Carne Asada

Missing Mexico right about now, so these Carne Asada tacos were just perfect!

Carne Asada 4

Carne Asada is one of those quintessential Mexican dishes …. pretty simple really, meat and a tortilla shell.  Make it exceptional by adding pickled onions and a fresh pico de gallo, and I promise – everything will look bright and cheerful!

Ingredients

  • 2 limes juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeno minced
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 pounds flank or skirt steak

Instructions

  • In a large resealable bag, combine lime juice, crushed garlic, orange juice, cilantro, salt, pepper, vegetable oil, jalapeno, and vinegar. Squeeze it around to mix it up.
  • Put the entire flank steak into the resealable bag. Seal it up tight. Make sure all the meat is exposed to the marinade, squishing the bag around to coat. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
  • Heat an outdoor grill to high heat.
  • Remove the flank steak from the marinade, and discard excess marinade. Cook on the grill for 7 to 10 minutes per side.
  • Once done, remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes. Slice against the grain, and serve.

We love to serve this with fresh, homemade flour tortillas (my flour tortilla game is way stronger than my corn tortilla game ….. so far)

Carne Asada

You won’t believe it, but the rib eye steak was on sale, not the flank …. so that is what I used.  It was incredible.  All the citrus shows up in the marinade, and you can still taste it in the grilled steak, but it doesn’t overpower the meat.

Carne Asada 1

Grilled to perfection, moist and juicy inside – this steak is the best bite.  Just hope some gets to the table for the tortillas.

Carne Asada 2

Just look at how moist that steak looks.  Yum.

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Place it all out on the table, and let the family make their own plates.  Smiles all around!

 

The “stay at home chef” adapted this recipe from one of my favourite chefs – Rick Bayless.  This is so easy to do at home and gives you the flavour you might expect from sitting in a Mexican cantina ….. not only that, it is easy!

Lamb Barbacoa

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Pretty simply delicious.  Feels just like you are at a roadside stand or a local Mercado in Mexico.  Serve with a salad and dinner is ready.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with the pack of frozen lamb stew meat in my freezer …… This turned out to be perfect!  It helps that whenever we come home from Mexico we bring dried peppers so I always have a good stock on hand.  The only thing I didn’t have, in fact, was the agave leaf, or banana leaf.  I’m sure it will add another dimension of flavour when I try that, but honestly this was just fantastic without.

FOR THE LAMB

  • 12-inch chunk of an agave leaf (penca de maguey) or 1 large banana leaf, optional
  • tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder (you could also use beef or pork – marinade works with either)
  • 12-ounce bottle of beer (optional but I love this!)
  • Salt

FOR THE MARINADE

  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and torn into large pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • tablespoon cider vinegar
  • tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican canela
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

FOR SERVING

  • Your favorite hot sauce or salsa
  • A little chopped white onion or pickled red onions
  • A handful of cilantro leaves

This recipe came from Rick Bayless, and I have copied it here exactly as he posted it, but I’ve added my changes in the bold Italic font.

Roast the agave leaf being careful not to touch the exposed flesh of the agave) over an open flame, turning every few minutes until pliable and charred, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness.  (If using a banana leaf, run it briefly over an open flame to soften it.)  Cut into 3 pieces.  We are in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, so I wasn’t about to run out to the store and try to buy agave leaf or banana leaf (the closest we can get to either of these is frozen banana leaf).  I just left this part out.

In the stovetop-safe insert of your slow cooker or in a very large (12-inch) skillet, heat the oil over medium-high.  Pat the lamb dry with a paper towel, sprinkle generously with salt and lay it in the insert of skillet.  Cook, turning occasionally, until richly brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Fit the insert into the machine or transfer the meat to the slow cooker.

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a blender with 2 cups of water and blend to a smooth puree.  Pour through a medium mesh strainer into the slow cooker. Nestle the pieces of agave leaf or banana leaf under and around the meat and pour the beer over the top, if you are using them.  Cover and turn on the slow cooker to high.  Your barbacoa  will be done in about 6 hours, though you can hold it for longer. (My slow-cooker can be programmed to switch from high after 6 hours to a “keep warm” temperature for up to another 6 hours. Some slow cookers click to “keep warm” automatically; others need to be switched manually.). I put the seasonings and the torn chile peppers into the blender along with hot water, and allowed it to sit for about 20 minutes before blending. This allowed the peppers to soften nicely and they blended up very smoothly.

