Feasting at Home : Grilled Steak Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

May 2, 2013

Grilled Steak Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce

One of the best things about growing up in Southern California, is its proximity to Mexico. Being able to drive over the border or hop on a quick flight gave us the opportunity to visit many different areas and experience regional Mexican cuisine. My personal obsession when visiting Mexico was always the same- to find the perfect taco. After a day or two of serious reconnaissance work, it becomes clear which taco stands are the busiest, have the longest lines and draw the most locals. There, tacos cost less than a dollar, tortillas and hot sauces are made from scratch, ingredients are locally grown, and ripened on the tree and vine. This is why they taste so good.

In a few days, many of us will celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  Rooted in independence, it commemorates a day when the Mexican army defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This victory boosted moral and came to symbolize Mexico's ability to defend its sovereignty against the threat of a powerful foreign nation.  And while Cinco de Mayo is considered a minor holiday in Mexico, here in the states, it has evolved into a huge celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. And what better way to celebrate our beautiful neighbor, than through its delicious and flavorful food.

I have many fond memories of being in Mexico. Living in the north, I am drawn to its warmth. Not only do I speak of temperature, which is of paramount importance in the middle of February, but also of the warmth of its people. When you visit places, you get a feel for the energy of the people. In Mexico, I have always felt safe. I have been touched by the gentle and kind nature of people I meet there. There is a generosity of spirit, even among those who have very little. And this is what draws me there time and time again. This, and of course the quest for the perfect taco.

Although, this is not exactly a traditional Mexican taco, it comes very close to the perfect taco for me. The Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce gives this dish an amazing burst of flavor. And I use it on everything from grilled vegetables, to fish, chicken and tofu. But it's particularly good with grilled beef, and a perfect summer condiment. Flank steak is marinated and grilled. Several sides are made: Cilantro Lime Chimichurri, Quick pickles ( radish, onion, carrot or what ever you like), and a simple Pico de Gallo Salsa. Served with grilled onions or scallions, fresh grilled tortilla's, crumbled cotija, lime wedges and Tapatio, the tacos are flavorful and delicious.

Seek out fresh tortillas. Our local Rosauers carries a brand of freshly made ones, in the refrigerated section of the deli. These, lightly grilled or placed on the rack in the oven, or stove top, directly over the gas flame, until they just begin to bubble, are excellent. Keep them warm by stacking them and wrapping with a clean kitchen towel. Also, most local Mexicans store should have them, for us here in Spokane, De Leons on the North side of town, makes them fresh everyday. Or you can try making them from scratch. 

If you would like to put on a more elaborate spread, some other additions could also include sliced avocado, guacamole, crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese, or a fresh tomatillo salsa. Serving everything on an extra large cutting board, letting people make their own is a fun way to serve a group of people. 

When working with tomatoes and limes, bring them to room temperature before using. You will extract more juice from citrus when it's at room temperature. Roll it on the counter firmly with your palm before slicing. Tomatoes at room temperature tend to be more flavorful. In fact, rarely will I refrigerate a tomato.

When working with cilantro and Italian parsley, remember that their stems are actually flavorful. You can use the top tender stems with out having to pick thru each one for its leaves. It saves time and actually adds flavor. I literally take the whole top of the bunch of cilantro in my hand and twist it off. The stems that come off with the tops are tender, and I use them in the chimichurri and in salsa. And same with parsley.

Brian and I make tacos together. I marinate the beef and make all the sides. He is in charge of the grilling. It is fast easy work with two people, and we can have most of it complete in 40 minutes, sometimes 30 if the meat is pre-marinated. It's a great easy meal to serve when having guests over. An even simpler marinade for the beef is just to coat in soy sauce with juice of one lime, for 15 minutes.  In a pinch, I will sometimes do this.

A quick substitution for vegans and vegetarians is a Seared Mexican Rubbed Tofu. Buy your favorite  taco seasoning, or make your own using salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chile powder, or chipotle powder, garlic powder and a little corn starch. The secret is to add enough salt. I will often sear one piece ahead and test for salt. Cut tofu into strips, coat with spice rub and sear all sides in a skillet. We actually eat Tofu Tacos quite frequently, probably more than beef.

