Beef Tacos Carne Asada with garden fresh Pico de Gallo

The Meat:
First, a little bit about the cut of beef I use in this recipe.  I am, after all, a professional meat cutter.  If you don’t care about the specifics of the beef cut then you can skip down to the recipe below.  Traditionally carne asada is made from beef flank or skirt steak however, these cuts of beef have become quite expensive in recent years.  The Hispanic customers I often serve use a variety of thinly sliced beef for their carne asada. For my recipe I use the beef chuck spider muscle (serratus ventralis).  This muscle group is located between the chuck eye and the blade on the chuck primal.  It is sometimes referred to as the beef chuck underblade steak or more recently, the Denver steak.  I should mention however, that I know several meat cutters who are incorrectly cutting this muscle and even including an additional muscle group that is positioned next to the spider muscle when they cut Denver steaks.  This, in my opinion causes their Denver steaks to be less tender than they should be (but I digress…).  If you would like to see further where this muscle is located then follow this link to an informative video on how to cut it. Meat butchery and seam cutting demonstration of Denver Steak of beef.  For my recipe, after seeming out and separating the spider muscle, rather than making Denver steaks, I thinly slice the muscle directly cross grain.  Then cut the slices into small strips (slightly smaller than stir fry sized).  I use 3 to 3 1/2 pounds for the recipe below (about 1 whole serratus ventralis muscle).

Carne Asada:
Start by making the marinade for the meat.  Those ingredients are:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp finely ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dark chili powder
  • 6 cloves fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • juice of 2 whole fresh limes

Whisk all of the above ingredients together. Place the 3 pounds of meat mentioned above into a 2 gal. sized zip bag and pour the marinade over it. Zip up the bag and work the meat and marinade together then place the bag into a pan (to avoid a mess if there is a leak) and place into the fridge for about 8 hours. Turn it over a couple of times to make sure all of the meat has maximum contact. When ready to prepare, dump the entire contents, meat and marinade into a large skillet and cook. Continue to cook until the liquid has cooked off and the meat is just slightly caramelized.

Pico de Gallo: (fresh authentic Mexican style salsa)
Ingredients as follows: (wear gloves for the pepper handling, you’ve been warned…)

  • 4 – 5 small to medium sized tomatoes, diced (from our garden, of course)
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 – 4 small green jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (also from our garden)
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped (if you dare, and I do! grew these in garden for the first time last summer)
  • 1 or 2 fresh red hot chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped (been growing these for a couple of years in our garden – very spicy, love ’em)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and carefully stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  This fresh salsa   will not hold up like cooked salsa so use within a couple of days.

Serve in gently warmed small diameter flour tortillas.  Add a couple of tablespoons of the carne asada to the center of the tortilla.  Spoon a teaspoon or more (depending on taste) of the pico de gallo over the top.  If you are so inclined, you can dollop some mole verde or some finely shredded quesadilla cheese (or both) over the top.  Fold tortilla over like any other soft taco and enjoy…

A fresh lime juice, top shelf tequila derived, shaken margarita is the perfect compliment to the fire lit by this awesome meal…