Given that we are just “at home” these days, I didn’t use the slow cooker, but browned the meat well before adding it to a heavy cast iron dutch oven, covering with the marinade and slowly roasting at 275 for about 3 hours.  Honestly, I prefer this method most of the time anyway as it allows for the sauce to be richer.

lamb barbacoa 3

Just look at how rich that sauce is …. I don’t find the same result in a slow cooker.

When you are ready to serve, coarsely shred the lamb and arrange it on a warm platter.  Skim any fat from the sauce that remains in the slow cooker, then taste it.  If you feel it would be better with a more concentrated flavor, pour it into a medium saucepan or remove the insert and set it over high heat.  Boil for a few minutes to reduce that quantity, then taste and season with salt if it needs it. Spoon as much as you like over the lamb or beef.  (I like to sprinkle coarse salt over the meat at this point.)  Serve the barbacoa with the hot sauce or salsa, onion and cilantro.  Grab some tortillas, if you like, and you’re ready to make some delicious tacos.

lamb barbacoa 2

Needless to say, it isn’t necessary to make your own tortillas, but I love doing it.  I’m still struggling with getting my corn tortillas worthy of being a Mexican Abuela, but my flour tortilla game is strong!!  On Saturday mornings at one of our favourite mercados in Mexico City we have found the absolute B E S T pork carnitas.  This is the only spot we’ve ever seen this done, but they are making their tortillas loaded with herbs, so I tried that today.  Pretty successful, if I do say so myself.  I just kept adding herbs until it looked and smelled about right.

Lamb barbacoa 1

Most people come home from Mexico with decor, or tequila …… we bring home tortilla baskets, dried chile peppers and mezcal to make barbecue sauce.

Korean Tacos

These Korean Beef tacos are incredibly delicious … who would have thought??  Just try them – as a bonus you won’t believe how quick and easy this is.

korean tacos 5

KOREAN BEEF

  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces ground beef

CARMELIZED KIMCHI

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 cup chopped kimchi
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

TACO ASSEMBLY

  • 12 mini flour tortillas
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS:

  1. KOREAN BEEF: In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and ginger.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks; drain excess fat.
  3. Stir in soy sauce mixture until well combined, allowing to simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes; set aside.
  4. KIMCHI: Heat sesame oil in small skillet over medium high heat. Add kimchi and sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, until caramelized and heated through, about 3-5 minutes; set aside.
  5. SRIRACHA MAYONNAISE: In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Sriracha and lime juice; set aside.
  6. TACOS: Serve ground beef mixture in tortillas, topped with kimchi, red onion, cilantro and sesame seeds, drizzled with Sriracha mayonnaise.
Korean tacos 1

Kimchi is great, but have you ever had it like this?  Amazing what a little caramelization can do.

I used pork tonight but you can easily use beef, chicken or tofu – it’s the seasoning that will win you over.

korean tacos 4

Set everything out and assemble your tacos – serve with a tossed salad and dinner is quick, easy and fantastic.

I got this recipe from Damn Delicious – if you haven’t checked out her blog you definitely should, every recipe I’ve tried has been fantastic.

Pork Carnitas

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A homemade corn tortilla, some pickled onions, avocado served with the tender pork and you have a perfect taco.

On our Mexican travels we have had some amazing carnitas, both in Michoacan, which is renowned for carnitas, but also at a Saturday mercado in Mexico City.  Once you have had great carnitas, that is something you will dream of when you get home!  Finally I’ve figured out how to do it at home, and it is the method as well as the recipe that is important.  

