Glancing into the backyard all that remained from our barbecue was a full heart and a deck scattered with tables and chairs like a restaurant patio. Few leftovers marked the occasion of friends gathered around tables under a stormy sky. Yes, rain. Ugh. I’m not even sure how many times we hauled cushions back and forth. Finally, we just left them piled inside and pulled bare metal chairs into a tight circle, reluctant to trust the sun-rain-sun-wind-sun-rain-sun pattern. It’s Colorado, we’re used to unpredictable weather.
Breaking bread (or tacos) out on our deck with people we hold dear is the best of summer for me.
Ordinarily these casual summer gatherings are pot-luck affairs, everyone brings a favorite dish to share saving the host a few steps and I’m good with that. This barbecue was different, a personal celebration of being able to host and cook for my friends without feeling overwhelmed by all the gardening, cleaning, planning, shopping, cooking and clean-up. It was a confirmation of health and healing—relishing energy I hadn’t had in so long I’d almost forgotten what it was like. Of course, it wasn’t something to announce or make a big deal about, but I knew, like finding money in an old coat pocket.
It’s normal practice in the days just before a party to find a quiet restaurant to review our list, count our accomplishments, and finalize the menu—a glass of wine and someone else’s menu was a nice reprieve. I asked Matt if he was good with everything, his list as long as mine with yard work and heavy lifting, so really it was more of an “are you okay I drug you into this” question.
“Our friends are worth it,” he says to me. I agreed and turned to the menu …
Chile-Lime Skirt Steak and Buttermilk-Cilantro Skirt Steak Tacos (recipes below)
Chips & Primo Salsa
Hummus & Veg Tray
Grilled Vidalia Onions (didn’t end up happening)
Southwest Cauliflower Salad
Spring Greens with Orange-Dijon Vinaigrette
Apple Pie w/ Vanilla Ice Cream
Most of this menu was prepped in advance and skirt steak takes just minutes to cook, which means we enjoyed lots of time with our guests instead of fussing over the food. I broke my ‘don’t do new’ motto (it’s risky making untested recipes for a crowd), but everything turned out fabulous and now I can share them with you—skirt steak tacos for a crowd.
Chile-Lime Skirt Steak Tacos is a tried and true recipe adapted from a Test Kitchen Tuesday series we did years ago, and love. The ancho and chipotle chile powders create a balanced, mid-level spice, suitable for most palates. Keep the spice in the medium range by topping it with pico de gallo, or boost the heat with Habanero-Cilantro Sauce like we do. Palm sugar brings harmony to assertive lime juice and liquid smoke, all of which works beautifully with the beefiness of skirt steak. Really, who wants ground beef tacos when you can shove chile-spiced steak in a tortilla?!
- 2 tablespoons garlic -- minced
- 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar -- or brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ⅓ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil -- or avocado oil
- 1½ pounds skirt steak
- 2 cups cabbage -- shaved or thinly sliced on a mandoline -or- Rainbow Slaw (below)
- 2 whole avocado -- sliced for garnish
- 1 whole lime -- sliced into wedges for garnish
- Pico De Gallo
- Habanero-Cilantro Taco Sauce
- Corn Tortillas
- In a gallon-sized Ziploc® bag combine all the dry spices, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the lime juice, liquid smoke, oil, and fresh garlic and shake or massage the bag with your hands until well blended and sugar is mostly dissolved. Add the steak to the bag making sure the marinade covers all of the steak. Seal the bag and let the steak marinate in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours, or up to 24 hours. An hour before grilling, remove the steak from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
- Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the steak over med-high heat until seared on the outside and medium-rare within, about 5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the steak (thinner steak will take less time). Transfer the steak to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.
- Thinly slice the steak, cutting across the grain--you may need to rotate the steak and cut from another edge if the strips get too long (it's okay if the pieces aren't exactly the same size). Serve in warm tortillas and garnish with cabbage, fresh avocado, Pico de Gallo, Habanero-Cilantro Taco Sauce, and fresh lime wedges.
*Prep time includes marinating time.
Buttermilk-Cilantro Skirt Steak Tacos was well received by our “black pepper is too spicy” friends, as well as everyone else who tried it (here’s the recipe as promised). This recipe is also ideal for kids, though most of our friends are past that stage in life. As much as everyone liked it, I do wish I had made it at least once prior to this party so I would have known not to add the cilantro in with the rest of the ingredients in the blender as the original recipe video indicated. It turned the meat sort of green, which was not appealing to me even though it boasted a great flavor.
I was pleased to find the recipe works just as well adding the cilantro after the blending is done. As you can see in the photos, the cilantro continued to cling to the meat all the way through grilling, slicing, and serving. The garlic and green onion are reminiscent of buttermilk ranch dressing, yet hints of fresh cilantro and earthy cumin will remind you it belongs in a tortilla.
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup green onions -- coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup cilantro -- chopped
- 1½ - 2 pounds skirt steak -- cut into managable pieces, 6-8 inches long
- 12 tortillas
- Rainbow Slaw (recipe below)
- Habanero-Cilantro Taco Sauce
- Primo Salsa
- lime wedges -- for garnish
- sliced avocado -- for garnish
- In a blender, combine buttermilk, onion, garlic, oregano, corander, cumin, cardamom, salt, and pepper -- blend well. Pour buttermilk mixture into a gallon-sized Ziploc® bag with the cilantro and massage bag to mix.
- Add skirt steak to the marinade in the bag making sure to coat steak. Remove as much air from bag as possible and lay in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours, or up to 24 hours, rotating bag occasionally to be sure steak is well covered.
- An hour before grilling, remove the steak from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Grill the steak over med-high heat until seared on the outside and medium-rare within, about 5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the steak (thinner steak will take less time). Transfer the steak to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.
- Thinly slice the steak, cutting across the grain--you may need to rotate the steak and cut from another edge if the strips get too long (it's okay if the pieces aren't exactly the same size). Serve in warm tortillas and garnish with cabbage, fresh avocado, salsa, Habanero-Cilantro Taco Sauce, and fresh lime wedges.
Skirt steak cooks quickly, so it is best to have the garnishes and side dishes done before cooking the steak.
- 1 cup green cabbage -- thinly sliced
- 1 cup purple cabbage -- thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot -- grated
- ⅓ cup cilantro -- chopped
- ¼ cup scallions -- green tops only
- ½ lime -- or about 2 teaspoons lime juice
- Hand toss the ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Squeeze lime over the slaw a couple of times as you mix again to coat slaw. Serve right away.