Traveling back to Oregon from Seattle on a Tuesday, my husband, Benjamin, and I pulled into a taco stand in central Washington. We had only $10 in cash and with that we ate our fill of tacos filled with the seared beef called carne asada. There is no secret marinade or ingredient for the habit-forming tacos sold at roadside stands and food carts: the beef is diced very fine, salted, and then browned on a griddle with onions and cilantro. You get a heaping tablespoon of scrumptious beef on top of two soft corn tortillas and a wedge of lime. It's up to you to flavor it with a great salsa like this smooth and tart avocado-tomatillo salsa. Be sure to offer bowls full of radishes, cucumbers, and pickled carrots to fill out the meal, which is especially easy and family-friendly for weeknights on the run.
Recipe reprinted with permission from PURE BEEF © 2012 by Lynne Curry, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Book Group.
Fill a medium saucepan with about 2-inches of water and place the pan over high heat to bring the water to a boil. Add the tomatillos and jalapeño, reduce the heat to low, and steam until the tomatillos turn pale and soft, about 7 minutes.
Transfer the tomatillos and jalapeño with ¼ cup of the cooking liquid into a food processor or a blender. Pit and peel the avocado and add it along with the garlic, cilantro, and salt. Purée until the salsa is very smooth and thick but pourable. Pour it into a small serving bowl and let it cool to room temperature before serving. Best eaten the day it is made, it will store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Just before cooking, put the beef in a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to distribute it. Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add the beef, stir once, and let it cook without stirring until the liquid evaporates and the beef sears and browns, about 4 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, just until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes.
Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the cilantro, and distribute the beef among the tortillas to serve with a squeeze of lime, sour cream, and the salsa.