Beef it up: Carne asada

Crusted over the charcoal but still juicy, chopped carne asada waits to meet the tortilla of its dreams.

I thought the recipes the Internet yielded for al pastor marinades were all over the place – until I started studying up on carne asada.

It’s grilled beef, but that’s where the agreement ends. There are people – many of them with actual experience of Mexican-in-Mexico tacos, who insist that any marinade besides lime juice, salt and pepper is heresy. Then there’s the versions that layer on a pyramid of flavor, with citrus, chile, garlic and cilantro all having their say. A dose of tequila takes it over the edge.

I went with the full-throttle approach. If you want to dispute its authenticity, that’s fine. I surrender. Then I’d make it again anyway.

The favored cut of beef is the skirt or flank steak, but at $6.99 a pound? I switched to the low-rent alternative, chuck. Sliced a quarter-inch thick and two days in the marinade, the citrus tenderized the chuck enough that a simple grilling left the meat crusty brown but toothsome.

Doug Levere, who hosted the party with his dessert whiz wife, Luci, grilled the beef patiently, ending up with a panful of this:


That boy has learned his way around his Weber, I’d say.

Carne asada

1 cup chopped cilantro leaf and stem
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/8 cup tequila (optional)
1/8 cup good chile powder
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano

5 pounds boneless beef chuck, sliced about 1/4-inch thick

Put everything but the meat in a blender and pulse it a few times until everything’s chopped well but still a bit chunky. Pour it over the sliced chuck, mix well to coat the meat, and refrigerate in a covered container or Ziploc for 24 to 48 hours.

When your grill is ready, shake excess marinade off the meat and cook until it’s done like you like it. Let rest five minutes, and chop for tacos or burritos.

Muy sabroso.

Carne asada with salsa rojo and salsa verde, chopped onion and cilantro.

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Filed under beef, fiesta!, grilling, recipes, stunt-cooking

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