.

Serve in taco form (or use alternate means of transport from your plate to your mouth). This recipe makes enough for about 20 tacos. YUM.

Barbacoa

Categories: Latin American, Meats | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Truck Feature: The Lime Truck

It’s a feature post! Few of these non-recipe- or picture-centric posts exist on TuroK Like Food. Prepare yourself for feature of The Lime Truck, based on an interview with Daniel Shemtob, the man behind The Lime Truck and its restaurant TLT. I initially struggled on how to approach this piece. The typical “what’s your recipe for success?” interview is overused. I decided to tackle The Lime Truck by asking questions about parts of the food truck world I didn’t previously understand. In this article, you’ll see my commentary on a few aspects of The Lime Truck’s existence: logistics, vision, and competition.

My primarily curiosity is how The Lime Truck operates from a logistical standpoint. As a consumer of, not producer in, the restaurant industry, I didn’t understand ingredient sourcing. Sourcing each ingredient from a farm seemed like a full-time job in itself. The Lime Truck, according to Daniel, uses separate produce and meat companies that do the ingredient sourcing heavy lifting. The Lime Truck holds those two companies to a certain standard by purchasing the products that it feels proud serving. The second logistical question regards preparation and cooking. I figured it impossible that all the cooking was done on the truck. How would they efficiently braise pork for 12 hours? Where would food and supplies be delivered? During the first bit of The Lime Truck’s existence, Daniel and his business partner Jason (now the visionary at The Playground in downtown Santa Ana) cooked everything on the truck. Soon thereafter, they rented a commercial kitchen space, a strategy I understand. Currently most of the cooking for the trucks is done at TLT, the restaurant originating from The Lime Truck.

Because of my fascination with psychology, I questioned Daniel’s vision and inspiration in creating The Lime Truck. His vision is nothing revolutionary for what I understand of the restaurant industry, but the empirical evidence points towards success. When Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck, they lived in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, respectively. They decided to take their vision to Orange County, where they both grew up. The vision is this: The Lime Truck aspires to serve good quality food at reasonable prices. What is a reasonable price? Daniel mentioned $10-12 and under. Some may disagree on their assessment of reasonable price, but those people do not understand the economics and logistics of the food truck scene.

I was also interested in The Lime Truck’s financial and competitive situation. I discovered that Daniel and Jason started The Lime Truck in 2010 with $20,000 in capital costs. I’m still surprised at how little capital was required. With 20/20 hindsight, he claims that he should have used $50,000 instead and that some food truck owners go through $250,000 in startup capital. This is the point of the interview where his responses seemed like words from a coach, as if I were starting my own food truck and he were my mentor. When I asked Daniel about his views on other food trucks as friends or foes, he mentioned that The Lime Truck started the first food truck roundup in Orange County. From what I gather, Daniel doesn’t view many trucks as direct competitors, and a strong sense of camaraderie pervades within the food truck community. The truck owners empathize with fellow trucks because they understand the difficulties, of which I didn’t ask and Daniel didn’t tell. Evidently, food trucking is a tough business, based on the number of trucks for sale on Roaming Hunger.

On the bright side, Daniel is opening the third, non-wheeled, TLT restaurant in October of this year, this one at The Spectrum in Irvine.

Should you eat at The Lime Truck or TLT? If you like good food, the answer is obvious.

Because this post needs a photo, here’s one of a duck confit sope I sampled at The Lime Truck in 2012.

Duck Confit Sope - Lime Truck

And here’s a bulgogi sope I ate  in 2012.

Bulgogi Sope - Lime Truck

Did you expect perfect pictures? I hope not. This is delicious street food, and I was hungrily impatient.

Categories: Miscellaneous | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Figs with Pecorino

It’s July 6th today. On Friday, Independence day, I spent 4 hours cleaning my kitchen with my roommate. The stove-microwave-oven setup was encrusted with months of frying, braising, and stir-frying from making all these delicious recipes, and the only remedy was baking soda and much elbow grease. During the kitchen cleaning escapade, I jammed to Cher Lloyd’s Swagger Jagger. Although I’m 3 years late to the party, that song is super catchy and you need to listen to all of her songs. Now, please.

More important news: it’s fig season! I can eat pounds of figs per day and still need more. An added bonus to being tasty, reasonably-priced, and easy to prepare, they look fantastic when showcased. No surprise, this dish prominently displays figs. It’s titled, simply, “figs with Pecorino”.

The original recipe, found in The 125 Best Recipes Ever by Loyd Grossman, calls for young Pecorino. Side note: I’m not convinced these are the 125 best recipes in the history of ever. The omission of Mexican cuisine and emphasis on Provençal food tells me that the author and I don’t generally agree. However, we did agree on this figs with Pecorino.

I opted for aged Pecorino, most familiar in America as Pecorino Romano, or simply Pecorino, instead of the young version. Other hard cheeses, notably Parmigiano Reggiano, may be used in place of the Pecorino for the same amount of deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ripe figs, any variety, about 1/2 pound, skin washed, latitudinally sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 ounces arugula, washed and dried
  • 2 ounces Pecorino, shaved into fig-sized thin pieces,
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk together the honey and olive oil. In a large bowl, toss this dressing with the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve, dot the arugula salad with equal amounts of figs and cheese. Season with additional salt and pepper if you so desire.

Serves two or three as an appetizer.

Figs with Pecorino and Honey

Categories: Mediterranean, Salads | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Tacos Al Pastor

Pineapple!

“Al pastor” means “of the shepherd”, and according to Wikipedia, was introduced to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. I’m not sure how pineapple factors into the situation, but I do enjoy the flavor provided by its juxtaposition with flavorful pork. Let’s call this recipe cheater’s Mexican schwarma, courtesy of Epicurious.

Note: tacos al pastor don’t make mushy leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 large white or brown onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange, pineapple, or other tropical juice
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup chile powder, guajillo preferred
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optionally toasted
  • 3 canned chipotle chiles con adobo, don’t drain the sauce
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or butt, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds

Directions

At least one day before you plan to make the dish, read this paragraph. In a blender, purée the onion, juice, vinegar, chile powder, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and chipotle peppers. Marinate the pork slices in this aromatic purée for a long time (at least overnight, and up to a few days).

For a musical break, you won’t regret listening to Justin Timberlake’s Señorita live at Madison Square Garden in 2007.

When you’re ready to eat, fire up the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple slices alongside the marinated pork slices, each for about 4 minutes per side, until the pork’s internal temperature rises to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove both the pork and pineapple to a large cutting board and let rest until cool enough to handle.

Chop the pineapple and pork into 1/4-inch cubes. Serve the pork and pineapple mixture with warm corn tortillas and topped with salsa and/or fresh onions and cilantro. We’ll now call this dish “tacos al pastor”. It makes enough for 6.

Tacos al Pastor

You’ll notice no tortilla in the picture. I do what I want.

Categories: Latin American, Meats | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment