History Tidbit: I have mentioned before that La Huasteca is a region along the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico’s Eastern mountain ranges, defined not only by the geographical area that the indigenous Huastec tribes dominated in pre-Hispanic times, but by the plenitude of their cultural heritage. It includes parts of several Mexican states: The Southern zone of Tamaulipas, Eastern San Luis Potosi, and Northern regions in Veracruz, Queretaro, Hidalgo, and Puebla:
Tampico is an important city and port of La Huasteca region in Tamaulipas (see my map above). The name comes from the Huastec “tam-piko” meaning “place of otters” (literally “water dogs”); surrounded by rivers and lagoons of the delta of the Pánuco River, it was a fertile area that was also habitat to a varied Fauna, including a large population of otters. There were several pre-Hispanic Huasteco groups that inhabited the region over the centuries, flourishing around 1000 AD; after the Spanish conquest, a Franciscan mission was established in 1532 and, in 1554, Tampico was founded as a formal colonial settlement. Unfortunately, it was under constant attack and decimated by European pirates, and in 1684, was eventually abandoned. It was not until Mexico became an independent nation that the city was re-established, in the early 1820s. It grew as a trading center (silver, farming and even illegal slaves to the US). Once oil reserves were found and wells developed around Tampico in the early 1900s, it became an important port, and exquisite architecture and a vibrant culture became trademarks of Tampico.
In the late 1930s, Don José Inés Loredo, a former chief of police and mayor of Tampico with vast experience in the food industry, opened a restaurant in Mexico City; he named it “Tampico Club” and, along with chefs Fidel Loredo (his brother) and Antonio de Rocabruna y Valdivieso, created a brunch item that became so popular, it was soon upgraded for the main menu with the name of “Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña” (Tampico Style Grilled Steak), described on the City of Tampico’s official website as:
“ … Un corte de filete en una tira que representara el río Pánuco, el platón haría las veces de la zona huasteca, las enchiladas verdes representarían los verdes campos de nuestra región, el queso blanco: la nobleza de la gente que habita esta zona y los frijoles negros representan la fértil tierra que nos brinda la oportunidad de trabajar por nuestro alimento.”
Which translates as:
“… A cut of filet in a long strip to represent the Panuco River, the plate as the Huasteca region, green enchiladas as bright as the green fields of our region, the white cheese as pure as the nobility of the people of the area, and the black beans representing the fertile soil which provides the opportunity to work for our sustenance.”
Sautéed poblano strips were added to the plate shortly after. In 1971, chef Fidel opened a restaurant back in Tampico, the “Loredo Tampico”, and further modified the platter with the addition of guacamole, and the use of refried beans instead of “de la olla” (from the pot) in the original creation. This is the version I remember from my childhood (pictured at the top of the post); it was very popular in Mexico and abroad, and many steak houses offered their own versions of “Tampiqueña.”
Tampico Style Grilled Steak –
Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña
Printable recipe: Tampico Style Grilled Steak
Ingredients (for four portions)
1 ½ lb (675 g) beef tenderloin (or tip sirloin, or fast fry)
1 cup beer (to tenderize, optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tbsp oil
½ lb (225 g) unripened cheese (such as panela, fresh mozzarella, or haloumi); sliced
1 cup refried beans; homemade (printable recipe above), or from can
1 cup añejo cheese (or light feta); crumbled not too fine
Tortilla chips, to garnish
1 cup guacamole (I used the classic recipe, printable recipe above)
2 cups cooked green salsa; homemade (printable recipe above), or from jar
4 corn tortillas
2 cups poblano pepper strips; roasted and peeled (printable recipe above)
½ onion; peeled and sliced thinly
To prep the meat: In Mexico, the long and thin strips of steak for this dish are butchered from the beef tenderloin, an expensive cut, but probably the most tender choice; it is easy to find them pre-packed at supermarkets, labelled as “Tampiqueña.” Elsewhere, tenderloin is sold either whole, as a roast or in round pieces usually about one and a half to two inches thick (also known as filet mignon); if using this cut, the beer will not be necessary. I used a less expensive tip sirloin roast, which is not as tender, so the beer is a recommended ingredient. If not comfortable with butchering meat, a much less problematic option is to use fast-fry thin steaks, just sliced lengthwise into two-inch wide ribbons; this is also the least expensive choice, and the beer will definitely impart flavour and tenderness in this case.
