These Carne Asada Tacos Will Make You Forget Chipotle Even Exists

Born and raised in Mexico City, Doug Robson is chef-owner of Gallo Blanco, a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix. On his nights off, Robson likes to bring home the tastes of his upbringing to his charcoal grill.

I watched him make carne asada, along with a salsa to help turn the meat into tacos.

“When you’re doing vegetables or grilling meats, it’s about how hot your grill is,” he told me. “If it’s not hot, you end up with no flavor. Slow and low is not what you want. You want raging, but controlled.”

After building his charcoal bed, Robson adds a piece of mesquite wood, “to get the smoke and fire as you’re grilling.” The wood will catch. The fire will leap. You’re ready to grill when the orange glow pushes up the sides of the charcoal.

And then onto the meat. “Traditionally, carne asada is tri-tip, saddle meat, skirt steak, and it could even be top round,” Robson says. “But the crème de la crème is skirt steak or tri-tip.”

If you choose skirt steak, look for thinness. Robson asks for steaks cut six millimeters thick. He says Mexican grocery stores know how to do this. If you lack one, ask a butcher.

Robson marinates skirt steak in a blend of Worcestershire, lemon juice, dried chiles, a little soy, salt, and pepper. The steak grills for three minutes on each side. After the six minutes, he moves the steak to a cooler spot on the grill, where it stays until ready.

Finally, Robson takes a sharp cleaver or chef’s knife and holds it with one hand just above the steak. He then chops into the steak repeatedly. After five or so seconds on each set of a few strips, the skirt is in pieces.

Chris Malloy

To build tacos if they aren’t built already, all you need is your steak, grilled vegetables, and salsa. No beans. No cheese.

For the tortillas, Robson places a comal or skillet (“not nonstick”) over medium or medium-high heat. Then he adds the tortilla. “Once you start seeing smoke, you flip it right over. When it then starts to puff up, it’s done.” He toasts his tortillas one-by-one, stacking them in a folded-over linen to preserve moisture and warmth.

Then it’s time to eat.

Carne Asada

Chris Malloy

What You’ll Need:

2 Tbsp minced garlic

¼ bunch scallions, minced

¼ bunch parsley

¼ bunch basil

¼ cup soy sauce

½ cup olive oil

½ tsp black pepper

½ lime, juiced

¼ tsp salt

1 Tbspsteak rub (pick your favorite)

4 lb. skirt steak

1. In a large zip-top bag, combine all the ingredient. Close the bag, massage the marinade into the meat and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.

2. On a very hot grill, cook the skirt steak until well seared, about 3 minutes on each side. Move the steak to a warmer side of the grill, close the grill lid, and continue to cook until medium-well (look for the juices to run clear from the steak).

3. Slice the steak against the grain into strips between 1/4 and 1/8 an inch thick. Using a cleaver or chef’s knife, chop the meat into bite-sized piece. Serve with salsa (recipe below) and warm tortillas. Serves 8 to 10 when made into tacos

Tomatillo Salsa

Chris Malloy

¾ lb. tomatillo, soaked in ice water, de-husked, and patted dry

½ cup diced white onions

1 ½ tsp garlic, minced

½ avocado

1 dry Chile de Arbol, lightly toasted and chopped

1 jalapeno, deseeded, chopped

1 serrano, deseeded, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp lime juice

Pinch onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

1 bunch cilantro (with stems), roughly chopped

In a blender or food processor, pulse the tomatillos, working in batches if necessary, until roughly chopped. Add the onion, garlic, avocado, chile de arbol, jalapeno, Serrano, salt, lime juice, onion powder, and garlic powder. Pulse until chunky. Add the cilantro and blend. Makes 1 pint.

All recipes by Doug Robson.

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