Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Oh, Cinco de Mayo, if you only you were a real and authentic holiday of Mexican culture, and not some American commercial concoction. Before I say anymore, I acknowledge the historical significance of the Battle of Puebla is very limited in Mexico’s historical timeline in becoming a sovereign state, and that Cinco de Mayo’s cultural proliferation as an American holiday is a reflection of our collective ignorance. The ugly truth is most, if not all, Americans love you, including myself. But who doesn’t love Cinco de Mayo?! Think about it, along with St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween, those three days are truly some of the most fun and festive holidays on the calendar. Who doesn’t love the sound of a mariachi band playing, the smell of churros in the air, and the sight of sombrero-donning gringos who’ve had one too many Tecates?
Rick Bayless is at the moment my favorite chef/personality in the culinary arts. His show on PBS, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, based on his excellent cookbook of the same name, is now in its seventh season. Bayless is more or less the primary authority on the incorporation of classic Mexican flavors and ingredients into modern American cuisine. The show is primarily set in Bayless’ backyard in his suburban Chicago home, and every episode feels like a picnic with old Uncle Rick. Here’s a clip of him prepping some rib eye steaks with a roasted serrano pepper marinade.
I don’t know about you, but watching that makes me want to go go out and buy a Kalamazoo hybrid outdoor grill and start getting my grill on. So in homage to one of my culinary idols and one of my favorite days in the spring season, I submit my first recipe ever:
Grilled Marinated Flank Steak Tacos with Black Bean Soup, Chips and Guacamole, and Dodger Blue Margaritas (serves 4 to 6)
Flank Steak & Marinade:
1 (2 to 3 pound) flank steak
1 large red onion, sliced
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1/8 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 cup chopped cilantro
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 serrano pepper, minced with seeds
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Black Bean Soup:
1 (16 oz) can of canned black beans or 8 oz of dried black beans
16 oz chicken stock
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 oz cotija cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
canola oil to fry
16 oz tequila(preferably a reposado like Cazadores, so please, no Jose Cuervo silver)
8 oz blue curacao
8 oz fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
Begin by prepping the marinade in a small bowl, and place the steak and sliced onions into a sealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag, and then seal it while removing any large air bubbles. Place the bag in the refrigerator for up to several hours until ready to grill.
For the chips, preheat enough canola oil to 375 degrees in a large pot or saucepan so that it’s several inches deep, or use a deep fryer if available. Cut the corn tortillas into wedges and fry them in the oil for five minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Drain the chips of excess oil and season while still hot with salt.
For the black bean soup, if using dried black beans soak in water for an hour, and then boil in water until soft, for up to two hours. To save time, use canned black beans instead and place into a medium pot. Add the chicken stock, onion, cumin, and garlic to the beans and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
While the soup simmers, prep the guacamole by halving the avocados, removing the flesh, and adding the remaining ingredients into a bowl. Mix until the guacamole is smooth yet slightly chunky in texture.
Preheat the grill to high heat, sprinkle the steak aggressively with salt and pepper, and grill for 4 to 6 minutes on each side until cooked to desired doneness(For medium rare, grill about 9 minutes total, look and listen for telltale signs of blood leaving the steak). For the onions, grill until slightly caramelized, for about 5-7 minutes. Rest the steak and onions on a cutting board or serving dish for at least five minutes before slicing and serving.
If available, use a stick blender to blend the soup mixture, if not, place soup mix into a stand blender and pulse for several seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with cotija cheese.
For the tacos, heat the corn or flour tortillas on the grill or on a pan, and slice the steak across the grain into strips. Serve with grilled onions, additional cilantro, and sour cream if desired. Serve with the soup and chips and guacamole.
For the margaritas, mix all the ingredients in a pitcher with ice, serve with glasses rimmed with salt if desired.
That’s it, there you have it, my favorite meal for one of my favorite holidays not just in the month of May, but the entire year. I’ve made this recipe a number of times, and it’s always been a crowd pleaser. And the best part is, it’s relatively easy to extrapolate the recipe for a larger group of people. So whatever it is you plan on doing for Cinco de Mayo: if you’re like me and have the time, fire up the grill and sit back and enjoy the beautiful spring weather; Or if you don’t the time or luxury because of work, grab some tacos and a beer, and find a shady spot outside; Just be thankful that the Mexican army defeated the French at Puebla on this fateful day back in 1862, cuz goddamit, it’s the American Way.