Carne asada is a beef dish of Mexican origin. Marinating beef steak in spicy lime juice and then grilling it is the traditional manner of preparation, but broiling the beef also yields flavorful results. A staple of Mexican and Southwestern street food, it is often served alone, but the most common way vendors serve it is as an ingredient within another dish, especially tacos.
Carne Asada Marinades
In Mexico, spicy lime juice is the main ingredient in a basic carne asada marinade. Feel free to put your own spin on it. Any ingredients associated with Southwestern and Mexican cuisine are acceptable. These include cumin, citrus fruits, especially lime and lemons, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, ancho and chipotle peppers. It's okay to substitute or add to any components with similar ones -- for instance, beer or tequila instead of or in addition to acid from the citrus; black pepper instead of hot peppers. Marinate the beef for up to 12 hours if using tequila; otherwise marinate for up to 24 hours.
Cuts of Meat to Use
Classic carne asada recipes call for flap, flank or skirt steak. Use either of these interchangeably. Flap, a fan-shaped cut, is an extension of the T-bone and porterhouse; you'll find it sold as ranchera steak or by its French name, bavette. Flank and skirt steak come from the underbelly of the cow, usually the lower breathing muscle called the diaphragm. They're cheap, flavorful, tough, fatty cuts of meat that soak up marinades -- suitable for carne asada. Boneless rib eye and sirloin steak pounded to 1/8 inch thickness also work as substitutions.
To broil your chosen cut of meat for carne asada, position your oven rack in the upper third of your oven, at least 4 to 5 inches from the heat source. Preheat your broiler. For medium, broil the steak 3 to 5 minutes per side. It's common to broil the whole steak intact, let it rest for 5 minutes when its done and then slice it perpendicular to the grain. You can also chop it into bits. For safety's sake, always cook beef to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit; use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.
Carne asada and tortillas or soft tacos are like burgers and buns, but, unlike burgers, carne asada doesn't require a specific manner of serving. It can stand in for any grilled or broiled beef entree. Chop carne asada and add it to salads, soups and stews. Layer it on any sandwich. Serve it as the meat portion of a supper with vegetables and rice. Pair with fried or baked green plantains and a corn salsa. Wash it all down with a sparkling, fruit-forward, low-alcohol wine like a German Riesling.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images