Crispy Tacos Norteños
There are many things to love about La Fogata restaurant in San Antonio. Let’s start with the lush, tropical outdoor patio that feels like an instant vacation. Add to that setting fishbowl-sized margaritas garnished with an orchid. An orchid! Throw in strolling mariachis and baskets of warm, crispy tortilla chips and you have a tiny oasis of perfection. However, the main reason I keep returning to La Fogata is Tacos Norteños–crispy corn tortillas packed with fajita steak, refried beans, and Oaxacan cheese. The dish reminds me how one simple step can elevate a dish from good–to OMG great. In this case, it’s deploying a hot griddle to crisp up the corn tortillas, melt the cheese, and meld the rich ingredients. La Fogata serves these tacos with Mexican rice and charro beans, but I prefer to serve them alongside a pile of crunchy cabbage, sliced avocados and lime.
Crispy Tacos Norteños
Fajitas are typically made with skirt or flank steak, tougher “flat” cuts are best enjoyed lightly grilled and sliced across the grain. You can use either steak here–flank steak is slightly leaner than skirt, but it has a rich, satisfying flavor. Seasoning the meat 30 minutes before grilling, and cooking the steak to medium-rare delivers the juiciest results.
One 2- to 2 1/2-pound flank or skirt steak
Thundering Longhorn seasoning
One 14-ounce can refried beans (pinto or black)
Mexican melting cheese (e.g. Oaxacan, Asadero, Queso Quesadilla, or a mix)
8-10 corn tortillas (see note)
Red or green salsa
For the tacos
Season the beef with Thundering Longhorn seasoning, and set aside to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the grill.
Prepare a grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium fire. While you’re waiting on the coals, assemble the garnishes and shred the cabbage.
When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, grill the steak over direct heat, covered, flipping the meat every 3-4 minutes until the center of the steak reads 125℉. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and allow it to rest 5-10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain. While the meat rests, place a griddle or large cast iron skillet over direct heat.
(If you want to hold the tacos before serving, heat the oven to 225℉.)
Give the griddle a generous drizzle of vegetable oil. To assemble the tacos, spread each tortilla with a schmear of refried beans. Top the beans with a few slices of steak and a sprinkling of cheese. Carefully fold the tortilla in half and place the taco on the preheated griddle. Repeat with remaining tortillas, placing them on the griddle in batches to avoid overcrowding. Flip the tacos after 3-4 minute, when the bottom is golden brown and crisp. Cook the second side until toasted and the cheese melts. (You can hold the tacos in a low oven until you’re ready to serve.)
Serve Tacos Norteños with a pile of shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, a sprinkling of Cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and your favorite red or green salsa.
To soften corn tortillas and make them more pliable/easier to work with, wrap them in a clean, damp kitchen towel and microwave for 30 seconds.