Lettuce Wrapped Steak Tacos

Chinese banquets were a part of growing up in my family. If you haven’t had the experience, picture a room full of round tables topped with lazy Susans. For some reason, each table has a bucket of ice, a tiny bottle of 7-up, and a bottle of sparkling cider as your multi-functional center piece/serve yourself beverage bar. This is then followed by course after course of delicious, but usually the same dishes that you find at every other banquet: the first plate of cold cuts (only these are in the form of sesame flavored jelly fish strands, bbq pork and jellied greyish looking ham? god let that be ham), crispy chicken, shark fin soup, steamed fish, some seafood and vegetable medley. If you’re (meaning me) really lucky, the penultimate entrée before a plate of noodles or fried rice, will be some amazing “wrapped” thing– pieces of roast pork or duck with its crispy skin in steamed buns or pancakes, or the surprisingly delightful chopped squab that you wrap in lettuce and plum sauce.

Quite a lengthy and seemingly strange way to introduce a recipe for tacos, huh? Well, these tacos, which I wrapped in crisp butter lettuce leaves instead of tortillas, reminded me of the lettuce wrapped squab. Lettuce wrapped squab, I feel has been bastardized in the last few years by the concept of a certain “Asian” restaurant chain’s chicken lettuce cups. Although I admit that those chicken lettuce cups are tasty as hell, I miss the more complex flavors of the lettuce wrapped squab and wish there was a way to popularize that. Alas, I don’t think squab is destined to be a regular source of white meat due to the expense for such little meat (and the notion that you’re essentially eating pigeon) so I’ll just settle for adding more ideas to the delicious lettuce wrapped oeuvre.

Here we have pieces of flank steak rendered tender after a quickish marinade in a mix of fresh squeezed orange juice, a splash of tequila, and a bit of dark Tamari soy sauce. Once broiled, the sugars from the juice in the marinade gave the steaks a flavorful crust which paired nicely with the tangy crunch of some pickled jalapenos and radishes as well as the refreshing crunch of the lettuce. Serve with chips and guacamole and preferably a couple of margaritas, and you have an amazing and fast summer time meal.

Note: This recipe makes two light but filling entrees or could serve 4-6 as a small bite course. Since it’s summer, you could definitely grill these instead of broiling, but I opted for broiling since I felt a little silly setting up our charcoal grill for two small pieces of steak.

  • 2 pieces of flank steak, weighing 5 oz each
  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cloves of green garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large jalapeno, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2-3 radishes, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 small head butter crunch leaf lettuce, leaves separated and kept whole, washed and spun dry.
  • 1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

Whisk together the orange juice, tequila, oil, soy sauce, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper in a small baking dish. Add the flank steak, cover with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator for half an hour. Flip the steaks and let the other sides marinate at room temperature for another half an hour. Take out steaks and discard marinade. Season both sides of both steaks with the steak seasoning and broil or grill for 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare, extending the time if you prefer your steaks more well done. Remove to a plate and tent with foil, letting the steaks rest for 10 minutes.

While steaks marinate, combine the vinegar, sugar, and water in a bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the radishes and jalapeno. Let vegetables sit in quick pickling solution.

When ready to serve, slice steaks across the grain into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. To make a taco, place 2-3 slices of steak in a lettuce leaf and top with crumbled cheese, a few slices of pickled vegetables, and a sprinkle of cilantro.

CSA Count: 2

Green garlic, butter crunch leaf lettuce


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