Q: Chef, I have some friends coming over and want to do something a little fun on the grill this weekend. We are doing margaritas at the bar. Do you have any great ideas that will spice up our party?
A: I have just the thing to go with your margaritas: Carne Asada. When Hernan Cortez landed in Mexico looking for gold, he found Native Americans eating fish tacos. It was only a matter of time before the cattle that the explorer brought to the New World became what we now know as Carne Asada. Throughout Northern Mexico, the night fills with the aroma of charred beef roasting over mesquite wood. This delicacy is a simple dish and very easy to make. Served with fresh-made corn tortillas, they become a marriage made in heaven.
While many may say that you can use any beef to make this dish, there is only one cut of meat that is high on my list. Skirt steak is from the belly and is full of flavor, but it does need to be marinated to be sure it is tender. You can find skirt steaks at most local stores. Just ask your butcher.
For steak and marinade:
1 ½ lbs. skirt steak
2 shallots, sliced thin
12 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 jalapenos, chopped
½ cup grapeseed oil
Juice from 3 limes, each cut in half, reserve the rind
1 T kosher salt
1 ½ T chipotle powder
For the salad:
3 avocados, diced
12 grape tomatoes, halved
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 jalapeno, sliced thin
Juice from 1 lime
½ cup cilantro, chopped
1 t salt
Combine all marinade ingredients together in a glass dish and add the steak. Place the half lime rinds on the meat. (You will need them for grilling). Place meat in refrigerator for eight hours. Remove meat from fridge 30 minutes before grilling to let meat come to room temperature. Grill to desired doneness, placing the half lime rinds while grilling. (The heat will cause the limes to release the rest of their juices, as well as roast the rinds to create a deeper flavor.) Remove steak when done and let rest for at least three minutes before cutting.
While steak is cooking, combine the salad ingredients and set aside until you are ready to plate.
When plating, cut the steak on a bias and slice thin. Serve salad mixture over the meat and enjoy with fresh-made corn tortillas (or store-bought, if you must). Be sure to warm your tortillas.
FRESH CORN TORTILLAS
(Makes 3 dozen, 6-inch tortillas)
2 cups Maseca Masa corn flour
2 cups water
Mix flour and water in a bowl until it forms a dough ball. Be sure the dough is not too wet or too dry. Form small balls and press in a tortilla press for thin tortillas. If you want, hand-press them for a thicker tortilla. Place on hot nonstick pan, and cook for about a minute on each side. Wrap in foil to keep warm.
Chef John Johnson is executive chef at River City Casino. For questions or recipe requests, email him at John.Johnson@rivercity.com.