Coffee-Marinated Flank Fajitas with Pico De Gallo

By • April 19, 2011 25 Comments

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Author Notes: The fajita is a relatively new addition (1930s) to the Tex-Mex repetoire of deliciousness. It started as a griddled skirt steak but nowadays we make them out of just about anything, seasoned and garnished and wrapped in a tortilla. Extremely flexible and super-delicious, what's not to love? In this version, I used flank steak and my own chili powder ground from equal parts guajillo, ancho, and cascabel chilis. If you don't have access to bins of various dried chilis like we do here in the great state of Texas, you can use ancho powder, which is readily available in most areas. Just make sure you are using straight ground chilis and not the seasoned chili powder. Pico de gallo adds a fresh brightness to balance the rich coffee-marinated meat... aargersi

Food52 Review: Coffee is working behind the scenes here—a silent but powerful player, tenderizing a typically tough meat to almost that of a filet (but with all the flavor and character of flank steak!). Either my butcher blessed me with quality raw materials, or the coffee enzymes truly do have transformative powers. For this test I had 1.95-pound flank steak, which marinated for 3 hours (turning over in the marinade at the halfway point). I used ancho powder, the recommend substitute for aargersi's own chili powder blend. I cut the steak in half and seared each piece in a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons canola oil, 3 minutes on each side. The thinner half was a mid-rare, the thicker half-rare/mid-rare. The cooked meat had no hint of coffee flavor, just subtly sweet and spiced. The accompanying pico was simple, fresh and bright. My parents, native Texans, gave it two thumbs up and were eager to try it out on the grill back home.Allison Bruns Buford

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Serves 4 to 6

Pico de gallo

  • 2 cups diced tomato (I used red and yellow)
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 3 seeded and minced jalapeños (mine were mild—adjust according to heat to your taste)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • Salt
  1. Mix all ingredients together, add a pinch of salt, stir, and taste. Put it in the fridge for a while then stir and taste for salt again.

Coffee-marinated flank fajitas

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground chili (see headnote on chili powder)
  • Olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream and tortillas to serve
  1. Whisk together the coffee, molasses, garlic, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, and chilis. Score your flank steak on both sides with a shallow criss-cross pattern. Marinate the flank steak for 3 to 4 hours in the coffee mixture—I use one of those large rectangle throw-away plastic containers and it's a perfect fit.
  2. Heat your grill to high heat (or, if you don't have a grill, you could broil or sear in a big, hot, preferably iron skillet). Remove the flank steak from the marinade and gently pat it dry. Season with just a bit more salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Now rub it all over with olive oil.
  3. Grill the steak until desired doneness—we grilled is 2 to 3 minues on one side, flipped, then back and forth again to create a criss-cross pattern (see photo—my pictures came out crappy but you get the idea) and ours was a good medium.
  4. Rest your steak for several minutes. When you are ready to serve, slice the flank across the grain (the short way), and wrap 2 to 3 slices in a tortilla with a good dollop each of pico and sour cream. Dig in!

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