Carne Asada and Homemade Salsa

Date Cooked: June 12, 2022

Over the past few summers, I seem to have picked up on skirt steak as my steak of choice for grilling. In 2018 I made spice-rubbed skirt steak a few times. Last summer I marinated skirt steak in various teriyaki sauces (store bought and home made) that culminated in this cook off. This summer I have plans to make carne asada a few times in the search of a tasty Mexican dinner.

In my searching I discovered Rossana Figueroa’s Villa Cocina website and YouTube channel. I was intrigued by a pair of her recipes: carne asada (from summer of 2021) and fresh made salsa (from spring 2022). Let’s see how it went.

To round things out, I made a pot of pinto beans. I’ve blogged about my go-to recipe for pinto bean here; or you can get just the recipe here. The recipe goes an extra step to create refried beans from the cooked pintos. I did not do that for this cook. I highly recommend Rancho Gordo beans (I’m not an affiliate); they are in some stores but I buy them from their website. Rinse and soak them overnight.

Rinsed and soaked Rancho Gordo pinto beans

Then cook them for 16-18 minutes in a pressure cooker with ½ white onion cut across the equator, two cups homemade chicken stock, water to cover, kosher salt, garlic, cumin, chili powder, fresh oregano (or epazote if you can find it) and a bay leaf.

Flavor bomb for the pinto beans.

Once the beans are in the works let’s get started with the skirt steak which will marinate for a few hours in a bright citrusy liquid.

Carne Asada marinade ingredients.

Whisk it all together and get ready to marinate. Skirt steaks can be ridiculously long; I cut this one in half so it would fit in my marinade pan. If you haven’t cooked skirt steak before, take a moment to look at the grain of the meat that goes across the short side. This will be very important when it comes to slicing it.

Skirt steak ready for carne asada marinade

Put a bit of marinade in the bottom of a non-metal tray, add the steak, and cover with the rest of the marinade, cover with plastic wrap and stash in the refrigerator a few yours. If you are motivated, you can flip the steak pieces once or twice.

Skirt steak in carne asada marinade.

While the steak was marinating I started making the salsa. In addition to the tomatoes, tomatillos, chilis and garlic in the next picture we use white onion, salt, and cilantro. I roasted the chili de arbol, tomatillos, roma tomatoes, and garlic on my cast iron skillet. If you have your grill fired up, that would be even better.

Chili de arbor, tomatillos, roma tomatoes, and garlic after a quick charring.

I surprised myself by not buying a molcajete (a very large mortar and pestle) after watching Rossanna’s YouTube video to make this. Instead I used my food processor – but promised myself to be very conservative on the chopping: I didn’t want soup. Rossanna likes her spice! I looked at the label of my dried chili de arbol and they are very hot: small and hot. Four would be too many for my weak mouth so I only used 2½. Still very, very spicy; I’ll talk about my future adjustments in a bit. Chop everything into big chunks and add to your food processor (or molcajete) and pulse until still very chunky. Taste and adjust the salt to your liking, and put in a bowl in the fridge for flavors to meld.

Salsa ready to eat!

Time to turn our attention back to the carne asada. Fire up the grill to very hot. Skirt steak is thin and does well with a short burst of intense heat. Pull it out of the marinade and wipe some of the excess off. When the grill is nice and hot, give it a quick brush and lightly rub the grates with some vegetable oil. I put just a tad in a small bowl, wad up a few sheets of paper towel, then use long tongs to dip the paper towels in the oil and then the grill. Be careful, it is hot! Let the smoke subside for about ½ a minute before grilling.

Put the steak on the hot grill and cook about 6 minutes per side.

Skirt steak grilling over high heat.

It’s better to cook to temperature than time; I use a quick read thermometer to keep track and pull the steak after it reaches medium – 155° to 160°. Pull the steak and let it rest for about 10 minutes for the juices to settle. And prepare the rest of your taco ingredients: salsa, diced white onion, slices of avocado and wedges of lime for brightness.

Carne asada almost ready to eat!

As I mentioned earlier, we need to pay attention to the grain of the meat when slicing. If you take your first inclination and just slice off pieces the short way you will have some very, very, tough meat – You’ll have to gnaw on each long, tough strand of meat. Instead cut each of the two halves in thirds or quarters the short way, then rotate and cut across the grain into bite sized pieces. It should look like this. You can see the cross section of the beef so you are chewing small bits of those tough strands.

Carne asada cut across the grain and ready for tacos.

Tacos mean tortillas; we’ve been very happy with “grilling” corn tortillas over a gas grill flame. They get a nice bit of char and is healthier than cooking them in oil. I could have used the outdoor grill for this as well; and done all the tortillas at once.

Heating corn tortillas on a gas grill.

Assemble the tacos.

Carne asada tacos

And don’t forget about the beans!

Homemade pinto beans go with the tacos

The salsa was very good, but too spicy. The brightness of the tomatillos were a great contrast to the tomatoes. Next time I make this I think I’ll use just one chili de arbol and add 1 jalapeño to the mix.

I like Rossanna’s Villa Cocina YouTube channel, she gives clear instructions and is passionate about her cooking. Her husband Nelson make appearances when it’s time to eat. She has another, newer carne asada recipe this summer which I will try soon. It is more of a rub than a marinade. I hope to get to that before the end of the summer.

A Personal Note

I cooked this on Sunday June 12 yet am posting more than a month later – I am behind on my posting! In early June I came down with a fever that knocked me out of commission for about a week; but I didn’t have COVID. I found Rossanna’s YouTube channel while I was laying around the house. Then, on June 16 we went to one of my grandson’s recitals and everyone in both of our families (except Andrew who had just recovered from it) came down with COVID. As the next week went on I got better and better; just when my COVID test line was almost gone, I got a rebound infection. Aarg!. I’ve had a very light COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) since I got measles when I was about 10. When I’m well, I have no symptoms and need just one long-term inhaler. But when I get a virus, all bets are off. Well after the virus is gone, my COPD keeps flaring and it takes me weeks to get over a chronic cough. At this point (late July) I’m on my third round of Prednisone and am just starting to get my energy back. So that’s where I’ve been. I’m not asking for pity; I know people who are way, way worse than me.

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