Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Carne Asada: A Grilling Favorite In My Household
After a few years we decided to move the festivities to our house or my wife's brother's house. Convenience was a big part of it, not to mention cleaner restrooms. If it got too hot we could flip on the air-conditioning. With the change in venue came a change of menu. Good old American hamburgers and hot dogs were no longer the fare of choice, which was okay with me.
We stepped up the meal choices a bit to include rice, pinto beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and some other sides. The meat du jour--or should I say la carne de la dia--was carne asada. Now for those who are unfamiliar, carne asada is thinly sliced beef that has been marinated before grilling. I've seen it sold in the stores under the highly unappealing name of "flap steak". I don't know it got that name and I prefer the names "skirt steak" or "flank steak". But I'm no meat specialist so I just take the word of the meat seller and if it looks okay then that's good by me. What it all comes down to is the meat that you start with is a thinly sliced steak.
You can buy the meat plain or "preparada", which is already in the marinade. Lazy cook that I am I buy the already prepared meat so it's ready to go. I'm not sure what all goes into the marinade but it usually includes sliced onions and chopped cilantro. I'm sure it's very easy for industrious cooks to make themselves.
I prefer the steak sliced very thin. You might have to request this from a butcher in much of the country, or, if you live in an area with a high concentration of Latinos like I do, you can go to a Latino grocery or a carneceria, which is a meat market specializing in meats for Latino cuisine. Locally, I go a couple blocks from my house to the Huejucar Meat Market where they consistently have not only good quality carne preparada de asar, but they also make fresh guacamole and pico de gallo every day. They have many other things there--the tamales are excellent, but that's the only other food that I've tried.
Often on holidays the Huejucar Market is very crowded and it is a rather small family owned market so get a few people in there it is quite congested. Apparently I'm not the only one who recognizes the quality of the products. I could go a couple miles to the giant Food 4 Less supermarket and buy the meat for a little over a dollar a pound less, but they don't slice it as thin and the marinade is not as good. I mean, it's passable meat, but not as good as what Huejucar Market has for a higher price. I haven't bothered to check the other carnecerias in the neighborhood since we know what we've been getting is good and the couple that runs the place are very nice.
When I went to the Huejucar Market this past Sunday I got there at a good time. There was hardly anybody there. We got about 22 pounds of carne asada, five pounds of fresh guacamole, and two pounds of fresh pico de gallo for about $156.00. This was for nineteen people and covered two meals during the day. I watched as one of the butchers deftly cut slabs of steak into very thin slices. That was one sharp knife handled by one expert meat cutter. As we were paying I could see some ladies in a back room making the fresh guacamole. My guess is by the end of a day like the Fourth of July they go through a few hundred pounds of guacamole and several hundred pounds of various meats. Those Latinos love to party and grill meat. We weren't the only ones buying as much as we bought.
Carne asada is excellent chopped up for tacos, burritos, or nachos. I like it best just served as a whole thin strip of steak cooked well done and eaten with salsa and guacamole with perhaps some tortillas or tortilla chips. We easily finished off the 22 pounds of meat yesterday and still had room for fruit salad and cake and ice cream.
Our next carne asada cook out is scheduled for August 1 when my daughters all come in to visit from back east. I know they're looking forward to the carne asada. The whole family will be here as well and probably some of the girls' friends. I think we're going to have to get more than 22 pounds for this cook out.