Tacotopia, Episode #5 — In Praise of Leftovers

Leftover steak is always a welcome thing in our home. It’s uses are many, beyond simply having tasty leftover steak in the fridge: Vietnamese beef salad or spring rolls, pasta Bolognese, steak sandwiches… And, perhaps most deliciously of all, tacos.

The taco

The taco

Even under normal circumstances, I’m always on the hunt for new taco inspiration. This particular day, in addition to the leftover steak, I had some roasted pasilla chiles in the fridge. An exceptional combination, thought I — especially with the addition of some slices mushrooms and monterrey jack cheese.

Much like one of my favorite tacos — the shrimp-and-fried-cheese taco — the ultimate success in this dish rests in the gooey convergence of the primary ingredients in the pan. Four things become inextricably one; four flavors combine like Wonder-Twin-powers-activate! to become a single savory force. “Shape of… a taco!” “Form of… deliciousness!”


I have made a similar queso fundido in the past — Monterey jack cheese, roasted chiles, mushrooms — so I might’ve known that the addition of steak, onions and cilantro, and a toasted corn tortilla would be a winning formula. But I couldn’t have known it would be quite so… WINNING!

Other leftovers make good tacos, too — chicken, hash browns, roasted vegetables, fish, pork roast.

Not all leftovers make good tacos, though — I had some leftover Chinese noodles in the fridge I had for lunch today. They would not have made a good taco.

You don’t need leftovers to succeed with these tacos. Get yourself a fresh steak, some raw pasilla chiles and mushrooms, some jack cheese and a stack of those little taco tortillas, and get to work!


*    *    *

Steak, mushroom, chile and cheese tacos
serves 4

1 lb. skirt steak
2 large pasilla chiles
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 oz. jack cheese, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup salsa naranja
12 taco-size tortillas

Roast the chiles: Place them on a rack under a broiler on high heat, and broil until skin begins to blacken. Turn once so each side gets scorched. Remove, place in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 5 minutes. When chiles have cooled, peel of blistered skin, and tear the chiles into strips, wiping away the seeds (you may also wash under cold water).

Toss together the onions and cilantro.

Salt the skirt steak. Sear the skirt steak on a very hot grill or cast iron pan for about 1 minute on each side. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the skirt steak across the grain about 1/4-inch thick into strips. Dip the tortillas in the juices that have accumulated on the cutting board.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Working 4-6 at a time (whatever your pan can handle), place a slice of jack cheese in the pan, and top with a strip of steak, a strip or two of chile, and a few sliced mushrooms. Cook until cheese is melted and browning, and with a spatula, carefully turn over so the fried cheese is on top and the remaining ingredients are beneath. Cook for about 3 minutes, until mushrooms are golden and the cheese has melted all the ingredients into one solid filling. Scoop each cheese configuration out and rest on foil.

When you’ve made twelve of these, toast the tortillas 60 seconds or so per side until golden.

Compose your tacos: place a cheese configuration on top of each tortilla, sprinkle with some onion/cilantro mixture, drizzle with a little salsa and serve.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Jun 03, 2016 @ 20:40:57

    Num! I just made enchiladas with the last of the turkey mole in the freezer.


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