There’s no doubt that a bit of smoke in the grill can add a lot of flavor to an ordinary piece of meat. It can turn a simple skirt steak into mouthwatering fare. And if you add some veggies to the mix . . .
Smoking meat has been around a long time. Some say it started with the cavemen, who as their name suggests, lived in caves. Of course, there were no chimneys back then, so whenever a fire was built inside their abode, the smoke invariably was absorbed by meat that had been hung to dry and cure. (See related story at www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/239123/.)
I’m a big fan of smoking meat, fish and such. I’ve even purchased an electric smoker because of my fondness for anything “smoked.” My most recent foray into smoking was some pheasant thighs and legs, which were transformed into a delicious appetizer after soaking overnight in a kosher salt/sugar/paprika/black pepper brine followed by three to four hours in the smoker.
Here’s a tasty-looking recipe from Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe, Florida-based barbecue guru, serial cook-off champion and author of the new book “Slow Fire: The Beginner’s Guide to Barbecue” (Chronicle Books, $22.95, 176 pages) that’s sure to make just about anyone a believer in smoke — even a caveman!
Smoky Skirt Steak Fajitas
2 pounds skirt steak
2 limes, divided
Fired-Up Fajita Rub (recipe follows)
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
1 green and 1 red bell pepper, halved and sliced
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
10 8-inch flour tortillas
Sour cream, salsa, garnish
Cut the steak into 6 pieces. With a heavy meat mallet, pound the steak well to tenderize it. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over 1 side of the meat. Season with fajita rub — heavily for rich, spicy meat, or lightly for milder meat. Let rest 5 minutes.
Flip the steaks and repeat with the second lime and the rub. Place steaks on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill up to 2 hours.
Prepare your cooker to cook indirectly at 235 degrees, using medium oak wood for smoke flavor.
In a medium aluminum foil pan, combine onion, bell peppers and jalapeno. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss with salt and 1 tablespoon fajita rub. Put the pan in the cooker and cook for 1 hour.
Wrap the tortillas tightly in foil and set aside.
Toss onions and peppers with tongs. Add the steak to the cooker in one layer. Cook 30 minutes more.
Toss the onion-pepper mixture again and flip the steaks. Put the tortilla package in the cooker. Cook for 30 minutes more.
Remove everything from the cooker. Tent steaks loosely with foil and let rest 5 minutes. Slice steaks thinly, against the grain, and add to the onion-pepper mixture. Toss well and serve with the warm tortillas, sour cream and salsa.
Yield: Serves 10.
Fired-Up Fajita Rub
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup chili powder
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. The rub may be stored in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 6 months.
Note: This big, bold, spicy rub is great for fajita and taco meat, where the tortillas will help mellow things out.
Yield: About 1 cup.