I’m a Southern California girl at heart, through and through. I was born and raised in a small beach town and grew up with the best Mexican food in the country (no bias, really). So when Clinton and I moved to Chicago a couple years ago, aside from missing our families, we sorely missed the Mexican food (so much so that we have been known to smuggle back guacamole in our suitcases from time to time). But because we can only get back to SoCal a few times a year, I had to learn to cook some of our favorites Mexican dishes myself.
Now, there’s a difference between SoCal Mexican food and Mexican food found elsewhere. Tex-Mex is very different because of its heavy use of melted cheeses, beef, beans, and spices (particularly cumin). Southern Mexican cuisine also heavily uses cheese and spicy sauces in dishes such as in enchiladas (which is arguably the most prevalent Mexican cuisine in the U.S.), and these tend to be a little heavier. SoCal Mexican food is largely influenced by Baja California, and therefore uses more fresh or raw ingredients, such as chili peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and lime, also making these dishes fall on the healthier side. And while southern Mexican cuisine uses more chicken and pork, northern Mexican dishes use more grilled beef (carne asada) and fish. Although I truly love any kind of authentic Mexican food, the Baja California-style cuisine takes me home.
What you’ll need (makes 4 servings):
- 20 corn tortillas or 10 flour tortillas (you need to double up the corn tortillas; I prefer flour, Clinton prefers corn)
- 1 pound flank steak or top sirloin roast
- 2 avocados
- 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
- Pico de gallo
- 2 tomatoes
- 1/2 medium yellow onion
- 1 cup chopped cilantro (or 1 big giant handful)
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
What you’ll need to do:
Start by getting your beef on the grill pan over medium heat. Cover with aluminum foil. If you’re making flank steak, cook for 3 minutes on one side and flip, cooking an additional 3 minutes on the other side. If you’re using a top sirloin roast (like I did in this recipe), cook for about 10 minutes on one side, flip, and cook for an additional 10 minutes on the other side. Whichever cut of beef you decide to use, let it rest for a few minutes after it’s done cooking.
While the beef cooks, make your pico de gallo. Chop your tomatoes, onion, jalapenos, and cilantro. Mix in a medium bowl, and add your garlic, lime juice, olive oil, and salt. Set aside.
Slice your avocados and lettuce, set aside for assembly.While the beef rests, warm your tortillas directly on the stove. If you have a gas stove, put your tortilla directly on the burner and toast over medium heat, about 30 seconds on each side. If you don’t have a gas stove, warm your tortillas in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
After your beef has rested for a few minutes, slice across the grain into long strips. If the strips are too long, cut into more bite-sized pieces.
Assemble your tacos as follows: Beef first, then avocado, pico de gallo, and top with lettuce. Enjoy this one with a nice cold Pacifico or Corona, and picture yourself on a sunny beach in SoCal.