Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nachos with Chipotle Lime Steak

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And other times, a picture will ignite a thousand taste buds. That's what made me set aside all the other recipes in my "must try" binder and elevate this one to the very top. My husband wanted pizza for dinner (it's Super Bowl Sunday), but after I told him about this recipe and then let him smell the marinade, he quickly decided this sounded and smelled better than freezer pizza, proving that words (and smells) can be just as powerful as pictures.
Thanks go out to a colleague and to the Pioneer Woman for this recipe -- the colleague for introducing me to the Pioneer Woman's website and to the Pioneer Woman for posting her absolutely decadent dish. I've tweaked it enough to make it my own, so I've given it a new name, but wanted to give credit to the original creator. Enjoy!
Nachos with Chipotle Lime Steak

Flank Steak
1 whole Flank Steak
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tsp. salt
5 whole canned chipotle peppers (with sauce)
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bunch Cilantro, divided

1 red onion, thinly sliced and cut into quarters
1 cup bell pepper, sliced into bite-sized pieces (can use different colors)
1 cup frozen corn
Olive oil (for frying)
Lime tortilla chips
12 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded
Guacamole (optional)
Salsa (optional)
Sour Cream (optional)

1. To prepare the steak: Combine olive oil, lime juice, salt, garlic, chipotle peppers and half bunch of cilantro in a food processor or blender. Blend until totally combined. Place flank steak into a large plastic zip-topped bag. Pour marinade in bag, seal bag and make sure marinade coats the meat. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, massaging meat and rotating bag every few hours. Remove from fridge two hours before grilling.

2. When ready to make the nachos, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle olive oil on the grill and grill the meat over very medium-high to high heat, about 4 minutes per side or until medium. Remove steak from heat and let rest on cutting board for at least 10 minutes.

3. In a large skillet (or same grill pan as used for the steak), heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions, peppers and corn to pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until vegetables are somewhat soft and starting to get black bits. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Slice half of the flank steak into strips against the grain, then chop slices into smaller bites.

5. Arrange tortilla chips on large ovenproof platter (or cookie sheet.) Sprinkle half of the cheese all over the chips. Layer the onion-pepper-corn mixture over the cheese, and then the steak over the peppers. Top with remaining cheese. Place platter in oven for 5 minutes or so, just long enough to melt the cheese (but not burn the chips.)

6. Top with chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

Substitution Suggestions:  Chicken! You simply must try the marinade with chicken and then grill it. Oh. My. Goodness. I thought the steak was fabulous, but then I marinated a piece of chicken and threw it on the grill. It took this recipe to a whole new level.
Now back to the generic substitutions. You can throw in just about any veggie that goes well with a Tex-Mex, fajita-style dish like this. I used a frozen bell pepper mix to cut down on the prep time. There's no reason why sweet onions won't work if you don't have red onions. And for the marinade, you could squeeze fresh limes, but bottled is so much easier.
I'm a recent convert to fresh garlic. I'll never buy the jarred stuff again. Fresh tastes so much better, but if you don't have fresh, jarred will work.
The original recipe called for plain tortilla chips, but I loved the extra zing that came from the lime chips.
I suppose you could use any type of meltable cheese. I like Monterey Jack. Pepper Jack would be very good and add more kick since the dish is not spicy.

Lessons Learned: Don't let the thought of five chipotles scare you. There really is NO HEAT, just flavor in the marinade. I actually went with four chipotles the first time I made this, but upped it to five the second time around.  (I'm so glad I didn't go with three, like I originally planned.) And, I loved using the same grill pan for my veggies. It picked up some of the charred marinade left over from grilling the steak. I may have smoked out my kitchen for a few minutes, but the end result was definitely worth the effort and smoke. If you grill the steak outside, just saute the veggies in a skillet (and add a touch of the marinade to the pan).
The original marinade did not contain any salt, but I think it could have benefited from it, so it's added here.
Don't go strictly by my cooking time for the steak. That's just an estimate. If you like your steak well done, you'll need to leave it on longer. It was a little rare for my family, but the few minutes in the oven to melt the cheese brought it to the medium color I was looking for.
I read a tip in a magazine recently that said it's easier to peel whole cloves of garlic if you place them in a metal bowl, top it with a plate and shake vigorously. I tried it and lo and behold, it really did make them easier to peel. The papers didn't fall off automatically, but they were much easier to peel.
In all, a terrific dish. I think it'll take a few days to finish digesting this (it's very filling), but I look forward to making it again and again. This much I can guarantee -- if you make it for a bunch of hungry guys watching a football game, you will have many new friends.

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