When grilling beef, bring meat to room temp before grilling. Preheat your grill to med high. A little charring is good. Remember to let meat rest 10 minutes before cutting across the grain.

Slice meat into bite size strips and lay on a big cutting board, topped with a generous amount of the Chimichurri sauce. Place salsas, quick pickles, limes, crumbled cojita chhese, grilled onions all around it.

The last few years I've started growing my own cilantro because I use it so often and use it in large quantities. Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs to grow because it is just so easy! Its nice having fresh herbs growing right off the kitchen…no need to run to the store and it ends up saving us money in the long run.  For a primer on how to grow cilantro read this.

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Grilled Steak Taco with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce
A flavorful twist on the traditional Carne Asada Taco

Ingredients and Directions:

Steak and Marinade:
2 lbs Flank Steak ( or pounded skirt steak)
1 sliced sweet onion for grilling (optional)
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 C soy sauce
1/3 C olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
4 smashed, chopped garlic cloves
1/2 C chopped cilantro (stems ok)
sliced sweet onion ( optional) for grilling
sometimes I will add cumin, coriander or chili power.

In a bowl, mix together ingredients for marinade. Place steak and onions in a gallon size Ziploc bag and pour marinade over, sealing and turning several times to coat well. Let sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally. ( Or marinate for up to 3 hours in fridge, bringing to room temp before grilling.)

Tortillas- 10-12 freshly made if possible

Cilantro Chimichurri:
1 bunch Cilantro or about 1 cup packed (stems OK)
1 bunch Italian Parsley- about 1 cup packed (thin stems OK)
1/4 C fresh lime juice (1-2 limes)
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C chopped onion
2 garlic  cloves
ground cumin 2 tsp
ground coriander 2 tsp
salt 3/4 tsp kosher
jalapeño -1/2 a pepper

Chimichurri Directions:
In a food processor, place jalapeno, garlic, onion, and pulse several times until chopped. Add cilantro ( stems are fine) and Italian parsley ( again, thin stems are fine), pulse again. Add oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, and salt. Pulse until combined. Set aside in small serving bowl.

Simple Pico De Gallo:
4 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, sliced
1 Serrano chili, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2  limes, juiced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Place all in a bowl, mix and let sit for 15 min to 1 hour. 

makes 2 Cups

Directions for Pico de Gallo:
Finely dice tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro. Season with salt, pepper and lime. Sometimes I'll add diced avocado and a couple splashes of Tapatio hot sauce.

Quick Pickles:
2 C mix of sliced radishes, onion, or carrots, cauliflower.... or what ever you like
1 C vinegar
1 C water
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T sugar
1 tsp whole peppercorns or whole coriander seed
few sprigs cilantro

Directions for quick pickles:
In a small sauce pan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, salt and peppercorns or coriander seeds. Add your choice of sliced radishes, slivered onions, thin sliced carrots or what ever else you like. Bring to a boil. Remove and place in freezer for 10-15 minutes. Remove and place in a serving bowl or jar. Top with a little fresh cilantro.

Garnish Ideas:
Lime wedges, crumbed queso fresco or cotija cheese ( optional), tapatio hot sauce, avocado,

Vegan Option: Seared Mexican Rubbed Tofu. Buy your favorite taco seasoning, or make your own using salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, chile powder, or chipotle powder, garlic powder and a little corn starch. The secret is to add enough salt. I will often start with coating and searing one piece ahead and test for salt. Cut tofu into strips, coat with spice rub and sear all sides in a hot skillet with a little oil. We actually eat Tofu Tacos quite frequently, probably more than beef.

Pre Heat grill and grill Meat
Grill steak on med high heat to desired doneness. A little char is good.
Let rest 10 minutes, (grill the tortillas in the mean time) then thinly slice the meat across the grain.

Tortillas- 10-12 fresh made if possible, lightly grill and wrap up in a towel, to prevent drying.

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  1. These look so so good. I have been craving tacos all week! I usually go for veggie tacos with tons and tons of fixins. But I think I may have to splurge on these this weekend!

