Carne Asada is a roasted beef dish, simply meaning “roasted meat”. The dish mainly consists of pieces or thin cuts of beef, usually flank steak or skirt steak. Sometimes marinated, sometimes lightly salted or rubbed with pepper and/or spices, and then grilled. It can be eaten alone, with side dishes, chopped and eaten as tacos, or chopped and used as a filler for tortas, burritos, etc. It is usually accompanied with guacamole, salsa, beans, cilantro, onions, salsa and tortillas (corn or flour).
The dish is commonly prepared in the northern parts of Mexico (in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Coahuila, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Texas. It is sold at Mexican meat markets called “carnicerias” in the American Southwest; especially those states with Mexican/Mexican-American enclaves.
When purchasing Carne Asada from meat markets you can purchase meat that has already been marinated and seasoned or you purchase it un-prepared. Buying the prepared meat takes all the fun out it, but does save you some time. I like to have my own fun with it and put my own mark on it!
In Mexico and the American Southwest you will find that Carne Asada is the Mexican equivalent of Barbecue. Traditionally a large fire pit is used to prepare this dish but you can use whatever you have. Since everything is prepared over direct heat you don’t need a lid or a fancy grill. If you are planning on a big party and want to have plenty of meat for everyone plan on about 1 pound of meat per person. If you plan a lot of side dishes then you can cut back on the amount of meat you prepare.
A popular and good marinade for Carne Asada will have a lot of lime juice, garlic, onion and black pepper. Of course other fruit juices work great as well, like papaya, which makes the meat tender because papaya is a natural tenderizer. You can add hot peppers to the marinade if you want but be careful you don’t over power the meat and make it too hot to appreciate. Don’t add salt to your marinade. Save this for the cooking stage.
Ideally the meat should be cooked over a charcoal fire. Traditionally mesquite is used. If all you have is a gas grill, not to worry – this will work fine. When you get ready to grill you will want to have a course salt on hand (I use celtic sea salt). You want to grill over a good, hot fire. This dish cooks pretty quickly so have everything else to be served with your meal prepared before you start the meat on the grill.
Traditionally Carne Asada is grilled to well done. In my opinion you get the best flavor when it’s grilled to well done (this is the only read meat dish I like well done). Once you have the meat grilled to perfection you will want to take it straight to a carving board. Cut the meat across the grain with a good sharp knife. The pieces should be thin strips. Keep the meat warm in a heavy pot with a lid. You don’t need to add heat but you want to hold in the heat you have.
Serve with warm tortillas and whatever fixings you prefer. A good Carne Asada taco would be in a homemade flour tortilla with homemade salsa, topped with guacamole. If you have leftovers, make enchiladas the next day (I’ll save that for another blog!).
Now, I have tasted a lot of Carne Asada – being raised in Southern New Mexico/Arizona, so it’s not like I don’t have a corner on what it should taste like. I have to say, hands down, the best Carne Asada I’ve ever tasted was using the recipe below. The chocolate seriously added depth to the taste factor in the Carne Asada! OH MY GAWD! I’m hooked! All of that being said, let us not forget the important role that the meat played in this particular recipe. I used Carne Asada (un-prepared) from Hardtrigger Canyon, a local 900 acre ranch. Hardtrigger cattle are grain fed; the meat is dry aged for 15 to 21 days; the owners raise all of the corn, hay, and barley that is fed to their cattle (using ‘no till’ farming), with the end result being, beef that is leaner, has increased tenderness, and is more flavorful. Certainly a plus for this delectable dish.
DARK CHOCOLATE CARNE ASADA
This recipe is for 1 lb of Carne Asada
2 cups Lime juice
3 cloves of fresh Garlic (Mashed with the flat of your knife – do not chop, as you don’t want the garlice to get stuck to your meat and remain there while you are grilling – it will impart a bitter taste to your meat)
3 Tblsp Donya Marie’s Dark Chocolate Meat Rub (your choice of flavor)
1/4 tsp cayenne
2.5 Tblsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 Tblsp Pepper
1 Tblsp Cocoa
1 Tblsp Onion powder
(note do not add salt to this mixture)
(For the Double Meat Rub – leave out the cayenne; use only 1 Tblsp of chili powder)
Mix together the cayenne, cumin and chili powder with the meat rub. Mix the seasoning in with the marinade. Place your meat in a zip lock back. Pour the combination of marinade/seasoning into the bag. Removing as much air as possible, seal and place the bag in the freezer for 8 hours or overnight (overnight is best).
Place the meat on the grill and when the juices start to rise on the surface, sprinkle with salt. When the salt liquefies on the surface flip the meat over and repeat. This seasons the meat as it cooks. Carne Asada is supposed to be on the salty side but this doesn’t mean that you need to drown the meat in salt.