If starting from a whole piece or roast, all exterior fat and silvery film must be removed from the tenderloin or tip sirloin (photos below, left and right, respectively):
The silvery film for tip sirloin divides the roast into two, so by removing it, my tip sirloin roast became two pieces, one with a circular cross section, and the other more elongated; by slicing each piece in half crosswise, I had four thick portions. The photo below shows the two portions from the round piece:
(Note: The beef tenderloin is a muscle shaped as a cylinder, tapered on one end; slicing rounds one and a half to two inches thick crosswise will produce filet mignon steaks; from each filet, the following procedure for my tip sirloin portions may be applied to obtain Tampiqueña strips.)
Take one portion propped on its side, cross-section facing the front; gently press with one open hand, the palm parallel to the cutting surface, and start slicing a thin layer off the top, without separating it completely at the other end; flip the layer “open”, like a book page (photo below, left) then rotate the piece 180° and repeat the procedure, slicing the second layer underneath the first (photo below, right):
Flip this section open (now twice as long as the first):
Rotate again and slice the next layer. Continue this process until the strip has a uniform thickness; it should look like a long ribbon, the width determined by the thickness of the original portion. In the photo below, I had to fold the long strip to fit it in the frame:
Repeat with the other portions. (If using tenderloin, reserve in the fridge until cooking time.) Place the long ribbons in a bowl and pour beer over:
Reserve in the fridge for at least half an hour, until cooking time.
Meanwhile, for the refried beans: warm up the beans in a pan with one tablespoon of oil over medium heat; remove from heat, and cover to keep warm. For the poblano strips: heat one tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat; sauté sliced onions until translucent, then add roasted poblano strips:
Season with salt, to taste, stir and cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.
For the enchiladas: Pour green sauce in a sauce pan with one tablespoon of oil (photo below, left); bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Warm up corn tortillas on a pan, with or without oil; dip one tortilla in green sauce (photo below, right):
Transfer to a plate and roll into a cylinder; repeat with the rest of the tortillas. Pour more sauce over, cover and keep warm.
For the steaks: warm up the last tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat; cook prepared steaks in batches, seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste (in the photo below, left, I had to cut some in half to fit the sides of the skillet). Once all the meat is cooked, cover loosely with foil and let rest. Use the skillet to grill the cheese slices, about one minute per side (photo below, right):
This dish is traditionally served in an oval plate (La Huasteca): Place one portion of steak along the centre (The Panuco River). Arrange a portion of poblano strips next to it. Add a portion of refried beans on one corner, sprinkle with crumbled cheese and decorate with tortilla chips (fertile soil). Scoop guacamole next to the beans. Arrange one enchilada parallel to the steak, and sprinkle with crumbled cheese (green fields, pebbles and all.) Finish with a couple of slices of grilled cheese (pure as the people of La Huasteca):
This post was written inspired by my backyard harvest; although far from perfect (see for example, my previous post), I feel grateful to be able to enjoy products from the fertile soil and my gardening work, and it makes me proud to feature my veggies when I cook. That made me think of Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña, created with the same sentiment, to represent the richness and spirit of La Huasteca.
I am bringing my recipe to Thursday Favourite Things #403 with Bev @ Eclectic Red Barn, Marilyn @ Marilyn’s Treats, Katherine @ Katherine’s Corner, Nina @ Vintage Mama’s Cottage, Amber @ Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Theresa @ Shoestring Elegance, Pam @ An Artful Mom and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.
UPDATE (August 29 2019): I was thrilled to see this recipe being featured at Thursday Favourite Things # 404, thank you, Bev!