Grilled steak in its most famous Mexican incarnation -- carne asada -- dates to Mexico City in the 1940s. That's when chef Jose Inez Loredo founded his Tampico Club and made this one of his signature dishes. You can create your own carne asada "a la tampiquena" easily at home with a sharp chef's knife and hot griddle. This classic, unmarinated version couldn't be simpler. You can also try a marinated variation with the smoky, beguiling essence of medium-hot guajillo chilis.
Things You'll Need
Salt and pepper
Carne Asada a la Tampiquena
Trim a 6-ounce piece of filet mignon, one for each person expected at the table, of gristle and connective tissue with a sharp chef's knife. Press the top of the steak lightly with your fingers to hold it in place and slice through the meat horizontally ¼ inch from the top, stopping ¼ inch from the edge of the filet; your goal is to create a butterflied piece of carne that you can open several times.
Spin the filet 180 degrees and make another horizontal slice, ¼ inch down from the first, similarly stopping short of the original side. Continue cutting the remaining meat, rotating the steak 180 degrees between each cut, into ¼ inch-thick slices, connected like an accordion.
Unfold the steak gently into a long sheet and season it lightly with salt and pepper. Tamp down any unevenness in the sliced filet with your fingertips and press together any gaps in the butterflied meat created by the uneven edges of the original filet.
Grease a griddle lightly with oil spray or vegetable oil. Turn the heat to very high. Squeeze a small amount of lime juice on both sides of the butterflied steak. Sear and brown the meat on each side for 2 minutes for medium rare.
Serve the carne asada on a heated plate, draped over rice, with chile poblanos or Anaheim chilis cooked with onions in white wine vinegar, with salsa and sliced avocado as accompaniments.
Marinated Carne Asada
Roast pieces of unpeeled garlic on a medium heat skillet or griddle for 15 minutes. Cut open the sides of dried guajillo chilies -- a deep-maroon chili widely available in plastic packets at bodegas and Latin markets -- and press them open, shaking out the seeds and cutting off the caps. Add the guajillos to the skillet, pressing them down with a spatula, to roast for several minutes. Set the roast garlic aside and let the roasted guajillos reconstitute in warm water for 30 minutes.
Drain the chilis and peel the garlic. Blend both with oregano, black pepper and ground cumin in a blender. Add enough beef broth to create a smooth paste. Press the paste with the back of a wooden spoon through a medium screen into a bowl; the strainer will catch and remove the fibrous chili jacket from the mixture.
Heat vegetable oil in a pot at medium high and cook the paste for 6 minutes. Add several cups of beef broth to create a marinade and simmer for 45 minutes. Add salt and sugar to the reduced chili marinade.
Set sirloin or tenderloin steaks, ideally 1 inch thick or less, in a bowl. Pour the marinade over the steaks to cover. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
Remove the steaks from the refrigerator. Drain off the marinade and pat the meat's surface dry with a paper towel. Grill the steaks on a griddle, skillet or outdoor grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with sliced red onions, or yellow, red or green Mexican rice. Arroz amarillo relies on saffron or annato seeds, while arroz rojo gains its colors from tomatoes and arroz verde, from cilantro.
Work with a freshly sharpened chef's knife to butterfly your filet mignon.
Try to avoid substituting for dried, whole guajillo chiles, which have become widely available and have a mildly hot and smoky flavor. If necessary to substitute, though, use ground guajillo chili, New Mexican chiles or puya chiles.
Be careful working with guajillo chilis, which can irritate any open scratches on your hands.