Carne Asada and Carne Asada Tacos
Carne asada tacos are a delicious, and somewhat special, departure from our normal taco night. In this case, carne asada is used as the meat for the filling, and either corn or flour tortillas, either soft or fried, can be used for the shell.
The photo above shows a taco made with a fried flour tortilla, our local favorite, and down below is shown the more classical version with a warm tortilla and different fillings.
In our area, carne asada tacos are usually served with two small soft corn tortillas as the wrapping, with guacamole and lettuce over the meat filling. But at home, a larger crisp fried flour tortilla is the hands-down favorite.
Carne asada can also be served as a Mexican steak dinner, usually with beans, rice, and enchiladas on the side. Just follow the instructions here for the steak, and instead of cutting it up for the tacos, serve it in steak-sized pieces with the other side dishes.
Carne asada starts with either flank steak or skirt steak (preferred). In fact, in some parts of Mexico, flank steak is used for arrachera (see New York Steak Arrachera for seasoning info) and skirt steak is used for carne asada. Either way, both the meat is tenderized by pounding, and then marinated in a mixture of lime juice and spices.
2 pounds skirt steak, pounded and flattened with a mallet (for tacos, figure 1/4 pound per person)
1/4 cup lime juice (preferably fresh)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 flour or 2 corn tortillas per person, either warm or fried
1/2 onion, chopped
yellow or yellow/white shredded cheese
hard white cheese, either Mexican or Parmesan
salsa or hot sauce of your choice
Pound the steak to about 1/4 inch thickness, and cut into pieces easy to handle on the grill (like 6″ x 6″). Make the marinade by mixing the other ingredients, and cover both sides of all the pieces of meat. Seal the meat in a zip lock bag and refrigerate until ready to cook. Let the meat marinate at least a couple of hours, if you can.
If you’re making tacos, chop the remaining ingredients for the garnish. Either warm or fry the tortillas in either a frying pan or a deep fryer. Fold the tortillas as they cook to form the taco shell.
Grill the meat over hot coals for a few minutes on each side. It’s pretty thin, so it will get to medium in five minutes or less. For carne asada, serve the meat like a steak with side dishes as described above. I also like to garnish each steak with a green chile, either fresh or canned.
For tacos, slice the meat across the grain into strips. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the meat so it will melt a little, and stuff the tortillas with the meat and other fillings. I guarantee rave reviews with these tacos!
The more classic version starts with bell peppers and onion brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. We also use avocado, chopped tomato, grated cheese, and fresh cilantro for garnish.
Start by slicing the onion into fairly thick slices, so you can handle them on the grill more easily. Use bell peppers of various colors if you can find them, and slice them into rings, discarding the seeds and pith.
Grill the vegetables with the meat, turning them to get some char marks on them.
Then warm some flour tortillas (preferably uncooked) on a griddle until they are done and have some char specks on them, fold them, and stuff them with the meat, vegetables, garnish, and whatever salsa or hot sauce you prefer. This is also a very popular dish around here, and is the one I usually choose to make during hot weather.
I think the bottom line is that with all these good ingredients you can’t go wrong. Just decide if you want corn or flour tortillas, warmed or fried, and what you want to put in them. In some cases, this is determined by what you find in the fridge.
Don’t get hung up on details or trying to be authentic. You can come up with delicious versions yourself. As to what’s authentic, I see different recipes (and names) in nearly every city, both in the U.S. and Mexico. So relax and enjoy!