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Issue Date: July 5, 2009
Recipe in this article:
Skirt Steak Tostadas
Online video:
Watch "The Next Food Network Star" contestant Melissa d'Arabian, who won our challenge.

The winning recipe!

USA WEEKEND issued a challenge on last week's "The Next Food Network Star." Here's the dish judged best.

Watch "The Next Food Network Star" contestant Melissa d'Arabian, who won our challenge.

Watch video of challenge winner Melissa d'Arabian

Watch video of the episode with USA WEEKEND's challenge

If you watched last week's episode of "The Next Food Network Star," then you saw USA WEEKEND's very own T.J. Walter at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum dishing up a special geography-themed cooking challenge to the seven remaining contestants on the show. The objective: Create a great all-American dish using all the items in their baskets of mystery regional ingredients. The results were judged by Food Network hosts, including Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri.

Melissa d'Arabian, 40, of Keller, Texas, pulled out a win with her skirt steak tostada with a zesty mango salsa from a New Mexico-themed basket of assorted chili peppers, mesquite honey and skirt steak.

Although your kitchen challenges probably don't come in the form of a basket of mystery ingredients, d'Arabian says that most of us have stood in front of a refrigerator or pantry full of random ingredients and tried to figure out a meal. For those times, she has two tips:

Trust your palate and taste, taste, taste. "When I want to add something different [to a dish], I spoon a little bit of the dish into a bowl with the new ingredient and make adjustments from there," d'Arabian says. "If it doesn't work well together, you don't mess up the whole dish."

Stretch the expensive with the inexpensive. "I had to find a way to stretch the skirt steak -- the expensive item -- and make sure the judges got a piece without feeling cheated. So I used something less expensive -- in this case, black beans -- to round out the dish," d'Arabian says.

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Skirt Steak Tostadas

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
1/2 cup honey
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 habañero chili, seeded and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-pound skirt steak

Mango Salsa:
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 large, ripe mango, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 poblano chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup honey
Juice of 3 limes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Other ingredients:
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying
6 corn tortillas or tostada shells
Mango Salsa, recipe above
Sour cream, optional
Grated cheese of your choice, optional

In a large, shallow dish, whisk the soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, onion and habañero, plus salt and pepper, to taste. Add the meat, cover and refrigerate.

Marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably for several hours.

Combine all salsa ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Let sit for at least 20 minutes so the flavors will develop.

Simmer beans, olive oil, wine and jalapeño in a saucepan for 20 minutes.

Heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Carefully slide one tortilla into the oil and fry until crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. (Or follow package directions for heating tostada shells in oven.)

Preheat a grill or a grill pan to medium-high heat. Remove meat from dish and discard marinade. Place steak on the grill, and grill for about 4 to 6 minutes for medium-rare to medium, turning once. Remove from the grill and let meat rest for about 5 minutes. Thinly slice, at a diagonal, into strips.

To serve, place fried tortillas or tostadas on a large platter or individual plates. Drain the bean mixture, then spoon some onto the middle of the tortillas. Top with steak slices and the mango salsa. Garnish with optional sour cream and grated cheese, if desired.

Makes 6 tostadas and 4 cups of salsa.
Per serving: 559 calories, 36g protein, 39g carbohydrates, 28g fat (6.7g saturated), 67mg cholesterol, 6g fiber, 931mg sodium

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