By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local

In Montclair, graduation season is upon us. I remember (not even that long ago) graduating from Montclair High School and feeling this sense of wonder and trepidation about what the future would hold for me. I am sure this feeling is shared by many if not all of the current graduating class. 

For me the one constant throughout periods of stress is a good meal surrounded by family and friends. I wanted to feature something loaded with flavor that was also easy to prepare, since graduation week is usually remarkably busy between parties, dinners, photo shoots and a bunch of other things that manage to come up.

What better way to celebrate than with steak? It is always a meal synonymous with special occasions, so why should this be any different? The trick is to marinate the beef overnight so it absorbs as much flavor as possible. This hands-off approach results in labor-free flavor because time is what is doing the work.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ lbs. skirt steak cut into foot-long sections (I like the marbling on skirt steak, but if you want to be more health-conscious flank steak is much leaner and provides a similar experience)
  • Pepper
  • 2 limes, 1 of them sliced in half and 1 reserved until the day you plan to make the tacos
  • 1 whole bunch cilantro, cut off half of the leaves and tiny stems, reserve them until the day you plan to make the tacos
  • 1 large onion, half of it peeled and sliced, the other half reserved until the day you plan to make the tacos
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 tbs. of your favorite hot sauce
  • Chili flakes to taste
  • 1 tbs. rice vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt 
  • 12 of your favorite corn tortillas

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Instructions:

The night before:

  1. Season the steak with black pepper (don’t season with salt at this point because salt extracts moisture, and it will negatively impact the finished product; the vinegar and lime juice in the marinade will sufficiently tenderize the meat).
  2. Place the steak into a gallon-size freezer bag, squeeze the juice out, and add the lime, nonreserved cilantro stems and leaves, the sliced half of an onion, garlic, soy sauce, hot sauce, chili flakes, rice vinegar and a healthy pour of olive oil. 
  3. Seal the bag and mix all of the ingredients so the steak is well-coated. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The day of:

  1. Heat your grill to medium heat. At this point take the steak out of the refrigerator so it can warm up slightly.
  2. Finely chop the reserved cilantro, finely dice the reserved onion, and cut the reserved lime into sixteenths. (The easiest way is to cut the lime in half longways, place the flat, cut side on the cutting board and cut into quarters longways. Then cut those quarters in half.) Put these ingredients in small bowls.
  3. Remove the steak from the marinade, pick off any pieces of the marinade that have attached themselves.
  4. Season the steak with salt and additional pepper.
  5. Grill the steak to your desired temperature. I like medium-rare, so I usually do between 3 and 5 minutes per side depending on thickness. 
  6. When your steak is cooked, let it rest on a cutting board for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. While the steak is resting, heat your tortillas on the grill. This is a quick process, 10-15 seconds per side.
  8. Slice your steak against the grain, put 2-3 slices on each tortilla, garnish with generous amounts of diced onion and cilantro, squeeze the fresh lime and feel free to top with additional hot sauce. I usually pour over the cutting board juices as well. 
  9. Enjoy!

This is a fantastic, easily scalable meal that can be prepared ahead of time and only takes about a half-hour of hands-on cooking. It is perfect for a busy time. Any other meat can be substituted for the beef and the recipe remains the same. If you would prefer shellfish or fish, marinate for only 1 hour, omit the vinegar and lime juice in the marinade, and squeeze lime over the fish while grilling. Let us know your variations! 

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STEVEN DESALVO
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In Recipe of the Month food writer Steven DeSalvo shares a recipe Montclairians might enjoy making. DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels. If there is something you want to know how to make, or that you’ve eaten at a local restaurant and are dying to make at home, drop us a note at culture@montclairlocal.news.