It’s not the warm tortilla or the tender filling that makes a taco for me — it’s the condiments. The main protein almost doesn’t matter, be it fish, beef tongue or crisp pork carnitas. As long as there are several kinds of salsas and hot sauces, alongside the lime wedges, sliced radishes and chopped onions available at the taco stand, you’ll find me happily dabbing, squeezing and layering before taking a bite.
At home, though, your choice of taco condiments is usually more limited. How many salsas are you willing to make?
Your best move, then, is to make a well-considered salsa that works with the protein at hand, and to put out a crisp vegetable or two as a counterpart to the soft filling in the warm tortillas.
In this summery recipe, grilled skirt steaks, marinated with garlic, coriander, cumin, chile powder and lime zest, serve as the protein. The longer you let the meat sit in the seasonings, the more intense the flavors will become. Marinating overnight is best, if you can plan ahead, but just an hour or so makes a difference.
Even if you don’t get around to putting it into tacos, the steak itself is flavorful enough to stand alone. Serve it with a salad, and enjoy its beefy simplicity.
That said, the salsa is worth the effort, and you can make it as the meat marinates.
To make it, first grill the onion, garlic and a jalapeño. This caramelizes their flesh, making them tender and sweet. Then, add another jalapeño — this one raw — and a squirt of lime juice for bracing, fiery notes that you can adjust to taste. The jalapeño seeds will make everything spicier; adding more or less lime juice controls the acidity.
For a bit of richness, I add avocado cubes to the salsa bowl. It’s not a common move; usually, if they are paired with tacos, avocados are mashed into guacamole or neatly sliced on the side. But their gentle flavor and buttery texture works well here. Be sure to stir gently after adding them: You want them to stay as little velvety pillows until you bite in.
Once you’ve got the meat, salsa and tortillas, you can garnish your tacos with any crisp vegetables on hand. I love radishes, but pickled carrot rounds, sliced onions or shredded cabbage are…