Photo Contest submission by Henry Kim - 2012
One of my new favorite cookbooks isn’t all about BBQ. In fact very little of it is strictly for the grill. It’s called The Sriracha Cookbook. You may know Sriracha hot chili sauce by another name – "Rooster Sauce". Most everyone lovingly calls it this due to the white rooster emblazoned upon the glowing red bottle of sauce.
Believe it or not I still remember the exact day I was introduced to Rooster Sauce. It has such a rich and powerful taste that I wasn’t quite sure if it was too hot for me. One thing was for sure - it definitely stood out in my mind. That was quite a few years ago and for the last couple of years I’ve always stocked a bottle in my kitchen. It’s a very versatile sauce and this book is a absolute testament to that. In fact, this book has introduced me to a few possibilities that I never would have found on my own.
Now don’t fret if you're thinking that this is a cookbook for only chile-heads (heat-seekers that love the burn of a chile pepper). For those that subscribe to the heat Randy Clemens, the author/chef/hot sauce guru, has side notes throughout the book for "full-strength" recipes. In fact, in the foreword Randy was sure to thank his adventurous friends that were willing to take the heat before kindly asking him to dial it down a notch. The whole intro is worth a read. Randy explains his blissful introduction to chiles and Asian cuisine. He even gives the history behind this sauce and its Thailand roots in the seaside city of Sri Racha ("see-RAH-chuh") – the sauce's namesake.
Now I did mention that this isn’t a barbecue book, but that doesn’t mean that there's nothing in it for your grill. There are a handful of recipes written for the grill and a few aren't a far cry away from being fired up on your smoker. Among the 50 recipes in the cookbook, there are some that are quite popular (check Twitter). There's the Ultimate Sriracha Burger and the Honey-Sriracha Glazed Buffalo Wings, but my favorite is the Sriracha Carne Asada recipe. It has a flavor that just sings!
Carne Asada in Mexican cuisine literally means "grilled meat". It’s best when made with thin beef steaks and is commonly the showcase ingredient in street tacos, burritos or killer nachos. Traditionally Carne Asada is made with Skirt Steak or even Flank Steak. The goal here is that the cut should be thin, flavorful and fairly cheap (it'll be cheapest at a carniceria/Mexican butcher shop). My favorite is to use a cut called Flat Iron steak or sometimes called a Top Blade steak (it looks like an old-fashioned metal flat iron). It’s cut from deep within the shoulder muscle so it’s flavorful and has the tenderness of a Ribeye or a Strip steak (see Flat Iron Steak).
1) Finely chop or pulse the dry ingredients in a food processor. Add the fruit and other liquids. Mix until combined. You can substitute a light rum and agave mixture in place of the tequila or double the agave cactus syrup to cook without liquor.
2) Place the meat in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the meat. For best results cover and refrigerate the meat for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Turn the meat every so often. The acid in the marinade will break down the proteins in the meat through a process called denaturation. The thin cut of beef is ideal since marinades don’t penetrate deeply.
3) Allow the meat to warm up to room temperature before grilling (about 30 minutes). Remove the meat from the marinade and pat dry. Never put wet meat on your grill! The moisture tends to steam the meat and prevent browning. The browning reaction, also known as the Maillard reaction, will create a crisp, flavorful crust.
4) Preheat your grill to medium-high heat – about 350-400°F at the grate. Just before the meat is ready to go on, brush the meat or the grates with a little olive oil or clarified butter. This will prevent the meat from sticking to the grates.
5) Cook the meat for approx 4-5 minutes per side for a nice medium rare. I shoot for 125°F to keep the meat as tender as possible. You will get some nice grill marks, but don’t incinerate the entire surface (brown and black are two completely different colors).
6) Cover with foil and let rest for several minutes. Once the meat has rested, cut in thin slices against the grain or chop in small pieces.
Photo Contest Grand Champion submission by Andrew Lloyd - 2012
Making the Street Tacos
White corn tortillas make perfect street tacos. To warm up the tortillas I will dab a couple drops of water in between each tortilla and stack them up. Cover with a paper towel and microwave for 1 minute. This will slightly steam the tortillas and they’ll come out moist and flexible. Use two tortillas per taco and fill with a little meat, cilantro and diced onions. Serve up with some Sriracha Sour Cream (in the cookbook), some Blackened Ranch Tomatillo Sauce (below), Guacamole or even my Pico de Gallo. Perfect carne asada street tacos!
Blackened Ranch Tomatillo Sauce
For a quick, flavorful sauce you can mix 1 cup ranch dressing, 2 diced tomatillos (husks removed), 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp Old Bay Blackening Seasoning, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/8 tsp ground cumin. Combine and chill before serving. We mixed this up when we made these and the flavors go very well with the fresh cilantro and the carne asada – it’s an excellent fresh taste.
Labor Day Photo Contest (Aug 17-Sept 4, 2012)
The winners for the Sriracha Carne Asada photo contest were chosen on Sept 4th, 2012. The prize is a free copy of the Sriracha Cookbook and a surprise gift (winner Andrew Lloyd - photo above). A runner-up will also receive a prize for the best incorporation of the Rooster Sauce bottle in their photo (winner Henry Kim - photo at top). Thanks to everyone that participated. There were a ton of great submissions and great comments from the winners that received the free cookbooks. A special thanks to Randy Clemens for the cookbook and of course this recipe that everyone enjoyed.
Reprinted with permission from The Sriracha Cookbook: 50 “Rooster Sauce” Recipes That Pack a Punch
by Randy Clemens, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.