The Chef: Fermín Nuñez
His Restaurant Suerte in Austin, Texas
What He’s Known For Smart, elevated takes on Mexican cooking. Perfecting the art of the tortilla.
A QUALITY STEAK calls for nothing more than salt and a good sear. But the smoky savor of the meat really pops when paired with a little sweetness and acidity.
In this recipe from chef Fermín Nuñez of Suerte in Austin, Texas, a velvety carrot-habanero salsa provides the sweet element plus heat. A fresh pico de gallo of mangos, chiles, shallots and cilantro contributes the crucial acid zing. “It’s a party,” Mr. Nuñez said. “It dances in your mouth.”
Of course, none of that matters if you don’t nail the cooking of the steak. The pan must be good and hot to achieve a proper sear and a rosy interior. Seconds count, so give the sizzling steak your full attention.
It helps that the other elements are so simple. The pico requires no cooking and the salsa calls for little more than simmering the carrots, charring a shallot for added smoky depth, and then a quick blender blitz. You might want to round out the plate with a side of pan-roasted potatoes, as Mr. Nuñez does at Suerte. “I’m in the business of delicious,” he said. “And when I tasted it all together it was obvious.”
TOTAL TIME: 35 minutes SERVES: 4
2 (1-pound) sirloin steaks
4 carrots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
6 cups chicken stock
2 dried habanero chiles
5 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 large mango, diced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 small red chile, minced
2 tablespoons butter
Roasted potatoes, to serve (optional)
1. Season steaks generously with salt and set aside.
2. Make carrot-habanero salsa: In a pot over medium-high heat, combine carrots, garlic, stock and habaneros. Simmer until carrots are very tender, 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a dry large sauté pan, cook 1 whole shallot over medium-high heat until charred all over, about 5 minutes. Drain carrots, garlic and habaneros, reserving cooking liquid, and transfer to a blender. Add charred shallot and purée. With motor running, stream in 3 tablespoons oil. Salsa should be loose but not watery. If necessary, blend in some cooking liquid. Season with half the lime juice and salt to taste.
3. Make mango pico de gallo: Mince remaining shallot and toss with mango, cilantro, red chiles and remaining lime juice. Season with salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
4. Heat remaining oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Lay in steaks and cook, undisturbed, until charred on underside, 3-5 minutes. Repeat on reverse side until meat reaches desired doneness, 3-5 minutes for medium-rare. Let steaks rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.
5. Cut steaks against the grain into ½-inch slices. Smear salsa over four plates. Top with sliced steak and pico de gallo Serve with roasted potatoes, if you like.