Mexicali-Style Tacos — Reverse Marinated Grilled Steak and Chicken


You know how we all watch those food shows that take you all around the country and feature all those tasty foods that you know you probably will never get a chance to try? For a while now I have been keeping a notebook just for keeping notes on recipes I would love to try in my own kitchen. I finally made time to pull out that notebook the other day and came across Mexicali-Style Tacos from California. And being the native Californian that I am, I am always looking for that next best taco recipe. There was no recipe to go by, just the basics on what goes into preparing this taco. It’s loaded! It starts with a homemade flour tortilla, melted cheese, Mexican chorizo, carne asada, pollo asado and topped with a chile de arbol salsa. For the carne asada and pollo asado, I wanted to use the reverse marinating technique. I have used it a couple of times before for grilled meats and shrimp and have been very happy with the results. The outcome of the reverse marinating is that you get that nice sear and crust on you grilled meats without overcooking them and it absorbs marinade really well while it still warm. It taste even better the next day!   

Yields up 8 servings


For the Marinade:
2 Anaheim peppers
1 poblano pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 large jalapeño peppers
4 cloves garlic, leave skins on
1 small white onion, peeled and sliced into thick rings
1/3 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dry
Juice of 1 lemon
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste

Tip: I like to prepare the marinade the day before I cook. It develops a lot more flavor overnight. Just bring it to room temperature before adding it to the hot grilled meats.

For the Tomatillo Chile de Arbol Salsa:
4 large tomatillos
15 chiles de arbol (*This will be spicy —  if you want a medium-heat salsa, add only 5 chiles de arbol)
Salt to taste

You Will Also Need:
1½ pounds skirt steak or flank
1½ pounds thin sliced boneless chicken breast
Granulated garlic and more salt and pepper
More olive oil
16 green onions, cut off where the green begins and chop the greens finely for garnish
16 flour tortillas (no bigger than 6 inches in diameter)
2½ cups of Chihuahua or jack cheese, shredded
1½ cups cooked Mexican chorizo (reheat chorizo at low temperature in oven before serving)

Tip: To make things a bit easier, buy thin-sliced chicken breast. It cooks up in minutes and is great for tacos. If you cannot find skirt steak, flank steak works just as well for this recipe.

Tip: The wonderful thing about cooking at home is that you can adapt most recipes to suit your taste. If you encounter a recipe with a hard-to-find item, there is usually always some other ingredient that can be substituted.


1. Preheat a large skillet or comal that ia lined with foil paper, to medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Wash the Anaheim peppers, poblano, red bell and jalapeños and transfer to hot pan. Add the sliced onions and cloves of garlic. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and cook until the vegetables began to char and blacken in most places.

2. The onions and garlic will come off after 15 minutes. Leave the peppers until most of the skins blister, it will be uneven unless you could roast them under the direct flame. Remove peppers and transfer to a plastic storage bag until cooled.

3. Take out your steak and chicken and season lightly on both sides with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, set aside. Remove all stems, skins (including garlic) and seeds from peppers. Dice the red bell pepper and 1 jalapeño pepper and reserve separately. Roughly chop roasted vegetables for marinade and transfer to the blender. Add remaining ingredients for marinade and pulse to blend until mostly smooth. Taste for salt and transfer to a bowl. Fold in the reserved diced peppers. Cover and set aside.

4. In a medium saucepan, add the tomatillos and chile de arbol. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes. Drain all of the water and transfer to the blender. Add 1/3 teaspoon of salt and blend until smooth. Taste for salt, transfer to serving dish. Cover and set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 200ºF. Preheat your indoor grill pan to medium/high heat for 5 minutes. Drizzle pan with canola oil. Cook the chicken for 2 minutes per side. Have a baking dish ready with enough foil paper to cover. As you cook your chicken, transfer it to a baking pan and cover generously with marinade. Keep covered with foil. Once done with chicken, keep it warm in the oven. Carefully wipe the grill pan with paper towels and add more oil. Cook the skirt steak for 4 minutes per side for medium rare steak. If you like it more done, add one minute per side. Transfer to baking dish and cover with marinade. Cover with foil and transfer to oven. Turn oven off at this time.

6. To prepare Mexicali-style tacos, quickly grill the green onions for 3 minutes and set aside. When ready to plate, preheat large comal or griddle pan to medium. Slice the chicken and steak thin against the grain. Heat tortillas on hot comal, add a little cheese to one side and cook just until cheese starts to melt. Serve as they come off the comal, add crumbled chorizo, chicken, steak, green onion and salsa. Garnish with sliced green onions.

Did you know?

One fresh medium sized green chile has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.

Follow along for more great tips