Ingredients

  • 2-2.5 lbs. pork shoulder
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper (approx. 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2-3 tablespoon oil

For serving:

  • 12-16 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • freshly chopped cilantro
  • 3-4 limes, quartered

For the brine:

  • 1/2 cup sea or kosher salt
  • 2-3 quarts water

Instructions

  • Add 2 quarts cold water to a mixing bowl along with 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt.  Stir to dissolve.  Cut the pork shoulder into 2″ chunks.  Add the pork chunks to the brine, cover, and store in the fridge for an hour.  If the pork isn’t completely submerged just add a bit more water.
  • Once brined, remove the pork chunks and pat them dry.  Add them to a clean mixing bowl along with:  2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional), 1 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and 2-3 tablespoons oil.  Combine well.
  • Add pork pieces to a casserole dish along with the juice of 1 orange, the juice of 1 lime, 1/2 onion cut into chunks, 1 jalapeno sliced in half, and 4 peeled garlic cloves.  I usually put the leftover orange pieces in the pan as well.   Cover tightly with foil and bake at 300F for three hours.
  • After three hours give it the fork tender test.  If you can insert a fork into the pork with no resistance then it’s done.  If the chunks are still firm give it another half hour.
  • Remove the pork and set aside.  Strain the resting liquid into a bowl and be sure to give it a taste!  As it sits the fat will rise to the top — you can remove some of the fat if you want but I use most of it.
  • To crisp up the Carnitas we’ll put the shredded pork chunks under the broiler (approx. 525F).   You can use the same baking dish, just be sure to remove the leftover fruit and veggie chunks.  Add the pork back to the dish and shred with two forks.  I usually give it a partial shred, leaving it chunky, but you can always shred finer if you want.
  • Drizzle some of the resting liquid over the pork and broil for 5 minutes.  Take a look and broil for another 5 minutes if you want it crispier.

 

For serving you’ll need corn tortillas, 1/2 cup finely chopped onion, some freshly chopped cilantro, the Salsa Verde, 3-4 limes, and cheese (optional).  You can warm up the tortillas in the oven but you’ll get happier faces if you crisp them up in hot dry skillet first.  I usually put a large skillet over medium high heat and crisp up 3-4 at a time, storing them in a tortilla warmer or tea towel.

If there are Carnitas leftovers, store in an airtight container in the fridge.  I usually store the resting liquid separately.  To re-heat, simply add pork to a saucepan along with some of the resting liquid, cover, and simmer over medium until heated through.
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Chop the pork into 2 inch pieces and coat all over with the oil and seasonings.

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Nestle all the pork in with the onion, jalapeño, garlic and squeeze the orange all over.  Tuck the orange pieces in, then cover tightly before slow roasting.

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Three hours later this pork is tender and your house smells amazing.

Carnitas 4

I drizzled the pork with a little bacon fat just to add to the porky goodness.  Yum.

Carnitas 2

Put the pan under the broiler, and watch carefully – you only want a few crispy bits.

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Stir the pork back into the cooking liquid and garnish with cilantro.

Carnitas 1

Fragrant and juicy tomatoes make a fantastic base for this refreshing Pico de Gallo.

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What a fantastic bite!  Reminiscent of eating carnitas on a street corner or mercado in Mexico, we loved every morsel.

I’ve found this amazing new website (new to me anyway), and this recipe is courtesy of Mexicanplease …. check out that website, everything I’ve tried has been perfect …. including the flour tortillas made with bacon, delicious.

Mexico City bites

We arrive in Mexico City late, and won’t even be there for 24 hours before flying out to Tuxtla ….. this presents a real dilemma for us, requiring us to narrow down the places we eat.  We’ve eaten our way through CDMX more than a few times, and on a restricted time frame, but this will be the shortest eating walking, walking in order to eat stop.  EEK.  I’m already dreaming of the places to quickly stop for a bite.

cdmx churro

Churros are a natural start for us!  This place, El Morro, is one of the oldest Churreria spots in the city, and they are delicious.  It is usually easy to get a table early in the day, but you should see the lineups late afternoon and into the night!

cdmx el morro churro

Next head to a mercado – the food is always amazing in the markets, and once we’ve had our coffee and churro it is time for a savoury bite ….. how about carnitas?  These tacos are mouth watering pork goodness.

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Every bit of the pork is waiting to be chopped up and served in a taco.  We loved the tortillas they made at this stand, they have fresh herbs in the tortilla masa and added so much flavour.

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No shortage of amazing toppings for your taco.

cdmx carnitas

It’s hard to only eat a couple of tacos at this place, but so many more steps and bites to come …

cdmx fruit

Time to lighten things up a bit …. how about some fruit?  These cups of fruit and vegetables are available everywhere and bursting with freshness.

