Many years ago, while in Cozumel, I had the most delicious grilled beef roll filled with succulent crab and served with a spicy cream sauce. The flavors, the textures, sweet citrus and spicy hot chilis dancing about on my tongue was amazing. This was a dish I wanted to have again and again. The problem was, I didn’t have a recipe.
With the wonders of the internet, I have searched high and low for a recipe that incorporated marinated flap meat (skirt steak) with crab, that is served over a spicy cream sauce and topped with a little crumbled cheese. I have scoured site upon site, using key phrases such as “stuffed” this and that. Search as I might, almost everything out there involved Filet Mignon that had been butterflied and filled with crab. Most of those recipes then included a Béarnaise sauce, peppercorn sauce or whisky sauce. These were wonderful French or American influenced dishes without a doubt, but not the marvelous meal I remembered from Cozumel. I had no other choice, I needed to create my own – which wasn’t easy since I had only eaten this dish once, nearly 15 years ago. Yet certain delightful experiences stay with you, imprinting the joy forever on your senses. This was one such dining experience.
While we often think of Tacos when conjuring up Mexican cuisine, Mexico is a diverse land with distinct flavors from its various regions. Cozumel is a tropical island off the Yucatan peninsula. The peninsula itself is surrounded on three sides by a sparkling blue sea and further “cut-off” by a dense tropical forest. So while it is a part of mainland Mexico, the traditional foods of the Yucatan peninsula and more so the island of Cozumel are greatly influenced by the Caribbean Islands and Spanish explorers.
To recreate the dish I remembered, I needed to find a good marinade for the skirt steaks, create a flavorful crab filling and most importantly find a good cream sauce with a heavy Mexican-Tropical influence.
Marinated Skirt Steak
1 cup roughly chopped garlic (about 3 bulbs)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4-6 large limes)
1/2 Cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 orange)
1/2 cup clear tequila
1 bunch roughly chopped fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 lbs Skirt Steak (flap meat)
Combine the garlic, citrus juices, tequila, cilantro, peppers, spices in a resealable plastic gallon bag. Add the steak and let marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours, turning midway through to allow meat to soak in all the flavor of the marinade. Remove from the refrigerator, and let marinate at room temperature another 30 to 45 minutes.
While skirt steak is resting on the counter, make the Chipotle Cream Sauce.
Chipotle Cream Sauce
2 ozs Chipotle chile (in adobo, chopped)
1 garlic cloves (chopped)
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of 2 limes
Zest of 1 orange
salt to taste
Place the chipotle chilies, garlic & cream in a blender & blend until the chilies & garlic are pureed.
Place in a heavy saucepan, add zest and cook over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until reduced by half.
Season to taste with salt.
While the cream sauce reduces, make the crab filling.
2 tablespoons butter
2 green onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 can (6 ounces) lump crabmeat, drained and flaked
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
1/2 tablespoon Cumin Seasoning
1/2 Cup Cotija Cheese (Mexican Crumble Cheese) plus more for garnish
In medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add green onions and garlic; cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; stir in crabmeat, parsley, bread crumbs and seasoning. Stir to blend.
Return to low heat, sprinkle with Cotija cheese and stir until cheese has softened. (Cotija cheese does not melt).
Remove from heat and set aside.
To assemble and Grill
Remove meat from marinade. Strain marinade and set aside.
Set the skirt steak on a clean cutting board and spread crab filling evenly over it.
Roll the skirt steak around the filling, and secure the roll with several toothpicks. Roll the steak so that when you slice it, you’ll be slicing across the grain. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest to help hold shape.
Prepare a grill to medium-high heat. Remove the rolled steak from the plastic wrap.
Place the steak on the grill. Brush with reserved marinade. Cook for 4 minutes, turn 180 degrees, and cook for 3 minutes more (to create cross grill marks). Flip over, brush with marinade and finish cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on desired doneness. Remove from the grill to a cutting board and let rest, lightly covered, for 5 minutes.
Ladle individual plates with cream sauce. Slice skirt steaks and arrange over sauce. Drizzle with a little more sauce and sprinkle with crumbled Cotija Cheese.
Serve with Black refried beans and Spanish rice. If desired, garnish the plates with sliced avocado for added color.