Carrie Balkcom ~ CO ~ AGA Executive Director and Certified Executive Chef

This is about the simplest, most typical-tasting everyday dish in Mexican eateries from Tijuana to Tulum—chunks of beef seared quickly in a hot skillet, with tomatoes, jalapeño chiles, onions and garlic. Weave in a little red wine or Worcestershire, as I have suggested here, perhaps a little cilantro or epazote, and you have a most memorable meal that didn’t take all afternoon to make. When making this for a summertime gathering, I like to serve these beef tips with charcoal-grilled corn and a big salad of lettuce from the garden.

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, rich-tasting pork lard or olive oil
  • About 1 ¼ pounds tender boneless beef (for a quick dinner, I’d choose sirloin; for a more special occasion, it’d be strip steak, ribeye or tenderloin), cut into 1-inch cubes and patted dry on paper towels
  • A liberal sprinkling of salt for the meat, plus a little for the sauce if necessary
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup red wine OR 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups Roasted Jalapeño- Tomato Salsa
  • ½ to ¾ cup sliced pickled jalapeños, well drained (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few sprigs for garnish
  • OR a couple of tablespoons chopped fresh epazote, plus a few leaves or sprigs for garnish

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the bacon drippings, lard or oil over medium-high. Sprinkle the meat liberally with salt. When the fat is quite hot, lay in the meat cubes in an uncrowded layer and quick-fry, stirring and turning them all regularly, until nicely browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. (If you cut into a cube of meat, it should still be no more cooked than about medium-rare.)

2. With the skillet still on the heat, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes until golden, then add the wine or Worcestershire and stir as it quickly evaporates. Next, add the tomatoes, stir regularly for 2 to 3 minutes as they darken and any liquid they lose evaporates (this will sweeten them considerably). And, lastly, add the salsa, optional pickled jalapeños and whichever herb you’ve chosen. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium. Taste the sauce and season with salt if necessary.

3. Add the meat back to the pan along with any juice that has accumulated on the plate, let heat through (or simmer for a couple of minutes if you like your meat more done), then spoon into a warm platter and garnish with herb sprigs. 

Dinner is ready.