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Flap Meat Tacos

Nov. 19, 2014

By Adam Danforth, butcher and author and Billy Barlow, Director of Culinary and Production at Blue Marble Ice Cream

Up until the mid 1980s, beef flap meat in America was relegated to a ground beef ingredient. That is, until the industry discovered the appeal of “fajita meat.” Since then the skirt steak (outside and inside) has risen so much in popularity that additional flap meat cuts have been called up to help support the demand. Their deep flavor and identifiable grain provide the perfect ingredient for Southwestern cuisine (an understanding long held by those south of the border).

This recipe showcases the inherent flavor of flap meats—skirt steak, flank steak, bottom sirloin flap, or the top round cap—with some additional support from the marinade. Flap meats are tough when not prepared correctly, thus a lengthy marination time is critical to the success of this recipe; in a rush you can do it in a couple hours, but the results from a longer marinade will be far superior. The direction of cutting is also significant. Making sure the final slices are cut against the grain and on an angle will be the difference between tearing the meat or enjoying each bite. Lastly, a good crust from a hard sear will add a delicious crunch to the surface. If your stove is powerful, a medium­-high heat when cooking the meat will work; otherwise, plan on cranking up the burner to high to get the proper surface color and texture.

Beef Flap Meat Tacos
Yield: 2-3, as an entree

12 ounces beef flap meat, trimmed of connective tissue
Flap Meat Marinade (see below)
Neutral oil or lard
Corn tortillas

Suggested condiments:
Avocado, diced
Cheese, shredded
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Hot sauce
Sour cream

Cut the meat into roughly equal­-sized, manageable pieces. (For me, this means that when I am using skirt steak I cut with the grain every 6 inches or so. For larger cuts, like flank or sirloin flap, I cut with the grain to make strips, roughly 3 to 4 inches wide, and then cut against the grain into evenly sized pieces.)

Transfer the meat to a dish or zip­top bag, add the marinade, and distribute evenly throughout the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours.

Remove the meat from the marinade, discarding the extra marinade. Heat a large sauté pan over medium­high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. As smoke begins to waft from the pan, add the meat, searing well, turning, and searing well again until the meat is cooked to your desired temperature (see note). Transfer cooked meat to a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil for 7 minutes.

While the meat rests to heat the tortillas. With a gas stove, place a tortilla directly on the burner grate and turn the flame to medium­-high. Flip every 8 to 10 seconds until the tortilla is charred and crispy on the edges, 40 to 60 seconds total. With other stoves, heat a medium­-sized sauté pan over medium heat. Fry a tortilla in the dry pan and heat until well warmed and crispy, flipping every 20 to 30 seconds.

Once the meat has rested, slice against the grain into 1/4­inch strips. Serve several strips of meat with each tortilla with the taco fillings of your choosing.

Note: Flap meats range in thickness, so use your best judgement to determine the right doneness for your palate. As a general guide for the recommended medium­ rare, skirt steaks require 4 to 5 minutes total cooking time; flank steaks 6 to 7 minutes; sirloin flap 6 to 8 minutes.

Fajita Variation
Yield: 2-3, as an entree

12 ounces beef flap meat, trimmed of connective tissue
Flap Meat Marinade (see below)
1 small red bell pepper, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch strips
1jalapeno pepper, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch strips
1/2 small white onion, cut through the root and cut into 1/4-inch half-moons
Neutral oil or lard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Corn tortilla
Lime wedges

Suggested condiments:
Hot sauce
Sour cream

Follow the cutting and marination instructions in Step 1 of Beef Flap Meat Tacos.

Preheat an oven to 160ºF (71ºC), or as low as your oven can go. Heat a medium­-sized sauté pan over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. As the oil just begins to smoke, add the bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, and onion, cooking until the edges of the onion begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until the onions and peppers are easily pierced with a fork but not wilting from heat.

Remove the pan from heat and keep warm in the oven. Place the tortillas on a sheet tray and place in the oven to warm.

Cook the meat according to the instructions in Step 3 of the Beef Flap Meat Tacos recipe. After the meat rests, slice against the grain into 1/2­inch strips. Serve on warm tortillas with peppers and onions. Top with a squeeze of lime and condiments, if using.

Flap Meat Marinade

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4teaspoon dried oregano

Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl.

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