Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mexican Style Grilled Steak (Carne Asada) and Simple Refried Beans

If I had to pick a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood, it's Mexican food. My father, God rest his soul, was Hispanic. For as long as I can remember, he always had a bowl of homemade salsa on the table, and he loved tortillas and refried beans.

While I seem to have inherited more of my mother's German light skin, I've definitely inherited his love of beans and tortillas. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find a canned refried bean that didn't taste gross.

I am still trying to find my own authentic recipe for making refried beans the way that my Nana did. I like for my beans to have some texture to them (definitely not pureed) with a very subtle flavor of pork. I have no doubt that there's a lot of lard involved, too. I'll keep looking, and when I find the Holy Grail of refried beans recipe-- you can count on me sharing it on my blog. I promise.

Carne Asada is one of my favorite choices for tacos or burritos.  There are plenty of recipes for Carne Asada-- some involve marinating the meat in citrus.  You can use either flank steak or skirt steak.
This particular recipe doesn't use a marinade, but it's quick and flavorful.  As with many of my recipes, these come from America's Test Kitchen.  Here's how and why they developed the recipe:

To create a recipe for a carne asada platter that satisfies like the original, we started with skirt steak. Since it’s most tender and juicy when cooked to medium, it allowed us to create plenty of char on its exterior without overcooking it. We eschewed the standard lime juice marinade in favor of a dry salting to promote faster browning on the grill and then gave the steak a squeeze of fresh lime before serving. To speed up charring even more and create a large enough area of concentrated heat to cook all four steaks at once, we cut the bottom from a disposable aluminum roasting pan and used it to corral the coals. For heady garlic flavor, we treated the cooked steaks like bruschetta, rubbing their rough crusts with a smashed garlic clove.
I've made these twice-- once using our Weber grill...

 ... and then, another time, using our gas grill. 

Because we are cooking for two, nowadays, the gas grill was the easier version, because we use less charcoal.

I did find the gas grill method less fussy, because I didn't have to cut up an aluminum pan to corral the coals.

The refried beans are quite easy to make, and I've made them a few times. Instead of using lard, bacon is fried and the rendered fat is used. I've tweaked America's Test Kitchens recipe by grating the onion and garlic, instead of finely chopping it.  I didn't like the texture of the onion, but wanted the flavor.) This recipe uses canned beans and some added water.

The beans are then mashed down, and allowed to simmer for about 5-7 minutes.

I seasoned the beans with salt, to taste, and heated up some tortillas (beans AND tortillas are a must).

Like my father, I need some sort of salsa to go with my Mexican food. Pico de Gallo is my first choice. So, I picked some of our homegrown tomatoes, added chopped onion and fresh cilantro, salt and pepper and plenty of fresh lime juice. There!

 Once the meat comes off the grill, I rubbed fresh garlic all over it, and it was time to chow down!

Ah, the simple things in life. Some sliced carne asada, with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, fresh pico de gallo, and a dab of sour cream-- buen apetito!

NOTE: You do need to allow the meat to be seasoned and refrigerated for at least 45 minutes and up to 24 hours in advance. Best of all, this entire dinner was ready in less than an hour.

TASTING NOTES:  It's important to not overcook the skirt steak, or it will become tough and dry-- so pay special close attention to not cook this meat beyond medium-rare-- about 4-8 minutes total.  Using a meat thermometer is really helpful. The meat had great flavor, whether cooked over charcoal or gas.  The refried beans:  They were good, and I prefer the texture of the beans with grated onion and garlic.  This way, it imparts flavor but I wasn't chewing on the onion.  These beans aren't anywhere close to my Nana's slow-cooked pinto beans that are fried in lard -- definitely not low-fat, but it's what I grew up with and love best.  But these will do, and are far better than canned refried beans.

A printable recipe card is included at the very end of this post. If you cannot view it, please email me and I'll send you the direct link.

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Big Dude said...

Looks like you learned from your father (or mother well). It all sounds delicious.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I rarely think to cook Mexican food, but now I have a great resource for making this steak and refried beans. You really provided wonderful instructions and photos to recreate this dish.

LadyJayPee said...

Oh goodie. I've always wanted to see more of your Mexican food recipes! Thank you!