Recipe and Photos by Brandon Matzek
Drawing inspiration from our neighbor to the south, this recipe for carne asada is perfect for kicking off this year’s grilling season. Spanish for “grilled meat,” carne asada is made by marinating thinly sliced steaks in a flavorful bath of garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, spices, citrus, vinegar, olive oil and Mexican beer. After a rest (four to eight hours), the steaks are thrown onto a searing hot grill and cooked until tender and smoky. The finished meat is incredibly flavorful with a bold, citrus punch.
Once chopped, this grilled meat can be used in tacos or burritos, or scattered over a cheesy plate of nachos. Carne asada is one of my favorite meats to grill when throwing a summer barbeque party. Simply set up a topping station with salsa, guacamole, chopped white onion, chopped cilantro, chopped radish, grilled scallions and lime wedges. Cold beers and margaritas are a must (obviously). The carne asada cooks up quickly, so you don’t have to spend the afternoon tending to the grill. Warm tortillas on the grill while the meat cooks, and then wrap them in a clean towel to keep them from drying out. Finally, let your guests build their tacos to taste while you enjoy a frosty beverage.
All ingredients below can be found at most Mexican markets such as Gonzalez Northgate Market or Pancho Villa Farmers Market.
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
Handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp. ancho chili powder (or any other chili powder)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. Mexican oregano, crushed using your fingers
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp. cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
1/2 cup Mexican beer (I used Pacifico here)
1/4 cup olive oil Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds thinly sliced shoulder steak* (flank or skirt steak would work well here, too)
1 white onion, peeled and sliced
1 orange, sliced
Mix and Marinate. In a large bowl, combine garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, oregano, lime juice, orange juice, beer and olive oil, whisking to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added several pinches of salt here). Add steak to a baking dish or large bowl and tuck slices of onion and orange between the layers of meat. Pour marinade over the meat, cover, and let rest for at least 4 hours (up to 8 hours).
Fire It Up. Take the steaks from the refrigerator, and let sit for 30 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, prepare an outdoor grill (charcoal or gas) to high heat. Transfer steaks from the marinade to the grill in an even layer. Sprinkle each steak with a little salt and pepper. Grill the steaks for 1 minute per side, turning once, until about medium-rare. The steaks shown here are very thin, so the cook-time is quick. Larger, thicker steaks may take longer. Transfer the steak to a cutting board, let rest for 5 minutes, and then chop into bite-sized pieces.
Taco Time. Place some of the chopped carne asada down the middle of a warmed tortilla. Add toppings to taste and garnish with a lime wedge.