Carne Asada Tacos
When the kids were young I worked with an intercultural exchange program based in a small village about 60 miles below the Mexican border at Nogales. Over the years we became good friends with several of the families in the sleepy little village of Terrenate’ Mexico. Due to this relationship, we were invited to a wedding. One of the town’s leading fathers, was hosting the marriage of his oldest daughter. He owned a small farm with a few cattle. I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of the wedding preparation, which included butchering and cooking a whole cow.
The town’s “Matador” (literally, “Killer”), with no silly hat or sequined vest, came and killed and then butchered a cow. This was amazing, it was a quick process that rendered about 400 lbs of beef mostly in large cuts that were cooked over night in five-gallon tin cans, under ground in a deep pit that contained a layer of mesquite coals. The beef was mixed with whole bulbs of garlic, dark Mexican beer, little chiles, mint and *Mexican oregano. After the men butchered the cow, the women took over putting the big cans of beef together. While they were doing that, the men worked on the pit and fire. The only meat that was not used for the wedding feast was the skirt steak, which one of the men cooked, over a few shovels full of the hot mesquite coals, set in a little homemade grill. The Carne Asada, meaning grilled meat was served with fresh, hand made corn tortillas cooked on a little Comal. A few of the mothers, put the tacos together, each taco was made with two of the tortillas, about three tablespoons of the Carne Asada, along with chopped white onion, fresh cilantro and crumbled cotija, a white Mexican cheese. On the side they offered a fiery Salsa Cruda (raw salsa,) a slice of lime and a few chile tepins, which are little dried chiles smaller than a dried green pea that pack a red hot punch.
Being a guest I was served first, This simple plate also had a few grilled spring onions which are scallions that have been allowed to grow to about the size of a ping pong ball but still containing the green tails, they are charred and softened and of course an ice cold can of Tecate’ beer. This was one of the defining moments of life as a cook. The tacos were made of simple ingredients, prepared by someone who cared, about both the food and the people they were serving. The food, said something about who these simple people were, it was an act of love and an act of friendship and as good as it gets.
Pure mesquite chunk charcoal (not briquettes)
1-1 Lb. skirt Steak
Salt and pepper
1/2 TSP *Mexican oregano
Place the charcoal in the grill and light. Once the coals are glowing red, toss the skirt steak on the grill, and lightly salt and pepper the side that is up. Turn the steak when the first side is nice and brown and salt, pepper and lightly sprinkle the oregano on the browned side, Grill to medium. Remove from grill. Let the meat rest about five minutes, cut into little strips across the grain. Makes a little less than 1 LB.
* Mexican oregano can be found in any Mexican grocery store. It is integral in authentic Mexican cooking and has a curt, flatter flavor than Greek or Mediterranean oregano, which will produce more of a sweet and ‘Italian’ flavor, (think spaghetti sauce).