Last week was Cinco de Mayo, so to celebrate, I thought I would try cooking with an ingredient I’d never used before – habaneros. I love all things spicy, and I’ve never met a hot sauce I thought was too hot. So, I was looking forward to this.
Cinco de Mayo Skirt Steak Tacos Recipe:
1. Drink some tequila: because it’s cinco de mayo. One of the bottles was from our wedding nearly four years ago. The other bottle was a gift I got while at another wedding. Tequila just seems to find me sometimes. We usually go through a lot of tequila during the summer, but for some reason, these particular bottles had unintentional longevity.
We drank these pre-taco tequilas as shots. We licked our wrists, sprinkled salt, licked it, took the shot, and then took a bite of lime. This is a strange way to take tequila shots when at the bar. It’s even weirder to do it at home on a weekday afternoon.
2. Cook some meat: I put some flank steak on my iron skillet and let it cook. I love flank steak for tacos. When you cook it, it starts to glisten as this cut of meat just seems to baste itself. And, it has a nice chewiness that is perfect for tacos. It makes the tacos seem much more substantial.
3. Cook some veggies: Once the meat was cooked, I set it aside and let it rest. Then, I very roughly chopped up some onions and orange peppers and cooked them in the same skillet.
4. Mix: Once the veggies started, I cut up the meat into bite sized pieces. Then, I put the meat back into the skillet with the veggies, and I added several T of chili powder, about a T of garlic powder, a couple of teaspoons of cumin and cayenne pepper, and some pepper.
5. Make some rice: whenever we have tacos or enchiladas, we always have a specific kind of rice from a box. I’m sure we could figure out how to make a reasonable facsimile ourselves, but we think this rice is just perfect. And it’s usually on sale at the grocery store.
The instructions for this rice are remarkably plain. Boil some water with some oil. Add the rice. Leave it alone for a while. Eat.
6. Make some beans: We usually eat an Organics brand black beans with tacos or enchiladas. But the last time we had dinner on the roof with some friends, these were recommended to us with zeal.
The beans were red beans and, as the name implied, tasted a lot like a packet of ranch dressing powder was mixed with a can of beans. They were really starchy. My wife didn’t love these. I thought they were pretty good.
7. Make another drink: it’s cinco de mayo. You need multiple drinks. I made a cocktail of lime juice, sugar, tequila, and tonic. And we drank them with some chips and guacamole dip.
8. Make some tacos: we assembled our tacos with the meat and veggie filling. I like to keep it simple. The only other thing in there was a blue cheese dressing I had made earlier out of greek yogurt.
For my taco, however, there was one additional ingredient – the habaneros. I sliced up a habanero into rings as thing as I could manage. I removed the bulk of the seeds but left a lot of the pith. I put about 5 habanero slices in each of my tacos.
At first, I didn’t taste the habaneros. Then, about a minute later, my mouth began to hurt. And disappointingly, it wasn’t in a good way. Last summer, I grilled a whole fresno chili and ate it in a single bite, like one of those weird peppers you get with Papa Johns pizza. The grilling had concentrated the heat of the fresno in a really intense and enjoyable way. I was looking for something like that. But the habanero was different.
The heat from the habanero was heat only. There wasn’t any of the flavor, nuance, or smokiness of the grilled fresno I had made last summer. And there wasn’t any of the flavors that you get from a habanero hot sauce. There was no flavor to the habanero at all. It was just heat. If there was a such thing as heat powder, this would be it. It was like a chemical burn on my tongue. And it didn’t give any of that pain/pleasure thing that really spicy food normally gives. Instead, it gave me a headache.