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Look for these vendors on the streets – you can choose whatever you want in your cup!

cdmx mango

Don’t miss the mango!

cdmx peruvian ceviche

How about a little ceviche next?  So refreshing and absolutely delicious.

cdmx walk

When you walk this much, your little 5 year old legs need a boost from big sister …..

cdmx la docena

La Docena – our favourite oyster bar.  These blue crab tostada’s with habanero foam are the bomb!  Served with a crisp white from the Baja region its a perfect bite.

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cdmx la docena 2

Crunchy oyster croutons served with fresh greens and creamy avocado – love this salad.

cdmx dessert

Save room for dessert – these pastries are a great way to finish off a day.

Less than a day to eat, so many bites waiting …… we will get off that plane with an appetite and start walking!

 

Taco Seasoning Mix

Taco Seasoning 1

How pretty is this colourful group of seasoning?

Ever noticed how many ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce on those premade taco seasoning packs??  Stop the madness with this mixture.  A little bit of flour makes the ground meat have a wee bit of a saucy texture.  Don’t stop at ground meat for goodness sake (pun? word play?)..  Sprinkle this over vegetables and roast them up – drizzle with a little lime crema and you’ve got an amazingly tasty dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (use less if you aren’t keen on the heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

Mix all this up in a small bowl, and then have it on hand to season meat or vegetables.  You’ll be so glad you took a few minutes to get this ready.

Taco Seasoning 2

To use this for ground meat tacos, brown your meat in a fry pan, then add 2 tbsp mixture for each pound of ground meat and add about 2 tbsp water, stir and cook just until meat is cooked through.

If you want to leave the flour out altogether that is just great, that makes it even more versatile:

Salad Vinaigrette:  1 tbsp mix to 2 tbsp lime juice and 7 tbsp olive oil.

Vegetable (or chip!) Dip: 1 tbsp (or to taste) with 1/4 cup each plain yogurt and good mayonnaise.

Grilled Shrimp:   Sprinkle a generous amount over shrimp before grilling.

Taco Seasoning 3

I like to mix up 3 x this recipe and just keep it on hand.  Try it, you’ll do the same thing!

Tacos al Pastor (at home!)

I was able to find a recipe from Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill, and when you get a great recipe like this one, don’t mess with it!  I’ve tried to make tacos mimicking the tacos al pastor from Mexico before, but without that upright spit to grill it all on, it is very difficult to achieve. We found this to be the closest thing I could do at home.

Serve it with Mexican Pickled Vegetables, Pickled Red Onions and it is a real hit.

INGREDIENTS

  • A 3 1/2ounce packageachiote paste
  • 3canned chipotle chile en adobo, plus 4 tablespoons of the canning sauce
  • 1/4cup vegetable or olive oil, plus a little more for the onion and pineapple
  • 1 1/2pounds thin-sliced pork shoulder (1/4-inch-thick slices are ideal—the kind Mexican butchers sell for making tacos al pastor)
  • 1medium red onion, sliced 1/4- inch thick
  • Salt
  • 1/4of a medium pineapple, sliced 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 20 warm corn tortillas
  • About 1 1/2cups raw tomatillo salsa
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If you have a great butcher, have him slice the meat super fine – you’ll be thankful!

INSTRUCTIONS

In a blender, combine the achiote paste, chiles, canning sauce, oil and 3/4 cup water. Blend until smooth. Use 1/3 of the marinade to smear over both sides of each piece of meat (refrigerate the rest of the marinade to use on other meat or fish). Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Marinate for at least an hour, but I did this overnight.  The flavour gets right through the meat.

Light a charcoal fire and let the coals burn until covered with gray ash but still very hot; bank the coals to one side and set the grill grate in place. Or, heat one side of a gas grill to high. Brush both sides of the onions slices with oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay in a single layer on the hot side of the grill. When richly browned, usually just about a minute, flip and brown the other side; move to the cool side of the grill to finish softening to grilled-onion sweetness. Oil and grill the pineapple in the same way. Finally, in batches, grill the meat: it’ll take about a minute per side as well. As the meat is done, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it up (between 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces). Scoop into a skillet and set over the grill to keep the meat warm. Chop the onion and pineapple into small pieces as well, add them to the skillet and toss everything together. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Serve with the tortillas and salsa for your guests to make soft tacos.