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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Pop cultured leftovers into tasty tacos

Every now and then – no, scratch that – rarely are leftovers a welcome sight to me. I generally loathe those plastic containers of gelatinized meat, fish and vegetables, all aging with every passing moment. Like most people, I might nosh on a bite or two of some of it, but let’s face it. Many times, we simply keep it cold to eventually throw it away as we do our weekly gutting of the icebox.
With that being said, I think it’s both safe and fair to admit here that there is a small list of foods that do better when they sit on the leftover shelf. Lasagna, for example, is one of the mightiest dishes in this arena. My wife would request that I make it and then refrigerate it for dinner the following evening. That was probably her favorite meal, next to filet mignon. And she was right about the lasagna. When those flavors married, and the texture firmed up a bit, it was delicious. Please add that to your arsenal and let me know what you think.
Back to the story, regardless of my dislike of surplus vittles, I already had a plan after a small get-together on Sunday night. I fired up the rodizio (the Brazilian rotisserie) and cooked some top sirloin, admittedly some of the best steak I’ve had in years. I’m not bragging on my skills, but rather completely impressed with this new catering rig that I have. It is a beast, and cooks steak to a perfectly even interior with a crispy outer crust that is the envy of many a cook. Frankly, it put sous vide steak to shame.
Knowing exactly what was to be accomplished, and correct in my assumption that I would have a couple of small pieces remaining after our fete, I set out the following day to make some carne asada tacos. With a little trimming of fat, I was set to move forward with my evil plan. Pulling out the corn tortillas (yes, they must be corn!) and the toppings, I got to work on these little nuggets, prepping the food quickly and successfully.
With a quick chop of the steak, it was time to fry it up in a pan with a little lard and some simple spices; an old trick from a Mexican friend of mine in Southern California. With these, it never has to be hard. Rather, it simply needs to be done correctly.
Carne Asada tacos take me back to a much simpler time, when I was in Southern California. I would make as many trips as possible down to Baja, that peninsular finger of Mexico that harbors such unique cities as Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada. Rosarito was our true stomping grounds and we came to know it inside and out.
We would be able to predict when our favorite food carts were coming around, and we would scout it out until they did. Certainly not as high-tech as the Rosenfeld’s food truck, and let’s face it; not as well-maintained. But we were fairly certainly that it wasn’t going to kill us. And it was delicious.
And it was with this great flashback that I dug through the refrigerator to find that leftover beef. The gods smiled, and the tacos were perfect. Just another day in the office.
Carne Asada Tacos
Enough for 10 tacos
20, 6-inch corn tortillas
4 pounds fresh beef sirloin
Coarse sea salt, as needed
Cracked black pepper, as needed
Granulated garlic, as needed
Achiote paste or good seasoning, as needed
1/4 cup Lard
1 Medium white onion, finely minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
4 Limes, cut into 6 wedges each
salsas of your choice, as needed

1. In my case, I used leftover picanha, or Coulotte or as we would know it – top sirloin cap.
2. For the sake of argument, we’ll just assume that you are using raw sirloin
3. Trim all fat and heat a heavy pan, lightly oiling it
4. Liberally season steak with the salt, pepper and granulated garlic
5. Sear the beef on all sides
6. Allow the beef to cool down before handling
7. When the beef is cool enough to handle, chop it into 3/4 – inch chunks
8. When it’s go-time, heat a dry pan for your tortillas and get your already-used heavy pan fired up for the beef
9. Add the lard to the latter pan and add the beef when it is just about at the smoking point
10. Cook off the beef, adding the achiote seasoning mix if you so desire
11. In your tortilla pan, cook the tortillas, splashing with a little water if it looks like they’re sticking
12. For each taco, use two tortillas as this greatly helps in the tacos falling apart while you eat them
13. Stack up your edible wares with the beef, onions and cilantro and serve with the sauces on the side
14. In most taquerias, you won’t see cheese on tacos or crema fresca on the table. I remember from my many trips to Baha California that many of the food carts (and they were sketchy) would drizzle crema that had been cooking all day in the Mexican sunlight, brewing the goodies in there and making it an awesome addition to the tacos. However, I do not recommend this to anyone.