Friday, October 29, 2010

Mexican Grilled Beef (Carne Asada)

A while back we celebrated my Father-in-law's Birthday party and I was given the request for Mexican Food. Now it was time for something different then the traditional taco bar that my wife would prefer, so I began to scour grilling cook books for a good recipe. This one I found in Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue! I was so happy to finally get the chance at making another of his recipe's that he has graciously scoured the globe to collect.

In the process of making this meal I learned the draw back of grilling with propane, the fire blows out with a strong enough wind and it's difficult to tell just how much cook time you have left in a bottle. I have also learned to keep a bag of charcoal on hand just in case the propane decides to run dry before your done grilling. But none the less I was able to finish cooking and we had a great time too.

For Grilling
2 poblano peppers, or 4 banana peppers, or other large, moderately hot chile's
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
1 sweet onion, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 1/2 pounds beef flap meat, skirt steak, hanger steak, or another thin cut of beef (I used flank steak)
Coarse Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
20-24 corn tortillas, preferably freshly made at a Mexican tortilla shop or market, or 12 small flour tortillas
Meat drippings or vegetable oil

For Serving
One or more of these accompaniments:
1 small head green cabbage (about 1 pound), cored and sliced paper-thin
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, cut into wedges or diced, and sprinkled with fresh lime juice to keep it from discoloring
1 cup sour cream
1 cup coarsely grated queso blanco or cotija or jack cheese
3 limes, quartered

1. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. Ideally, you'll grill over wood fire, but you can achieve a similar effect by using dry wood chips on a charcoal or gas grill.

2. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grate. If you are using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips or chunks on the coals, if using. If you are using a gas grill, add 2 cups of wood chips, if using, or chunks to the smoker box or place them in a smoker pouch under the grate. If you are using poblano peppers or banana peppers, arrange them on the hot grate and grill them until the skins are darkly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side, 12 to 16 minutes in all (banana peppers will take a little less time than poblanos). Arrange the scallions and onion on the grate and grill them until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Place the scallions or onion on the grate for about 6 minutes after the peppers have grilled.

3. Transfer the grilled vegetables to a chopping block or cutting board. Leave the fire burning. Cut the poblanos into strips, discarding the seeds. Cut the scallions and onion into 2-inch pieces. Arrange the grilled vegetables on a serving platter.

4. Generously season the beef on both sides with salt and garlic powder and pepper, if using. Add the remaining wood chips, if using. Arrange the meat on the hot grate and grill until cooked to taste, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium. (Mexicans prefer their carne asada medium to medium-well done.) Transfer the grilled beef to a chopping block or cutting board, reserving any of the meat drippings, if desired. Leave the fire burning. (Meat drippings will come from the plate or tray that you place the cooked meat on after cooking.)

5. Lightly brush the tortillas with meat drippings or oil, if desired (this is not necessary but does make the tortillas a little richer and moister). Arrange the tortillas on the hot grate and grill them just long enough to warm them, about 15 seconds per side.

6. Chop or thinly slice the beef across the gran. To eat the carne asada, place a few slices of beef on a warm tortilla, then pile on the grilled vegetables, raw vegetables, sour cream, cheese and salsa(s) of your choice and add a squeeze of lime, if desired.

I found that slicing them across the grain and on the diagonal made it possible to make thin slices that are easier to chew. Also I prepared chicken and seasoned it the same as the steak, since not everyone in my family is big on steak.

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