Coffee Marinated Fajitas

Photo of Coffee Marinated Fajitas with flank steak and tortillas

Café Con Football
Meteorologically, it is fall. And, by that, I mean that the mere fact that the calendar says September means fallen leaves crisp mornings, and a whole lotta pumpkins with or without the spice.

Here in California, we know that just because it says September doesn’t mean that it isn’t 105 degrees outside. The only remotely accurate sign, for me, that fall has in fact arrived, is that my posterior has been parked on the couch the last two Saturdays watching college football.

The start of college football means that I have been doing some grilling ‘cause what is watching a game without some sort of grilled something? I mean sure, it’s not like I haven’t been grilling all summer but flipping the calendar means changing to more fall flavors. See, somewhere deep in my whacked-out brain I have this thing, this sense that certain flavors are just for certain seasons.

Perfect example? I would never make a pork roast in July. Pork roast is a fall and winter thing. I know. I got issues, man. So, with this in mind, the rubs and marinades that I use to grill in the fall turn from the brighter, lighter flavors of summer to something deeper and more intense in flavor.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by using coffee in my marinades or rubs. The coffee doesn’t really add a lot of coffee flavor, but it gives whatever you’re grilling just a little bit more depth. It also works really well with the smokiness of dried chilies. This makes it a no brainer for grilled Mexican dishes.

Brewed coffee in marinades is excellent as a tenderizer—which is key if you are using cuts like flank steak or skirt steak for tacos. One of my favorite recipes is for Coffee-Marinated Fajitas. It’s Perfect for feeding a hungry crowd of rabid football fans.

Coffee Marinated Fajitas
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings

This fajita is extremely flexible and super delicious. And, in this recipe, coffee is working behind the scenes. The enzymes have transformative powers. They masterfully tenderize a tougher cut of meat and bring out the depth of flavor.

We recommend George’s Garden Salsa as a topping. You can find the recipe here.

1-1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
2 cups strong brewed coffee
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons ground chili (see headnote on chili powder)
Olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
Sour cream and tortillas to serve

Make the marinade
Whisk together the coffee, molasses, garlic, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, and chilis.

Marinate the flank steak
Score your flank steak on both sides with a shallow criss-cross pattern. Marinate the flank steak for 3 to 4 hours in the coffee mixture.

Prep the flank steak
Heat your grill to high heat (or you could broil or sear in a big, hot, cast iron skillet). Remove the flank steak from the marinade and gently pat it dry. Season with just a bit more salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Now rub it all over with olive oil.

Grill the flank steak
Grill the steak until it reaches the desired doneness (about 2 to 3 minutes on one side, and then flip it back and forth again to create a criss-cross pattern.)

Rest your steak for several minutes before serving.

To serve
Slice the flank across the grain (the short way), and wrap 2 to 3 slices in a tortilla with a good dollop each of salsa, cilantro, sour cream, and whatever veggies you like to add.

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