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carne asada

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Carne asada

I’m looking for skirt or flank steak cut across the joint, about a pound or two in weight, said I. You’ll be looking for a long time, said the butcher. For some reason, those are not popular cuts in the UK. Maybe they get minced. Or fed back to the cows (that's a joke in bad taste).

I looked around the counter helplessly. A sirloin then? Or the ribeye? Or how about a butterflied whole fillet of beef? I asked in desperation. The butcher asked the destination of my meat and frowned at me with concern, like you do at people slightly soft in the head.

mexican grilled steak

He patiently explained that a thirty quid a kilo ribeye, let alone forty a kilo beef fillet, is not a good sub for a piece of meat that will be marinated slowly, grilled quickly and sliced thinly; carne asada in other words. And offered, cut, wrapped and charged (not so much) for a good big rump steak.

Was he right or was he right. Oh boy, was he ever. It was a fantastic piece of meat, rendered tender (must remember this awesome phrase) by soaking it in oils and sauces; seared over hellish heat and sliced as thinly as I and my faithful chef’s knife managed.

The fact is, marinade cooks things. It imparts flavour all right but we sometimes forget that’s not its only role – it tenderises tougher cuts. We marinate brisket but not fillet steak; lamb shoulder but not cutlets cut out of rack, lest the delicate cut gets cooked before it even goes in the frying pan.

carne asada grilled meat

So my pricey meat would not only have been a waste of money but it would cook far too much, getting into medium-well done too fast too soon. As it was, it tasted fantastic – it had a bite of course, but the flavour was priceless, just like it should be in this Mexican classic.

carne asada

Servings: 4Time: 30 minutes plus marinating overnight

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g (1-1 ½ pound) rump steak cut across the rump joint (flank, skirt or sirloin as alternatives)
  • salt and pepper
  • For the marinade:
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 60ml (¼ cup) dark soy sauce
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. caster sugar
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seed
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
  • 1 jalapeño chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • To serve:
  • sliced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • lettuce
  • warm tortillas or rice


METHOD

1. Marinate the steak for at least 3-4 hours, best overnight. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients and pour into a large shallow dish, big enough to comfortably fit the steak. Add it in and turn over several times to coat it well. Cover the dish with cling film and place in the fridge.

marinating steak

2. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking. If grilling on a barbecue you can just lift it from the dish and plonk on the bbq rack, but if grilling inside make sure you brush off most of the coriander and garlic; otherwise it will smoke impossibly. Sprinkle the steak with salt and pepper.

marinated beef rump

3. Preheat the oven to maximum temperature with a large griddle, cast iron pan or a heavy oven proof frying pan on the lowest rack.

4. When the pan is smoking hot, remove it carefully from the oven, place the steak on it and return to the oven immediately. Grill for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak (5 for a 2 inch thick steak), flip over to the other side and grill for the same amount of time again.

5. Remove the steak to a warm place and tent with foil. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. When rested, slice it thinly and arrange on a serving dish with the avocado, limes etc.

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