Carne Asada - The Best One in the World is a Verb
Updated: Aug 14
And 3 Carne Asada Taco Recipes to Impress your Family & Friends
Simply put carne asada is Spanish for grilled meat. Grilling meat preferably over coals or wood is so simple, yet the base of the carne asada taco (and other variations I will describe bellow). Many countries around the world grill meat (like the asado in Argentina), but I am referring here to the one from Mexico, specially northern Mexico. Next time you meet someone from northern Mexico just ask her/him about their culture, and if they don’t mention carne asada, just turn around and leave (better yet RUN!!!).
Of course carne asada is amazing, but this blog is about carne asada the verb. Believe it or not, carne asada is not only a noun, it is also a verb (and I am not trying to sound like Ricardo Arjona).
So what do I mean carne asada as a verb? well...it is really simple. Suppose you have a friend that sends you a WhatsApp message and tells you "lets have a carne asada in my house this Saturday at 1pm" Don't expect to show up at 1pm and enter your friends house where she/he will have a pan with grilled meat, tortillas and salsa. You will show up at 1pm..ish... and you will smell that amazing flavors coming out of a grill. Tomatoes and chiles are at the grill being charred to do a salsa. The meat will be in the kitchen, waiting for the right moment to be transferred into the grill. You get a cold beer and congregate around the grill with the rest of your friends. Some appetizers will be on a side table (but you don't indulge, you wait of the main event). There is no set schedule. Once the coals are ready, someone will go inside and bring out the meat. Your host will grill the meat with just some sea salt. You keep chatting about life, smelling the delicious grilled meat, and maybe helping smash some avocados for a guacamole or cut some limes. All of a sudden the meat is ready. Your hosts pulls it out of the grill into a chopping block and cuts the meat into pieces. Some tortillas go on the grill, and then everyone builds their tacos. Maybe you will seat at the table to eat, or you will just remain standing while eating your carne asada tacos.
This is the whole concept of "hacer una carne asada". Carne asada as a verb is the best and beats any taco that you have eaten at a taco stand or restaurant.
The "carne asada" is not only the grilled meat, it is the whole experience of conviviality (thanks to Jennifer English for this concept). Dont get me wrong, there is nothing bad about going to a taco truck and having a carne asada taco, but it is way better the whole experience of "making carne asada"
Carne Asada - My Hygge Moments
When I was in college, my friend and classmate Ricardo Torres asked that beautiful question on a Friday afternoon: “y si hacemos una carne asada?” (what if we make a carne asada). We all smiled and got to work. Everyone pitched in some money and we divided into different groups. Some went to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, others went to a convenience store (el Oxxo) to buy beer and ice, and the others went to Ricardo’s home to help clean the grill and set the music selection. As college students we realized we had a budget challenge. We could afford either beer or meat, but not both. So we decided in favor of the beer and bought some sausages (salchichas para asar), tortillas and ingredients for a salsa. You might think that we did not had a carne asada because there was no meat, but not at all. We lighted the coals on the grill, roasted tomatoes onions and serrano chiles. Made a great salsa. Grilled the sausages and heated the tortillas. That night we had an amazing “carne asada” even through there was no grilled meat. The best time to do a carne asada is when you can have a group of friends, and you gather around the grill to talk about...anything and everything. You might learn about a new salsa your host prepared, and exchange ideas of grilling techniques.
I know right now it is challenging to gather in groups because of social distancing requirements, but still you can manage some kind of conviviality. For example, a group of friends in Monterrey started a Facebook group called Grilling Community. This has been a great place to see what our friends are doing at the grill and practice responsible grilling. Thanks to my friends Juvencio Moncayo, Alberto Furber, Cesar Garza and Jose Salinas for starting this group. I also want to thank Carlos Pozos for reaching out and sharing his knowledge.
Carne Asada Recipe OK, this topic could be the one that becomes controversial, but my experience as a carne asada cook, and most important, a carne asada enthusiast, the following is the perfect proportion of ingredients:
50% what you are going to cook and 50% the people, place and conversations. When my good friend Guillermo Elias invites me to a carne asada to his house, I know that I am going to eat amazing meat, but most important I cherish the conversation around the grill. That is what a great carne asada is about.
1/2 lb of meat of your choice per person (if you can go to a Mexican carnicería and ask for diezmillo)
Corn and flour (wheat) tortillas
1 chile serrano
1 bunch of cilantro
Shredded cheese (mozzarella or Monterey)
Light your grill (charcoal, wood or gas) and when hot, grill the tomatoes, onion and serrano chile. When tender, remove from grill, mash the ingredients on a molcajete or put in a blender. Add sea salt and some cilantro.
Remember to bring the meat to room temperature (do not put the meat on the grill just out of the refrigerator). Cook to preferred temperature (for tacos I like medium well) and reserve on the side just adding some sea salt. Do not put the grilled meat in a container with a lid on top. This will create steam and change the texture of the meat. Leave an opening for the steam to escape. After it sets for 5 minutes, remove from the container and cut into pieces or strips. Put the container on the grill where it can remain warm, and add the cut meat so when you assemble the tacos, it is still warm. Just remember to not close tight the lid.
Now that you have the base, here are 3 simple ways to serve the carne asada.
Just warm the corn or flour tortillas, put some of the meat, squeeze some lime juice, add a couple of slices of avocado, a little sea salt, salsa, and you are all set.
Lorenza This is a delicious variation with the same ingredients. Put a corn tortilla on the grill and keep turning it until it is crisp like a tostada. Add some cheese to the top and let it melt. Then put some carne asada, lime juice, avocado and salsa.
Warm one side of a flour tortilla to soften a little. Turn it over, put some cheese and fold the tortilla (you are making a quesadilla). When the cheese is melted (being careful not to burn the tortilla), open it and add some meat, lime juice, avocado and salsa.