A while back, I had tried a playful twist on carne asada in the interest of trying something different, so I thought it would only make sense to simplify, satisfy my craving, and try the real deal: carne asada.
Honestly, the actual inspiration for this came from another direction. The side dish was what planted the seed for this in my head. I had seen a curious recipe for something called elote, that I had to try. Honestly, the idea of mayo + corn sounded….bizarre…to say the least, but I’d heard of it on more than one occasion (and for those who are skeptical, I have to say, this is probably one of the most incredible ways to eat corn. I will preach the gospel of elote to anyone who will listen from now on. Its tangy, bright, zippy, and somehow, cornier than plain corn). So with elote on the menu, I figured Mexican was in order for dinner and I’d enjoy some of the best produce summer had to offer.
The star of carne asada is the meat. It is very simple to prepare–the beef marinates for a few hours in a zesty, acidic blend of vinegar, chilis, and lime before getting a good, smoky sear from the grill. After a brief rest, the steak is sliced into bite-sized pieces and is then ready to be wrapped in a tortilla. I chose to top these off with a simple mix of pico de gallo as the tomatoes and peppers I had on hand were too good to cook. The combo was great–beefy, bright, fresh, summery flavors.
- ~2 lb skirt/flank steak (I had flank)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 chile (jalapeño, serrano, whatever)
- dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 handful cilantro, leaves and stems
- juice of 2 or 3 limes
- 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- Pico de Gallo
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 shallot
- ~5 small peppers (I used peppers similar to 1 poblano, 2 jalapeño, 1 serrano, and one who knows what)
- 1 clove garlic
- juice of 1/2 lime
- big handful of cilantro
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 ears sweet corn
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/4+ tsp chile powder of your choosing (chipotle, cayenne, ancho)
- ~4-6 oz crumbled cheese (cotija, or whatever floats your boat)
- cilantro leaves (garnish)
The first step is simple: marinate the steak. Coarsely chop up the produce and mix that with all of the other marinade ingredients. Trim any excess fat off of the steak and submerge it in the marinade for 1-4 hours. The texture of the meat will change if you over marinate, so don’t overdo it.
Next, the pico de gallo. This is also incredibly simple. Simply chop up each item into uniformly sized chunks and toss together in a bowl. If you like heat, include the ribs/seeds from the peppers, and if you’re cautious, omit it from the mix. Squeeze in some lime juice, salt to taste, and let this sit for a while so that the flavors meld a bit.
Finally, with the steak marinated, throw it on a medium-hot grill and cook to medium-rare/medium (or whatever your preference). Depending on the thickness of the meat, figure very roughly around 5 minutes per side. Once cooked through, let it sit for 10 minutes before you cut the steak into bite-sized pieces.
Assembling the taco is easy–heat up your tortillas through whatever method you prefer (steamed, brief pan fry, etc), throw in some carne asada, and top with the pico de gallo.
During all of the steak business, work on the elote. Soak the corn (in husks) in water for roughly 30 minutes. Then, peel the husks down (but don’t rip them off the base of the corn), remove the silky threads, and then bring the husk back up the length of the corn. Grill these (in husk) for about 20 minutes on medium-high heat, rotating periodically to ensure even roasting on all sides.
While the corn is cooking, mix the mayo, lime, salt, and chile powder together in a bowl. Crumble the cheese and set it aside on a plate. Once the corn is done, you can roll the husk back and use it as a handle, or, if you’re not keen on making a mess (the charred husk will flake everywhere…not fun indoors), just rip it off. Then, slather the corn with the mayo mixture, roll it over the cheese so that some sticks to the corn, top with a bit of cilantro, and sprinkle on a bit more chili powder for garnish. Have lime wedges handy in case anyone wants things a little more on the tart side.