Tacos de Arrachera + Spicy Piña and Tequila cocktails - TULUM

I blinked my eyes open, unable to set focus ahead of me, the clear blue sky indistinguishable from the green-blue waters. Rays of sunlight peak through the dried palm fronds over head. Scattered around us are books, halved limes, empty shells of avocados and the end of a bottle of wine sitting in a bath of melted ice. The beach is empty, as it has been for days, aside from the scrappy pair of dogs that show up now and then. My skin is sweet and salty from showerless days of swimming in the sea, and many balmy nights sleeping under mosquito netting in the thatched roof cabana.
This is our beach. This is our piece of jungle.
We are off the grid, powerless, clockless, careless in the isolated biosphere of Tulum, Mexico.

I walk from the beach through the jungle,  careful not to step on the little white crabs that dart in and out of their respective holes in the sand. I splash my feet quickly in the basin of water before entering the kitchen. It is a wall-less structure, laid out perfectly for this Robinson Crusoe way of life. I start to lower the baskets from overhead to survey what produce is left from the market. I momentarily turn on the generator, it hums as I blend the pineapple into a frothy juice - piña y tequila reposado is the vacation staple drink. The charcoals heat up quickly. 
Time to grill lunch.

Spicy Piña & Tequila Cocktails

1 ripe pineapple, cored and cut into cubes
2 tbsp. agave syrup
coarse sea salt
chile pepper
2 limes
tequila reposada

Blend the pineapple and agave syrup with a few inches of water in the bottle of the blender. Stir in the juice from a 1 and 1/2 limes. Use the remaining 1/2 lime to rub the rim of two glasses. With a bit of chile pepper and salt on a plate, dip the rims. Throw in a couple ice cubes, a healthy pour of tequila, the pineapple juice-stir and garnish with a lime and pineapple wedge. 

Tacos de Arrachera

serves 4

1.) marinade:
1/4 of a ripe papaya, peeled/seeded and into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 habanero pepper, stemmed

2.) grilled salsa:
2 pearl onions
bell pepper
1 habanero
3 tomatillos, husks removed
salt + pepper
cider vinegar

3.) pineapple skillet:
1/2 pineapple cut into strips
1 red onion, sliced
1 bell pepper, seeded, and cut into strips
soy sauce
extra virgin olive oil

4.) arrachera:
1 1/2 lb. cut of skirt steak
salt + pepper

5.) taco spread:
corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced
lime wedges
hot sauce

Trim major fat off the steak cut (s), and make shallow diagonal cuts on the meat about 1" apart (to help absorb marinade). Cover the steak salt + pepper. In a shallow dish, pour marinade over the steak and rub in. Allow the steak to marinade for 30 minutes at room temperature, loosely covered. Enzymes in the papaya will break down the meat, making it tender. However, do not let it marinade for longer than 30 minutes. 

Start the grill - bank the charcoals to one side so its very hot in one spot of the grill. The charcoals will be covered with white ash and you shouldn't be able to hover you hand over the grill for more than a few minutes when it's ready. Place the grilled salsa vegetables on the grill and rotate often until charred on spots. Puree the vegetables with salt + pepper and a splash of vinegar until smooth. Set aside. 

Remove the steak from marinade, scrapping off excess marinade - or it will burn on the grill. Fan the coals to keep them hot and move the steak around, flipping once. It will be roughly 12-15 minutes on the grill until done. Remove from heat to a plate and tent with foil to keep it warm while it rests. 

Place a cast iron skillet on the grill (or stove top). When skillet is hot, add pineapple, pepper, onion, a splash of oil and soy sauce. Stir often to sauté everything. Once onion is tender, remove from heat.

Heat the tortillas in the oven or on a skillet on the stove until warm and pliable. Cut the steak against the grain into thin slices. Have lime wedges, avocado slices and hot sauce to add to the taco ingredients. Lay everything out for a make-your-own set up. 

happy summertime,