Hello again,
Pasta is a wonderful word, isn't it? Just
saying it makes my mouth water. If you're
looking for a few pasta dishes sure to make
your mouth water, definitely check out last
month's issue of the Everyday Gourmet for
my easy versions of linguini with clams and
penne primavera.
This month, however, we're switching
countries and continents. It's off to North
America for a great dinner in honor of
Cinco de Mayo. That's right, folks. W e're
making traditional carne asada tacos. I
know I'm a couple weeks late with this, but
what the heck? It's an awesome meal for
any night of the year.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy carne
asada tacos is ordering them from any of
the countless quality taco trucks here in
Los Angeles. For anyone familiar with LA
taco trucks, you'll know that all of them
have some sort of a homemade salsa
station. While I consider myself a bit of a
salsa slut, the one that always graces my
carne asada taco is the fresh salsa verde.
Unlike cooked or roasted versions of this
salsa, the raw version is very clean tasting
and slightly acidic, making it the perfect
foil for charred beef wrapped in a corn
tortilla. Here is my version, which will take
you all of 5 minutes to make, and can be
used as a condiment for almost anything.
¾ to 1lb. fresh tomatillos, husks discarded and
roughly chopped
6 green onions, roughly chopped
1 serrano chili, roughly chopped (for a hotter
salsa use an extra Serrano)
1 bunch cilantro, thick stems removed
Juice of 1 lime
¼ C water
1½ tsp kosher salt
Place all of the
ingredients in a
blender or food
processor and
process until smooth.
Allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator for one
hour. Serve.
As I stated at the top, this issue is in honor of Cinco de
Mayo, probably the most misunderstood yet heartily
celebrated holiday I know of. For anyone wondering
what Cinco de Mayo actually celebrates but is
embarrassed to ask, allow me to shed some light.
The following is an excerpt of an article I wrote for
another publication:
Many people believe that Cinco de Mayo is the day
that recognizes Mexico's independence from Spain.
To set the record straight, that conquest happened on
September 15th, 1810. Cinco de Mayo, on the other
hand, celebrates an occurrence over 50 years later.
Carne Asada : continued
On May 5, 1862, the Mexican cavalry, under the
command of Texas-born General Zaragosa,
defeated the French at the battle at Puebla, a city
100 miles east of Mexico City. The French army,
having not suffered a defeat in nearly 50 years,
landed in the port of Vera Cruz and headed
toward the capital city with a specific mission.
Fearless of any opponent, the French sought to
overthrow the capitol and gain control of Mexico,
even bringing along a Hapsburg prince to
oversee the would-be empire. The goal of
France's leader, Emperor Napoleon III, was to
gain proximity to the US in hopes of supplying
the Confederate Army in their fight against the
North, as he had a vested interest in sustaining
the division within America.
At Puebla, the undersized Mexican cavalry used
their knowledge of the terrain to defeat the
powerful French army. This victory enabled the
Union States to build a powerful army of their
own. Fourteen months after Puebla, the North
defeated the Confederates at Gettysburg, a
battle that served as a major turning point in the
civil war.
In a show of solidarity, union troops were then
rushed to the Texas/Mexican border to help
expel the remaining French from Mexico.
It's hard to tell how much influence Mexico's
victory had on the North's overall success, but it's
reasonable to say it marked the beginning of a
friendship between Mexico and the United
States. For this reason, Cinco de Mayo is
observed in both countries. While it's probably
celebrated more on this side of the border, it's
serves a great occasion to honor freedom and
Now that you have the lowdown on the history,
let's talk menu…
Carne asada (grilled meat) tacos are about as
ubiquitous as it gets when it comes to Mexican
cuisine. Marinated sheets of flap steak (a thin
cut of meat from the flank of the cow), grilled to
perfection and then hacked into pieces and
served on warmed corn tortillas, carne asada
tacos are truly a beef lover's fantasy. They're
taken to a whole other level, however, when you
top them with traditional accoutrement. You've
already seen my recipe for fresh salsa verde, but
surely include the guacamole I'll soon put forth.
All this carne asada talk is making me hungry.
What do you say we get cooking?
CARNE ASADA (serves 4-6)
2½ - 3 lbs. flap steak
Canola oil
Kosher salt
12 to16 Corn tortillas, heated and kept warm
Finely chopped onion
Finely chopped cilantro
Lime wedges
For the marinade:
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
tbsp soy sauce
tsp Worcestershire sauce
tsp liquid smoke
Cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Carne Asada: Directions continued
In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Place flap steak into a gallon-sized sealable bag and add the marinade. Seal the bag and marinate
for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours.
Light your grill or barbecue and allow it to get very hot.
Remove meat from bag. Shake off any excess marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Brush the
mat with oil and season with Kosher salt.
Grill meat over a high flame for 4 minutes per side, or until well charred and cooked to a medium
degree of doneness.
Remove meat from grill and using a very sharp knife, chop into small pieces. Keep warm until ready
to serve.
Serve with warm corn tortillas, fresh salsa verde, guacamole (recipe follows), chopped onion, cilantro,
and lime wedges.
2 ripe Hass avocados
Juice of 1 lime
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ C red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
small (optional)
1 Jalapeno, seeded and chopped
small (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, add all of the ingredients and season liberally with salt and pepper. Using a fork,
mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the fresh salsa verde:
Feel free to add or omit chilies in order to achieve a desired heat level.
Salsa verde tastes great on all sorts of dishes. Mexican food, hamburgers, hot dogs, eggs, and
grilled meat, fish or vegetables are some of my favorites to top with this salsa.
For the Carne Asada:
Sliced onions and cilantro are a great way to enhance the marinade, especially when you are
marinating for longer periods of time
continued ............... ÷
Don't feel like eating beef? Substitute with
chicken for a delicious pollo asada meal.
Other toppings that taste great on these tacos
are sliced green onion, sour cream or crema,
crumbled Cotija cheese, and pico de gallo, or
your favorite fresh salsa.
For the Guacamole:
As long as you're firing up the outdoor grill, you
may want to consider grilling the avocados
before turning them into guacamole. Simply
split them in half lengthwise and remove the
seed. Brush the cut sides with oil and season
with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a
hot grill and cook for 90 seconds. Give the
avocado a ¼ turn and cook for an additional 60
seconds. Remove the avocados from the grill
and incorporate into the guacamole recipe.
I don't know about you all, but the idea of
drinking wine with carne asada tacos doesn't
sound great to me. While the thought isn't
necessarily repulsive, I can't help but think there
are more worthy choices. A good Mexican
pilsner or lager, or a homemade margarita
would be two such examples.
But, this is Le Sommelier after all, and I feel
somewhat of a responsibility to bring something
interesting to the table. That's why I've decided
to go with a Michelada cocktail.
For those unfamiliar, a Michelada is a Mexican
beer-based cocktail
that has some fuzzy
origins. I don't
really have the time
or space to examine
the theories, but
let's just say that it
is terrifically
refreshing and a
perfect match for
your carne asada
Start by rimming a
large, chilled glass or mug with lime and course
salt. Fill halfway with ice and add the juice of 1
lime, 2 dashes of Tabasco sauce, a dash of soy
sauce, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
Fill with cold Mexican beer and mix well.
Garnish with a few grinds of black pepper and
serve. Salud!
Until next time, mi amigos…