Post #537 Carne Asada

July 7, 2017 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I started off this post by originally calling it “Mexican Meat”, but then realized that could sound pornographic.  It would likely send my blog stats skyrocketing, but it wasn’t a message I wanted to send.  After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to call it what it was.  It’s a post about Carne Asada.  But what exactly is Carne Asada?

Literally, carne asada is “grilled meat.”  It’s a Mexican dish, or Latin American to be more precise.  It’s stuff we (Partner/Spouse and I)  grew up on.  Ordinarily, it’s beef sliced into thin strips and seared quickly on a fired grill.  It’s marinated ahead of time in spices and chilis to impart a fiery flavor along with the smokiness of charred meat.

h/t to Anna M for the photo!

So why am I writing about this now?  For a couple of reasons.  First, a friend of mine from high school who still lives near our hometown wrote about the carne asada she and her family enjoyed over the holiday weekend.  The pictures she posted made my mouth water.  Then further down in the comments was one that made me chuckle.  “What is carne asada?”  Second, in our usual fashion, we stumbled upon a store with a real butcher’s counter at the back.  We bought some meat from them and it was really tasty.  But the real test for any butcher, or baker, or whatever, is will they stand the test of time?  Will they be consistently good?  So this past weekend, we went back to them and bought some steak tips, a large ribeye, two super thick pork chops, and a bunch of standard pork chops.  We decided to make carne asada with the steak tips.  And third, remember we had our knives sharpened?  I wanted to test them out by cutting the meat properly.

First, let me just say, those knives are spectacular.  When I made the caprese salad with those very ripe tomatoes the knife floated through them like they were soft butter.  The mozzarella cheese was zero trouble.  And the onion rings didn’t even make my eyes tear up.  When I cut the steak tips, the knife went through that meat like it wasn’t there.  Gotta love a sharp knife.

  • PRO TIP:  It’s actually safer to work with a perfectly sharpened knife because you’re not forcing the blade through the product.  Less force means more control and less opportunity for an accident.

Now, carne asada is as individual as the person making it.  It can be simply putting the thin strips on the grill, searing them on both sides, and then be done.  There’s a lot to be said for the flavor of charred beef.  But it can be very elaborate with blends of copious spices, chilis, acids, etc.  We’ve been trying to find the blend that we both remembered from our youth, so we’ve been experimenting with the marinade.  Well, this weekend we came as close to success as we ever have so far.

First, I cut the meat into smallish cubes rather than the thin strips.  No reason, it’s just what I did.  Then into a zip lock bag.  Then I zested and juiced a lemon and a lime and all that went into the bag with about two teaspoons of  kosher salt.  I wanted the coarser grains.  I sloshed it all around and set it into the fridge.

  • PRO TIP:  The salt helps force the juices into the meat better.  The acid from the fruit tenderize the meat making it cook faster and stay more tender.  The mix of the two fruits is just a pleasant flavor combination used for centuries.  The zest adds more flavor pops.

I wasn’t planning on using the meat for a couple of days so I didn’t want to add anything else to the marinade so it wouldn’t turn mushy or funky.  It sat in the fridge for two days then on the day I was planning to use it, I added a sweet vidalia onion marinade.  The marinade had every other spice and flavor I would have added to meat except heat, so I added a pinch of red pepper flakes.  I squished it all around to distribute everything evenly and squeezed the air out and popped it back into the fridge.  I noticed the meat was incredibly tender, a product of its own quality plus the long marinating time with the citrus juice.

When it was time, from past experience I knew these things were going to cook quickly despite their thickness.  I heated a cast iron flat circle to blazing hot then added a small amount of oil.  Everyone knows cold oil in hot pan means no stick, right?  While the skillet was heating, I put the meat in a colander and drained all the marinade out but I didn’t rinse it.  I wanted all that flavor on the meat.

Once it’s cooked, what do you do with carne asada?  Besides eat it, I mean.  We like to put it inside either a flour or corn tortilla with some veggies and cheese and cram them into our mouths as fast as we can chew.  Some restaurants we’ve been to that have carne asada on the menu just put the meat inside a tortilla, rolled it up, and called it good.  And it was good.  Others take about a pound of the meat cut into small pieces and pile it on top of a fresh garden salad with dressing on the side.  I’ve known some people who mix it with refried beans and make a beef and bean dip.  I’ve been known to pile a bunch on a plate and just eat it cuz it’s good.  And this marinade process we stumbled onto was so good!

And the knives were so sharp!

Let me know what you come up with when you make your own carne asada.  What marinade did you use?  How did you eat it?  And as always,

 

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