After a long week at SXSW, I didn’t want to go out for dinner. My boyfriend wanted something comforting and simple, which always translates to Tex-Mex food. When we traveled to Baja California Sur over Christmas holidays, we had these amazing steak tacos that were made from the Arrachera, or the skirt cut of beef. I had been wanting to make these steak tacos for a long time, but I’ve not had much luck in finding a good recipe. The arrachera steak I had was so tender, so juicy, that I thought there had to be some sort of special marinade that breaks down this tough cut of meat.

I did a little bit of research online first to figure out what arrachera even means and why is it different than, say, flank steak. What I found out is that flank steak has grains that runs horizontally, and arrachera, or skirt steak has grains that runs vertically. I also learned that these steaks are often horizontally halved to reduce the overall thickness of the meat so all it requires is a quick 1 or 2 minute sear per side to get to the medium rareness that makes it so tender and juicy.

I found many recipes that recommended marinating overnight, or even days in advance to tenderize the steak, which would not work for me if I wanted make the tacos the day of. I also found a Rick Bayless recipe that called for a quick lime juice, salt, and pepper dressing right before cooking. With so many different opinions on how the steak is best cooked, I decided just to go to the local Mexican store, gather my ingredients, then come home and figure out what to do.

At the Mexican grocer, I found a pre-seasoned and marinaded Arrachera steak, which the butchers also conveniently cleaned of all fat and silvery tissues before hand. The meat had an orange reddish hue, which I imagine came from the Achiote Paste they used as a part of the marinade, and right away, I knew that’s what I was going to buy and cook with.

The steak it self only takes a few minutes to cook. I heated up some oil in a cast iron skillet, turned up the heat, and once the pan was ready, I seared the steak for about 1.5 minutes on the first side, and 2 minutes on the second side.

You don’t want to over cook this meat, otherwise it will be way too tough to eat. Even though it is a cheaper cut of meat, you want to treat it with the same respect you would treat a $20 piece of steak. Let it rest for a few minutes for the liquids in the steak to redistribute. Even if you had cooked it for the right amount of time, if you cut it into it too soon, the liquid will drain out, and you will be left with a dry steak.

After I removed the steak from the hot pan, I tossed in some sliced onions and de-seeded jalapeno peppers, since my boyfriend loves grilled veggies.

To go with the tacos, I made some pico de gallo, and fresh guacamole. For the guacamole, I used a Rick Bayless recipe composed of very fresh ingredients.

I love how colorful the vegetables are, and I noticed how the colors reflect the colors in the Mexican flag.

I made fresh Margaritas and some refried beans nachos to complete the meal.