Saturday Dinner: Carne Asada Tacos (or Tacos Con Carne Asada)

2014-08-16 at 17-17-10

NOTE: Six years of Spanish in middle and high school plus college and tacos con carne asada is all I can give you.

Everyone complains that Taco Bell is terrible. The food is terrible. The meat is low quality. The restaurants are dirty. Me? Taco Bell was great when I was in high school. My biggest problem was how they marketed their food.

Way back in the day, Taco Bell introduced a taco or burrito with grilled carne asada. As a consumer and educated person, this insulted me because carne asada means grilled meat. Thus, you were getting a taco with grilled grilled meat.

(NOTE: That this bothered me may be a reason that I had a rough time making friends and meeting girls when I was younger.)

2014-08-16 at 17-04-46Carne asada is typically meat that is marinated and sliced thin, but there are really no rules for making it. The style I like best involves a steak with good marbling, pounded flat, marinated and cooked over an open flame until done. My Saturday trip to Side Hill Farmers in Manlius (If you haven’t been, that’s your fault.) paid off with Denver steaks — a nicely marbled cut from the chuck and begging for marinade and fire.

2014-08-16 at 12-11-36WHAT WORKED: The cut. I really like the Denver, which Kevin at Side Hill turned me on to earlier this summer. It’s tougher than your average steak, the result of its origin, but it has a lot of flavor and grills very easily. Beating the hell out of it with a mallet was also quite cathartic.

2014-08-16 at 17-00-17WHAT DIDN’T: Grating queso fresco with a cheese grater. Like rubbing a handful of sand on a wall.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: She approved, though I don’t remember what she said exactly.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Oh yes.

2014-08-16 at 17-00-31Carne Asada Tacos
By Jared Paventi

  • 1 lb. Denver, flatiron or other steak from the chuck
  • 24 oz. sour orange marinade (found with Goya products at grocery)
  • pico de gallo, store bought or homemade (very easy to make, 3 cups diced plum tomatoes per one cup diced white onions per one handful of chopped cilantro per juice of one lime)
  • crumbled queso fresco
  • flour tortillas
Left side beaten, right side not
Left side beaten, right side not

Lay the steaks on a cutting board or other clean, heavy duty surface. Using a tenderizing hammer or other kitchen mallet, pound the steaks to less than 1/4-inch thick. Add to a large zipper-lock bag with the sour orange marinade, seal and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

2014-08-16 at 17-03-11Clean your grill surface and preheat to at least 600 degrees. Warm your tortillas on half of the grill while cooking the steaks on the other. Flip the tortillas when they bubble and brown but before they burn, about 2 minutes. Remove the tortillas from heat or transfer to the bun rack of your grill.

Check how those steaks shrunk...
Check how those steaks shrunk…

Cook the steaks 3 to 4 minutes each side or until medium. Transfer to a plate and let stand 5 minutes. With a sharp knife, slice the steaks pencil thin. Serve with tortillas, pico de gallo, extra cilantro and queso fresco.

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