Monday, October 27, 2014

Carne Asada with Chorizo Black Beans, Sweet Plantains, Simple Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

I've been searching for forever it seems, to find a good carne asada recipe. The traditional versions are very simple and in their own ways very good but - and as much as I hate to admit it - doesn't taste as good as the carne asada I can get from my butcher's counter. I've tried and tried but it's just not as good and it's not as easy as just buying it outright. I do hate not being able to control what's in the marinade so I kept looking.

I've been making a few of Rick Bayless' recipes as of late and they are all awesome. The man writes a killer, idiot proof recipe and I really appreciate that. I found a picture of this dish while searching and thought it looked good enough to try to recreate.

This is his "Oaxacan-style carne asada".

Credit to serious eats for the picture and to Frontera for the plate. 

Beans, plantains, guac and carne asada? - YES PLEASE.

The recipe I used is kind of an amalgam of a couple of his recipes for carne asada. Not knowing all the nuances of the tradition in Mexico I am just looking for a recipe that mimics that store-bought carne asada I love.

This is about the closest I have come and it's really good. Although this is not how I normally make carne asada (usually it's thinly sliced flank steak or something like that) the marinade is solid.

I just used a London Broil that I grilled off and sliced thinly. It turned out pretty nice and I'm looking forward to trying this marinade on a more traditional cut of beef in the future.


Carne Asada with Chorizo Black Beans, Sweet Plantains, Simple Guacamole and Pico de Gallo

(adapted heavily from Rick Bayless' recipes here, here and here)

Carne Asada Marinade
2 jalapeños roasted, peeled, seeded
6 garlic cloves pan roasted
2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
1.5 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 Tbs ancho chile powder
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 Tbs white vinegar
1 Tbs cider vinegar
2 Tbs canola oil
1.5 teaspoons salt

2 pounds of beef - I used London broil but you can use skirt, flank or flap to make it more traditional.

Pico De Gallo
3 Roma Tomatoes
1-2 serrano peppers (omit for a mild pico)
1 jalapeño pepper (seed for a mild pico or omit all together if you are heat sensitive, though when seeded it doesn't add very much heat)
Juice of two limes
½ large onion, diced
handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

Simple Guacamole
3 Avocados
Lime juice (1/2 a lime to start)

Chorizo Black Beans
8 oz dry black beans
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (can sub water but it won't be nearly as good)
4 to 6 oz Mexican chorizo
½ large onion, diced

Sweet Plantains
2 ripe Plantains (mottled black skin)
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt, more to taste

Queso fresco and/or Mexican crema to serve


Roast off 2 jalapeños. I do them over my gas burner but you can grill them or put them under the broiler. Goal is to get them uniformly charred so you can peel off the skins easily. 

While those are going, toss 6 garlic cloves into a dry pan over medium-high heat. We're going to get them nice and soft.

Peel, seed, and chop the jalapeños roughly and toss into a blender.

Keep the garlic turning until it's soft. Maybe 10 minutes total.

Peel the garlic.

Toss into the blender.

To the blender, add:

2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce
1.5 teaspoons Mexican oregano
1 tbl ancho chile powder
2 tbl lime juice
1 tbl white vinegar
1 tbl cider vinegar
2 tbl canola oil
1.5 tsp salt

Blend until smooth.

Scrape down periodically until it's nice and smooth.

I used a big London broil cut in half.

Toss the beef and marinade into a bag.

Toss into the fridge as long as you can. I usually do this in the morning but you can do it the night before and it'll be fine.

I'd say give it an absolute minimum of an hour.

Do some chores while your child sleeps. Hooray!


Meanwhile, you can make your pico. This is also great to do in the morning as it gets better with some time.


3 Roma Tomatoes
1-2 serrano peppers
1 jalapeño pepper
Juice of two limes
½ large onion, diced
handful of cilantro

Dice your tomatoes.

Halve and onion (we'll be using the other half in the chorizo black beans, below) and dice it up. Add to the tomatoes.

Depending on how hot you like your pico you have some options.

I really like the flavor of jalapeños but love the clean heat of serranos. I've seeded the chiles with good results before but I never seem to get enough heat for me.

This time I've added a whole jalapeño and 2 entire serranos for extra heat. After it had a chance to sit for the afternoon it was definitely spicy but not as hot as I thought it was going to be. I thought it was perfect.