    1. These would be good with veggies too. :)

  2. Do you think this might work with a firm, white fish?

    1. I do! The marinade may not work. I would just coat fish in a little olive oil with minced garlic, salt, pepper and lime zest.

  3. Your photos are stunning and your recipes sound delectable. We would love for you to share them at thefeastingeye.com. The Feasting Eye is still a bit new, but I think you will like what you see :-).

  4. The tacos look amazing, I've been looking for a good steak recipe for a while and now that it's warm enough I can use the grill outside and give this a shot!

  5. I would definitely like this! The flank steak and caramelized onions look amazing! And anything with cilantro is basically the best in my book. :)

  6. I'm new to your beautiful blog. I'm so looking forward to making my way through the whole thing. Thanks for your wonderful work!

  7. Wow, this looks delicious. The light and the styling on the shot of the steak with all your other acoutrements - mouthwatering.

  8. Thank you for your kind words about Mexico and Mexican. Your recipe sounds so good that I am going to try it tomorrow.

    1. You are welcome... cant wait to go back.

  9. Simply yum. I definitely gonna try this and put a version of mine in my blog. And surely will link to your post mentioning my inspiration! Keep up the good work!

    1. Send us the link! Would love to see it!

  10. Made this tonight it was delicious.

  11. Made this last night, it was a huge hit! Thanks for a great recipe

  12. I made this and it did not disappoint! The flavors are all there! I can't wait to make this for my friends honestly. They will be really impressed, thank you!!

  13. Man oh man - these tacos are loaded with all sorts of goodness!

  14. Yum! Found you on pinterest... I live in Spokane too. What rosauers carries the fresh tortillas?

    1. I get them at Rosauers on 29th near the deli....in the refrigerated section. :)

  15. Can't wait to try this for our dinner party this weekend! How much meat would you recommend per person?

  16. Hi. Is it ok to NOT boil the radishes and just to let them sit for a couple of days before eating??
    I've pickled other stuff this way. Also. Should I pasteurize?

    1. I bet that would work, I would refrigerate.

  17. these look amazing cant wait to make them........

  18. Amazing ....thank you for sharing your faboloussss recipe.

  19. Would this work with sirloin steak?

  20. You have a wonderful site and the photos are superb. Thankyou for your inspiration and expertise!!!

  21. I just made this.. the chimichurri is SO GOOD! A new staple for my household!

    Thank you for sharing!

  22. Sylvia,
    I am so going to try these Tacos! They look & sound Delish..
    I really enjoyed reading about your trips to Mexico. I just love it there. I just wish I could speak Spanish! (Pretty sad since I am Mexican/Hispanic)... :)

    To think back when we were in Jr. High/High School that you would become this wonderful chef!! I cant wait to try your recipes. My family will just love this one :)
    Cindy Orozco

  23. Like whoa Sylvia, this is straight FIRE. Never made anything this complex so far, but your directions are on point. Thanks for the excellent recipe, now I just need someone to impress with this recipe!

  24. So apparently Facebook doesn't always notify you when someone tags your FB page, so I thought I would let you know that I shared this with my FB fans :) https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151822824868070&set=a.174654903069.124188.163690253069&type=1

  25. I love all the photos here and the recipe looks delicious! Even though I don't cook meat, all the other elements of these tacos sound incredible. I hope to figure out a good veggie or fish taco using some of the same condiments and certainly the chimichurri sauce!

  26. Thank you very much for your recipe. It was a big hit from the Chimichurri Sauce, Beef Marinade, Quick Pickled Vegetables, to the Picó dé Gallo. I will try to make when we have guest. Thank you again and God bless you...

    1. Thanks Mary, so glad you enjoyed.

    2. Let me tell you that I made again but this time with Tri Tip and the pickled veggies I made them with 3 jalapeños cut in circles. I did everything the same on the pickled veggies but, since we are Mexican/American I wanted it to add some spice to it. Try it you will like it! I didn't deveined them...

  27. I came here for the Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce (which was amazing), but now I want to make everything else on this page!

  28. Could you let the steak marinate for about 6 hours?

  29. pretty damn delicious!!!
    the steak and the cilantro chimmichurri sauce photographs really seducing my taste buds....
    i like to add some lemon basil and green bird eye chilli pepper too for it,



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