Roque’s Beef Carnitas

beeffrom Tasting New Mexico: 100 Years of Distinctive Home Cooking by Cheryl & Bill Jamison

Pork is the most common meat for carnitas in New Mexico and the rest of the borderlands, but many cooks also make a stellar rendition with beef. This is the popular version that Roque Garcia and his wife, Mona Cavalli, have served for decades from their street cart on the Santa Fe Plaza. The couple credits Roque’s mother for the original home recipe, which Roque recommends duplicating in other home kitchens in the following manner. He calls for an overnight marinating for the meat, but we have had good results with as little as a half-hour soak when rushed.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds boneless sirloin or top round steak, cut across the grain into 1/8-inch strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
5 fresh mild New Mexican green chiles, sliced into very thin rounds
4 thick flour tortillas, warmed

6 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon crumbled dried Mexican oregano
4 garlic cloves, minced

Mona’s Salsa
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 to 6 fresh jalapenos, chopped fine
2 tablespoons minced cilantro, optional
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt, optional

For marinade
1. The night before you plan to cook, place the beef strips in a gallon Ziplock bag. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and pour it over the beef. Refrigerate covered for as long as you can manage, up to 24 hours.

For salsa
1. The day you plan to cook, stir together the salsa ingredients in a bowl. Add salt if you wish, keeping in mind that the soy sauce in the meat marinade gives a good bit of salty tang to the dish. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

1. Drain the beef strips, discarding the marinade.
2. In a large heavy wok or cast-iron skillet, warm half of the oil over high heat until it just begins to smoke. Add half of the beef and stir-fry, tossing almost constantly, until browned well, about 2 minutes. Repeat with the remaining oil and meat. Transfer the meat to a plate as the strips get deeply colored.
3. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium and add the onion and chile. Cook until softened and charred in a few spots, stirring almost constantly. Return the meat to the skillet and toss with the vegetables.
4. Using tongs, lift about 1/4 of the meat mixture from the skillet, getting a balanced mix of meat and vegetables. Allow excess juices to drip back into the skillet. Fill a tortilla. Repeat with remaining beef mixture and tortillas. Top with salsa and serve right away. Pick the tortilla up and fold it upward like a taco to devour.

Working ahead: In addition to marinating the beef a day ahead, you can slice the onions and chiles and wrap them tightly to store overnight in the refrigerator.

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