Anyway, add your chiles to the mix. 

Also add your handful of cilantro (chopped) and seasonings - the juice of 2 limes and salt to taste. I'd start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon (Kosher) and taste after it sits for a bit. 

Give it a shake or stir to combine.

Let this sit in the fridge until dinner. You can give it a shake every-so-often to re-distribute the liquids. It will break down considerably through the day and the flavors will deepen tremendously.


We can also do our simple guacamole now, too!

This is as simple as guac gets. This is actually a pretty traditional preparation in Mexico as well.

3 Avocados
Lime juice (1/2 a lime to start)

Just score the avocados and scoop out with a spoon.

Add the lime juice and a pinch of salt to start.

I just mashed with a potato masher.

I think I did it about 3 times.

I wanted it to still have a little body, not smooth by any means.

Just stash this in the fridge until dinner!


The beans ended up taking the most time since I used dry beans. I always seem to have a pound in my pantry at all times.

Measure out 8 oz of beans and add 1 star anise and 2 bay leaves.

This flavor combination is outstanding, especially with chorizo.

Measure out 4 cups of water or stock. I had a bunch of stock that needed to get used. I think this was actually beef stock.

Cover, bring to a boil then drop the heat to a simmer for 2 hours.

When your time is up, check the doneness of the beans. It may take a bit more time, but it's ok if they're still a little tough since we'll be cooking them more with the chorizo in a second.

Strain and reserve the liquid.

I had almost exactly 2 cups.

In a big pan or pot over medium heat toss in your chorizo and break it up.

Use the other half of the onion from your pico and dice it.

Toss it in.

Give it a stir and cook for about 10 minutes or until the onion is nice and soft.


Congratulations for reading this far, here's a quick way to doctor up a boring can of refried beans.

SAHD's Doctored-up Frijoles

1 tablespoon fat, usually bacon fat or lard but butter is also very nice
1 can of refried beans
1/2 teaspoon of taco seasoning (yes, from the envelope from the store - keep the rest in an old spice container and use it freely)


Just add the fat to a small sauce pan over medium heat.

Dump in your beans.

Season with the taco seasoning and stir to combine. Just bring it up to temp and serve!

My kids devour these beans. 


Back to the Chorizo Black Beans...

Add the cooked black beans to the onion/chorizo mixture. 

If your beans were a little under done, as mine were, add a bit of the reserved cooking liquid to give some extra moisture and body to the finished beans. 

Basically just cook until the beans are completely done and the liquid is reduced to a nice kind of sauce enveloping the beans then hold on low until service.


Onward to the plantains!

I love plantains, they add a great texture and flavor element to most dishes and I don't cook with them nearly enough because I love them every time I use them.

You want to get yourself some of the darkest skinned plantains that you can. Even completely black skins aren't overripe yet. These below were *just* ripe enough to be called sweet plantains in my book. 

Like bananas, just peel them.

I cut off the tops and bottoms first.

Then just run a knife down the side using a shallow cut and peel.

Slice on the bias in about 1/4 inch slices.

Arrange on the biggest skillet you have (non-stick works best here) with 2 tablespoons of butter and cook over medium-high heat until they brown on the bottom, maybe 5-7 minutes.

If you want more dramatically sweet plantains, you can add a pinch (or more) of sugar to the pan but watch it closely as the sugars will burn if you have your heat too high.

While those are going, grill off your beef.

Flip the plantains when browned and finish on the other side.

Sprinkle with a dash of salt (to taste) before serving.

When your beef is done, let it rest for a few minutes as you set the table and round up the family.

For this, I just sliced it thinly and served with a shake of salt over top.


Even though there are a lot of components to this dish, I really think everything worked very well together.

Like I said before, plantains are always a great addition to a plate for Latin American food in general. The slightly starchy texture and crisp exterior pairs well with its sweetness and is a great compliment to the spicier and earthier flavors on the plate.

The guacamole adds a nice acid note and goes really well with the pico to give you a more "American" guac experience.

The meat was as close as I've come to getting a spot-on carne asada marinade. It's slightly spicy, but earthy, salty and with the ancho chile powder, it's got a nice smoky element that matches really well with the chorizo black beans.

Overall, this was a great plate of food and I was very happy to eat it.


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