Thursday, April 15, 2010
Carne Asada Tacos with Avocado Cream
Back in February I made some very simple and tasty fish tacos. They went over so well that I thought they’d be a fun idea for a casual dinner party, sort of a do-it-yourself affair: a pan of spice-rubbed cod in the center of the table surrounded by stacks of warm corn tortillas and bowls of toppings. So when Erik and Emily came over for dinner on Saturday, I decided to kick it up a notch and add carne asada to the menu.
That ended up being a very good idea.
Carne asada, a dish with roots in Northern Mexico, literally means “roasted meat.” A thin cut of beef, usually flank or skirt steak, is either seasoned with salt and pepper or marinated, and then grilled over hot coals. I took the marination route and used a concoction of citrus juices, garlic, jalapeños, cilantro, vinegar and olive oil. After a few hours in the fridge, that steak was ready to be grilled, sliced and piled into tortillas. Pretty darn simple.
As for toppings, they included the usual suspects: cabbage slaw, Cotija cheese, Pico de Gallo and radishes. But instead of a standard guacamole, I opted for a creamy avocado sauce, which, if the empty bowl served as any indication, went over swimmingly.
While Carne Asada is usually grilled, broiling or pan searing (like I did here) works just as well.
For the marinade:
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 large handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few turns of freshly ground black pepper
2 juicy limes, juiced
Scant 1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 pounds flank or skirt steak
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower, peanut or grapeseed
8 small corn tortillas
1 batch of Avocado Cream (recipe follows)
Pico de gallo
Cabbage and carrot slaw
Using either a mortar and pestle or a food processor, pound/pulse the garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper until it forms a paste. Add the lime juice, orange juice, vinegar and oil; mix well. Place the flank steak in a large Ziplock bag. Pour the marinade over the meat, seal the bag and refrigerator for at least 1 hour but no more than 8 hours (or the meat will get mushy from too much protein breakdown).
Heat a large skillet (cast iron works great) over medium-high to high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to the hot pan and swirl to coat. Add steak and cook for 7 to 10 minutes per side, turning once, until medium rare. Remove to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Thinly slice the steak on a diagonal across the grain.
*Alternatively, heat an outdoor grill or a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the grates with a little oil to prevent sticking and carry on with the above instructions.
Heat tortillas either in the microwave (2 at a time for 20 seconds on high heat), in a hot, dry skillet until warm and pliable, or wrap the entire stack in aluminum foil and heat in a 350°F oven (which I did since I was also baking the fish).
Assemble tacos by placing a few slices of beef down the center of a warm tortilla. Top with avocado cream, Cotija cheese, cabbage, Pico de Gallo, radish slices and cilantro sprigs.
1/2 - 1 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt to taste
Peel, seed and dice the avocados; place into a blender. Add milk, starting with 1/2 cup, garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, adding more milk to reach the desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste.