Sous Vide Flank Steak Tacos with Red Onion Compote & chèvre

sous vide flank steak tacos
Sous vide strikes again! This time, we’re exploiting science for perfectly medium-rare, ultra-tender flank steak.  And, since we’re throwing ethnic authenticity to the wind, why be predictable with our condiments?  Salsa and Monterey Jack are out, red onion compote and chèvre (goat’s cheese) are in.  If you’re not a sous vider (yet), you can cook your flank steak however you like: broiled, grilled, smoked, or fried.

Makes: 4 Tacos Scientificos
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes (+12 hours cooking time)
Special equipment: Vacuum sealer, sous vide water oven

Shopping list:

  • 1 lb. flank steak
  • 1 tsp. Mexican seasoning blend
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 four tortillas
  • 1 cup crumbled goat’s cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 bunch cilantro

  1. Pat the steak dry and coat all sides with Mexican seasoning blend and lime juice.  Vacuum seal the steak in a bag large enough that the meat lays flat (but still fits in your water oven).  Cut the meat into two pieces and seal separately, if needed.  (If you’re not cooking your steak sous vide, place it in a zip-top bag or a covered shallow dish and let it marinate overnight). Note: although it might be tempting to add aromatics like garlic to the marinade, don’t! Your kitchen will smell like ass by the time the meat is done.
  2. Set your sous vide water oven to 56°C.  Add the vacuum sealed steak, making sure the meat stays submerged.  Cook for a minimum of 1 hour, up to 48 hours.  The picture above shows the meat after cooking for 12 hours, which was perfectly tender.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add the red onion and reduce the heat to low.  Let the onion sweat 5 minutes, until it is slightly translucent, but not browned.  Add the dark brown sugar, sherry vinegar and salt and stir to combine. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, and making sure the mixture doesn’t boil or burn. 
  4. Remove the bag from the water bath and let the meat rest, still in the bag, for 10 minutes before searing.  Remove the meat from the bag and pat dry on all sides.  Sear with a blow torch, under the broiler, or in a smoking-hot pan.
  5. Slice the meat perpendicular to the direction of the muscle fibers, and on a sharp bias. 
  6. Assemble the tacos: tortilla, sour cream, steak, cheese, onion compote, cilantro.  Enjoy!

Cooking the steak sous vide rather than just grilling it may sound like a pain in the ass since you have to plan 12 hours ahead.  However, the hardest part of cooking flank steak is getting your timing right. Leave it on the grill 1 minute too long and it’s overcooked and tough; take it off too early and it’s raw.  And, if you’re entertaining company, you may be more focused on your margarita than your steak.  Cooking your meat sous vide lets you be laissez-faire with your timing – sometimes I even sear my steak before company arrives and return it to the water bath to keep it warm until we’re ready to eat.

Lemongrass-Mint Poached Halibut

poached halibut Halibut is the tofu of fish, but in a good way.  You can fry it, grill it, bake it, poach it or roast it, and it will absorb flavors like a sponge (figuratively – I’ve never cooked with sponges).  This dish is nouveau Mexican, my favorite kind of Mexican, but is adaptable to whatever flavors you have in mind.  The jicama taquito with braised leek and avocado filling adds a cooling crunch to this great summer dish.

Makes: 4 open-faced tacos
Total kitchen time: 1 hour

Shopping List:

  • 2 lbs. halibut fillet, skin removed
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 jicama root
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Fill a large skillet with hot water, about 1″ deep.  Add the chopped mint leaves and lemongrass and bring to a boil.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, proceed with the following steps.
  2. Peel the jicama root and slice it in half through the middle (the equator).  Using a mandoline (or a very sharp knife and steady hands), slice the jicama into discs less than 1 mm thick.  Chances are that you’ll have some mistakes lying around – it is actually kind of difficult to shave jicama into discs this thin.  Finely dice about 2 tbsp. of your mistakes and save them for the next step.
  3. Scoop out the avocados into a medium bowl.  Add the finely diced jicama mistakes, garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside the avocado filling and jicama discs.
  4. Cut off the bottom and top end of the leek.  Then, cut the leek lengthwise down the middle.  With the flat (cut) side of the leek on your chopping board, run your knife from top to bottom making very small strips.  Set aside.
  5. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the leek strips and cook gently until the leeks have softened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Now would be a good time to start poaching the fish.  Cut the fillet into 4 equal portions and gently set them in the boiling lemongrass-mint water.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Poach, turning once, for a total of about 10 minutes.
  7. Next, fry the tortillas.  Heat a medium saucepan over high heat and add enough vegetable oil to cover the pan about 1/2″ deep.  Bring the oil to 350°F and add the corn tortillas, one at a time.  Fry the tortillas about 30 seconds on each side.  Immediately drain each tortilla on a stack of paper towels.  Dust one side lightly with cinnamon and paprika.  Set aside.
  8. Spoon a bout 1 tbsp. of avocado filling onto each jicama disc, then top with strips of braised leek.  Roll the jicama into a log shape and set aside.
  9. Drain each piece of fish and plate atop the fried tortilla.  Add the jicama taquito and sprinkle finishing salt (I used red Hawaiian salt, though regular sea salt will work) over everything. 

Admittedly, this dish is a little bit of work, but the result is beautiful and delicious.  You could easily turn this into a summer salad by using tostada shells instead of corn tortillas, and adding in some Pico de Canario.