Saturday, September 18, 2010

Carne Asada

Carne Asada is one of my all time favorites. The first time I tried it I was probably in my late teens, and I wondered how it had taken me so long to discover something so amazingly delicious.

After trying it, I've had it with everything: Carne Asada burritos, tortas, tacos, or just the shredded meat on tortilla chips. Since it's typically made from skirt steak cut into thin pieces, I also started trying skirt steak in restaurants, and it's still one of my favorites. I love meat that has flavor, and I think that you can enjoy beef without having to break the bank.

I've made Carne Asada a few times. Once I was with my best friend Curry's boyfriend (now husband), who advised me never to buy pre-marinated meat, which nearly every grocery store and carniceria has. He pointed out that it can sit out for a couple days, and making your own marinade doesn't make that much of a flavor difference. He grilled bare skirt steak in my backyard with his own simple marinade--lime juice, salt, pepper, and beer. It was, as usual, delicious.

Some time later, my coworkers at the time decided to have a barbecue at work, since we were going to have a really slow day. Most of them were Mexican, and before they came in they picked up pre-marinated Carne Asada and some vegetables. We put salt and pepper on everything and one of my coworkers started putting lemon and orange juice on the meat. I asked her if she should only put on lime juice, but her reply was, "We're Mexican, it's all the same to us."

I noticed this with a few of my Mexican friends over the years, and I realized that the taste wasn't very different from what I was used to. In my recipe I used both orange and lime juice because the citrus enhances the flavor of the meat, and the sweetness of the orange cancels out some of the tartness of the lime juice.

This is a dish that is easy to play around with. This is my simple guideline marinade, but you can always add dried or fresh chilies for more spice, or even more cayenne pepper. As far as I'm concerned, grilling is the only proper way to make Carne Asada. I'm not sure how baking or broiling it would work, but the smoky grill flavor helps accentuate the flavors in this dish.

Carne Asada
4 pounds of skirt steak or flap meat, cut thinly
juice of 2 Oranges
juice of 3-4 Limes, or to taste
lots of Salt to taste
lots Black Pepper to taste
few dashes of Chili Powder
pinch of Cayenne Pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
splash of Tequila

With a juicer, squeeze all of the juices into a bowl. Combine with the rest of the ingredients, then taste and flavor accordingly. Once you have a good balance of spice and zest, rub into the meat.

Let the meat marinate for a few hours or overnight. When grilling, cook each side for a few minutes apiece. If need be, taste a small piece to see if it's done to your liking. Serve with grilled green onions and fresh lime wedges. Enjoy!

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